My Rainbow Cake

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Baking from Scratch : My first Rainbow Cake

I will tell you something about what happens when you celebrate your Birthday in Germany :

Did you know that for Germans, it is considered as bad luck if you greet someone ahead  of their birthday? Oh yes, there is no such thing as advance birthday greetings ! By extension, a birthday party can never happen before the day itself, unless it’s a certified case of Reinfeiern, or “partying into your birthday” at midnight. The reason behind never saying happy birthday before the event is the superstitious worry that the person might die before their special day if you do. I told you, its kind of bizarre.

Also, the moment you give the present to the person celebrating the birthday, He or She will immediately open it in front of you, there’s no such thing as piling the gifts as customary in the Philippines. There are no lavish birthday bash either, heavily decorated-themed parties or costume party for the little ones,  nor food-coma. In short, no stress.  Sounds like the perfect birthday party after all, right?

 

It is not very common that someone give you a cake on your birthday.  Nope, you are the one who needs to buy it from the shop or make it by yourself. There’s not much bake shop here where there are arrays of ready-made cakes to choose from. On the first year of my daughter, we bought her a cake every single month! Yes that’s how vain I was, actually I did it all for her monthly photo sessions! Here in Bavaria, more often that you find those frozen cakes in the supermarkets like the infamous Black forest cake . I remember that in Kuwait and Philippines, it’s quite normal to give a cake as a present, more like a surprise, and a personalised present to the celebrant. On the other hand, Here in Germany,  expect to bring the cake once your colleagues drop the bomb “Alles gute zum Geburtstag “! Or better, bring on some few bottles of beer and curry wurst!

But we prefer, Bring on the Geburtstag torte! There’s no getting old about blowing some candles on top of your cake, especially if it’s on top of a RAINBOW CAKE!

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Easy 6 Layer Rainbow Cake

Mind you, for the past months, these are just one of the things that I have observed here in Germany about birthday celebrations. Germans love to give best wishes on birthdays and will reward you with warm greetings, hand-made cards which I absolutely adore, and gifts. They are serious people but also very sweet. Different, but nevertheless good. Anyways, going back to my Cake talk, for the record, 4 days ago was my birthday.

Hooorraaahhh for another year!

So I thought it might be a great idea if I made a  post about the cake that I’ve bake, after all, what is  birthday without a cake???

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It’s a heavy thing!

I was really  looking forward to make my first “Rainbow  Cake”, YES, for the reason that when I asked my daughter what she wants on her 3rd Birthday, she blurted out to me in her sweet voice : “Rainbow cake! “ and so I searched how to do it. She’s very into colors nowadays but still I wonder where did she got this idea! I had a hard time looking for the baking ingredients especially the food coloring here, but finally I got what I needed from REWE .  I indulge myself in making this colorful, artsy, delicious cake. Quite challenging but then I enjoyed making this one since my little girl helped me out.

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Baking from Scratch : Rainbow Cake

The soft, delectable buttermilk cake with vanilla frosting is perfect for a birthday treats and sure it was a hit for my family and friends. The layers of different vibrant colors in one fluffy cake  is such an attractive centerpiece and my daughter is so happy when she saw the pre-baked cakes in red, orange,yellow, green, blue and violet shades. She just kept on singing “yummy , yummy ” when she was spreading the frosting on each layer. After I’ve made this cake, I realized that everyone deserves to have at least one rainbow cake in their lifetime! Birthdays are such a happy occasion of celebrating life and looking at rainbow colors made me happy.

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Mama Challenge : Easy 6- layer Rainbow Cake

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Don’t get intimidated, it might looked so complicated but  something that I’ve never done before so I was determined to try it. You just got to have the right ingredients and equipment and you’re all set. Easy-peasy. The reason why I wanna share the recipe of my Rainbow Cake because I find it really good and anyone can make it, especially for busy Mamas out there who wants to make a surprise to their kids. It is not complicated as it seems to be. I have received comments like “Did you really make that?”or “How did you make all those layers? “ Isn’t it too complicated ? I’m going to give you an answer — It’s worth to try this cake, it is so good that I think I’m a convert now to a Rainbow Cake maniac!

If you have time and want to try making this colorful cake, Here is my own version of an easy 6-Layer Rainbow Cake.

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The Final touches, whipping out with heavy sprinkles and jelly beans!

A sidenote: If you wanted a tall cake or depending on the size that you want, you can double the amount of ingredients to create the size and thickness of the cakes that you are going to make.

EASY 6- LAYER RAINBOW CAKE

INGREDIENTS :

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup butter, softened

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract ( I used vanillin sucker)

1 cup Buttermilk

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

3 cups all-purpose flour ( I used Type 405 Weizen mehl)

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

Food coloring : Red, Yellow, Blue, Green and Purple

For the vanilla frosting:

12 oz. cream cheese ( I used Philadelphia, classic)

1 1/2 cups butter ( softened)

6 cups powdered sugar ( I reduced the amount to 3 cups only)

1 tsp. vanilla extract ( I used 2 packs of vanillin sucker)

INSTRUCTIONS :

  1. Preheat oven  325 deg. F. ( or 162 C).
  2. Grease and flour 6 pcs. cake pan ( 9″ (23cm)  cake pans ). I only have 3 pans so I did two rounds of baking the cakes.
  3. In a bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until all blended using a hand mixer.
  4. Mix eggs until thoroughly incorporated.
  5. Add vanilla, buttermilk and the heavy cream.
  6. Mix  the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl.
  7. Put into the sugar /butter mixture half of the flour mixture and mix well until all ingredients are well blended. Add the remaining half of the flour mixture gradually.
  8. Divide the batter into 6 bowls ( 1 cup each).
  9. Add the food color to each bowl starting from red, yellow, green, blue and purple. Tip : To create a vibrant rainbow cake, make sure to put a good amount of coloring to create a lively color. For orange, add a vibrant yellow and add drops of red. For purple, combine red and add drops of blue.
  10. Pour each colored batter into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer.
  11.  Bake for 10-15 minutes in the preheated oven. Do not over bake.
  12. Cool down the cake in the cooling rack.
  13. While cooling down, make the cream cheese vanilla frosting.Cream the cream cheese and butter using a hand mixer.Add gradually the powdered sugar and vanilla.
  14. Spread the frosting on the cake, first on Purple,blue,green,yellow, orange and finally the red cake.
  15. Place a thin coat of icing to create a crumb coat and decorate as you please. You can add some colored rainbow sprinkles, jelly beans.
  16. Chill the cake for a few minutes to hold the cake together with all the frosting.
  17. For the icing, just whipped egg whites and powdered sugar until forming stiff peaks and spread out evenly to coat the cake for decorations. You can also coat it with colored icing as you please.
  18. Don’t forget to give yourself a pat on your back for a job well done! Enjoy!

 

Just in case you are wondering about the Calorie content,  I must answer: What are you talking about? 

I leave you with a virtual piece of this fabulous cake. Thank you for reading and wishing everyone a great week ahead!

So tell me, do you have any weird Birthday traditions?  or have you ever made your own Birthday Cake? Feel free to share it in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

The Heat is ON in Bavaria

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32 degrees today! What Summer feels in Bavaria

This is the real thing now, the heat is ON in Bavaria !

What Summer fun are you engaging now?

Nevermind  the plague of Wasps and bee season, summertime is finally here and in Bavaria, in my old little city, everyone is just feeling ecstatic of the fine summer breeze, or rather, toasty winds since we have 32 degrees now!

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A very inviting Lake where we had picnic and splash. This is just one of our pit-stop from our cycling en-route (35kms) .

Have you seen summer flowers yet? They are blooming, giving us perfect backdrop for outdoors. From our garden to the nearby parks, summer flowers can be so exotic just like the Echinops Ritro!

I came to Germany last Summer, and I’m telling you, this season is probably the best season to enjoy Bavaria. To make the most of beautiful nature, lots of sun and water fun is essential. This week we have temperatures ranging from 18~32 degrees C . With this we have all the reason to spend time outside given the favors of so many holidays. Staying in when the weather  is perfect as this  is  definitely a S-I-N. Generally, Germans, or the typical Bavarians, adore the sun. Soaking up under the sunshine until the last ray of the sun until 9 o’clock at night. You can see them  sunbathing in the banks of the river Danube, lying in the grass in the parks, or just right in their balconies.

With the kick-off of the festival season, the Spring Pfingstenvolkfest,  Die Welt is bunt, Bürgerfest, and strawberry season, it feels like summer arrived early since we have a very sunny spring. I have written countless times that from the moment the day breaks, people here are out, (including US!) and ready to explore— and yes, with their dogs, clad in outdoor clothing, in their bicycles, with their walking sticks, off to the lake, and drinking beer in the bier garten promptly at 10 a.m on weekends!

So here I wanna share with you some of the fascinating things  about ‘Summer Feels ‘ here in our region. Whether you are just visiting tourist or a local, sure thing that you don’t wanna miss out on these activities!

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We do BBQ like the German way!

Grillsaison ( or Grilling season)

Summer is not complete without BBQ and Germans really take their grilling to the highest level! You know its summer when you breathe in the smell of BBQ in almost every house on a fine weekend. Since we have 9pm sunsets, this is a perfect way to bond. Be it in an open park, garden or in the tiny balconies of apartments, German take their grilling time seriously. Months before summer starts, we are flooded with different kinds of grill paraphernalia, from the garden tents, lounging seats, and yes, ‘the meat and wurst‘. About 70% of Germans have BBQ every  weekend and its typical to see a grill machine in every garden. Pack a picnic, a mat and  head to the lake, throw a piece of sausages ( wurst) and meat cuts into the charcoal grill and drink beer. This spells the perfect “Gemutlichkeit “or what the Dutch called “Gezelligheid” .

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The Grillsaison has finally begun!

Poppy fields  and wild flowers everywhere!

When summer time comes, in between wheat fields and every single empty space is filled with this fragile reddish-orange wild Poppy flowers. When I run and cycle, I can’t help but to stop and just be amazed by how  these simple wild bulbs can change the whole neighborhood and the way I feel. Sure, Tulips are my favorite flowers , but then there’s something about a field covered in Summer poppy blooms. It looks so calm, peaceful and so pretty!

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Close up encounter with red Poppy flowers last week when I was cycling.

 Eis Eis Baby! 

Who doesn’t like Ice Cream?

Ice cream parlors and shops are finally open here since late Spring. On warm, sunny days, there’s even a huge line outside. You really need to sweat out first before you enjoy their wide selection of Eis ( ice cream). My daughter is crazy about the richly flavored popsicles and ice pops which comes out in watermelon, kaktus, and yogurt ice cream. One is not enough, eating ice cream is definitely a threat we always enjoy during summer especially after we are all sweaty from cycling around.

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Eis Eis Baby!

Make sure to eat “spaghetti eis”: We promise it’s only a stupid name. This concoction is really just a strawberry ice cream sundae with vanilla “noodles” and strawberry sauce with white chocolate flakes standing in for the cheese. Guten Appetit!

Sunbathing in a make-believe beach!

This is the photo of the Donaustrand, a place made to look like a beach beside the river. It is the platform located in front of the river Danube and facing the New Castle. During summer, this place is a magnet for Germans and all outdoor lovers to enjoy a relaxing time, especially during sunset. This is a place a for  open-air concerts and the ” Live Orchestra Nights” where you can enjoy live music, drinking with friends, and lounging in recliners and sunbathing like you are in the beach .This is such a cozy place.

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A shot I took while lounging in the Donaustrand and enjoying sunset drinks.

Hanging out your clean laundry outside

There is nothing like the smell of clean laundry, hung out to soak up the fresh air. Hang out your sheets before the drying racks take over your apartment for the winter.We have a huge space in the garden and I just love how the sun do wonders on the sheets! I love this since it really saves time from tedious long cycles of drying. Natural is always better!

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Skinny dipping in some lake

Skinny dipping and baring it All !

Oh yes, Germans are very liberal and no-nonsense people when it comes to nudity. In some lakes, there are areas which are particularly allotted for “nudist”. Here, people are no hang-ups in baring it all and soaking up the sun from dawn to dusk.Germans think nothing of stripping to sunbathe. They do it on beaches, by lakes, and in heavily frequented urban parks. It’s very common to see unclothed people on regular park lawns or topless on balconies. Germany is one of the few places in the world where naturism occurs not just in secluded areas, but in the heart of major cities. German-style public nudity, known as Freikörperkultur (or “free body culture,” and usually shortened to FKK), dates back to the 19th century; it’s not just an activity, but a culture intended to reshape behavior.

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Pack a picnic and your mat and head on to the secluded fresh lakes!

For some people who are not into this and for families with children, there are lots of areas in the lakes for them to swim.We love to discover lakes where my daughter loves to play and here, they are just plentiful!

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Running through the Lake with this view.

Fitness everyday

In summer, I see a lot more people getting active and staying fit. People do things “manually” and live more. They love to do things by themselves. Mowing the lawn, tidying up their garden, people here loves to do things—no maids or house helpers! People run and cycle no matter what the time and temperature. They walk more and use the car less as much as possible. With abundant jogging areas, nature can be best enjoyed while getting fit. Germans adore the  “pig”and heavy pork-lovers, but even if they sit in the Biergarten everyday and eat sausages, seems that they don’t get fat! Everyone looks so impeccably fit.

Summer Cocktail Drinks

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PROST!!!

It is very typical to see bunch of people hanging around in the lake, or in the park enjoying a nice picnic and sharing summer cocktails. Of course, the beer is always the easiest way to create a cozy gathering but cool drinks and smoothies are always something pretty special. When it comes to picnics, Germans can be proud of their lifestyle!

What about you, what do you love to do during summer?

There are more on this post so I think I will make a post #2! Stay tuned.

PFINGSTVOLKSFEST Germany 2017

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Welcome to Pfingstenvolksfest 2017 in Bavaria !

Last Friday, June 2, signals the opening of the annual Spring festival called  “PfingstenVolksfest ”  here in Bavaria and will run up until the 11th of June. We have two major festivals here, one in Spring  (or Frühling)  and one in Autumn ( or Herbst) . Last year when I came here, I was able to attend my first Autumn Volksfest and it was awesome.  For an expat like me, experiencing this festival like a local is one of the great things that happened to me for my first year in Germany.

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Pretty German ladies in Dirndls { PfingstenVolksfest 2017}

The festival started as usual with a parade in Volk music and a grand Fireworks display. On top of the tower of the Pfeifturm, the Bavarian watchmen perform their traditional gun shots .The band who plays the music composed of different groups. Young and old, children and kids join the happy vibes in the show, even some migrants joined the parade carrying the Bavarian flag. Everything is so open and welcoming.Everyone is  dressed up in traditional Bavarian tracht, men in Lederhosen and women in beautifully made Dirndls. Seeing them, all smiles, parading in such a cozy atmosphere is such a delight to see.The huge horses which pulled up the carriages of the two major beer breweries here in Ingolstadt  ( The Nordbrau & Herrenbrau) are absolutely the star of the show. They are so huge, loud and yes, they can be wild once prompted.

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Huge black horses carrying the carriage of the Nordbrau { PfingstenVolksfest 2017}

The parade starts from the assembly area in front of the Alstadt /Rathausplatz and continues to go in the Festplatz where our Town mayor  officially open the festival  or  O ‘zafpt is ! Inside the fair grounds are huge arena full of different rides for children and adults to enjoy. There’s the giant Ferris wheel, roller coasters, carousels, and other head-spinning rides. If you are not afraid of the heights, I’m sure you will have a blast here. There are also numerous stalls which sells traditional goods, 2 large Beer tents, and other beer gardens.Outside the tents are lines of  food shops which sells finger foods, sandwiches, hotdogs, Pretzels ( or Breze), currywurst and other sausages, crepes, burgers,cheeses, Lebkuchen and other sweet delicacies, and so much more.

You can never get hungry inside. If you opt for more appetizing meals, there are lots of grilled foods you can find inside the beer tents! Pretty waitresses in Dirndles would be so glad to serve you.

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Ferris wheel and other rides  inside the fair grounds

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O’zapft is! The tapping of the first barrel of Beer, signalling the opening of the festival.

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Shops selling the traditional Bavarian Tracht ( Lederhosen and Dirndls)
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Horses taking a spin while waiting for the horse show to start

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Volksfest is a festival for all ages.When you visit Bavaria, you will really feel the authentic and “Bavarian thing” in the way they celebrate things. This is totally different compared to other parts of Germany and here, festival like this is more than just a mug of beer. Oktoberfest is another thing but during Volksfest, I see all people, expats and locals, children, young and old celebrate in their own ways. The tables inside the Beer tents are full of smiling people, enjoying the day drinking their beer, singing, dancing, and gathering with their love ones.

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PROST!!!!
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Currywurst swimming in sauce and Pommes – A Volksfest best snack !

The festival grounds are always well maintained and clean. There are ample parking spaces for bicycles and cars and the traffic is moderated. Compared from last year, I noticed that there are more security persons roving around the place, but not harassing.There are plenty of toilets and bathrooms, even Baby changing rooms. What can be more cozy than seeing a group of young men in Lederhosen playing their trombone, flute, and singing Bavarian music?

With the warm weather we are having now, visiting the Volksfest is a perfect time to spent as a family and with friends. They have different programs everyday, like on Wednesday afternoon is the Children’s day , Tuesday afternoon is for Senior’s Day were discounted prices are offered to make the feast more enjoyable. There are also special programs where big companies like Audi and Ingolstädter Schanzer Football club have their own special gathering.

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If you have the chance to travel to Germany during the months of June and September, make sure not to miss seeing an event like this, it is definitely a showcase of the Bavarian culture. Even if you are not a beer drinker, there is always an activity that will suit your lifestyle. For the many times I have visited Volksfest, I have never seen a drunk person ran amok or making a scene, totally not a German thing.

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Bavarian Lebkuchen !

Have you ever tasted a German Lebkuchen?

Do you know that this yummy cookie is best known for its authentic German flavors? A typical Volksfest memento that you could bring to your loveones!Read more here.

See you in the Autumn Festival this year and yes, don’t forget to say PROST!

If you enjoyed this post, please make sure you follow my Facebook page/ JustbluedutchArt  for my personal Artwork gallery  and if you are in Instagram, connect with me by adding me as your friends. Thank you for reading and Frohe Pfingsten! 

40 Little things that (really) matters

“It’s the Little Things that make Life Big … “

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Cherry Blossoms from Keukenhof Gardens, Lisse, The Netherlands

Today I wanted to make a “Gratitude post”.  I want to share with you the 40  Little things that really matters to me personally and to everyday life, and that I am forever grateful for. Many times, my mind is cluttered with worries as a mother, nuisances as a woman and grievances of a normal human being. I’m sure I am not the only one who feels like this, but our responses to situations could be different.

Sometimes I felt like Life can be so big and I become  so overwhelmed by it. Maybe I am overreacting but  would you believe that I am constantly worrying about the weather, on my future, of the health of my love ones, or would I pass the exams after I finished the course I registered, or  would I really be fluent in German? Everyday, I’m plagued with questions on what to feed my tiny human ( or does she eats enough?), or when will she completely potty-trained?, on how to  improve my painting skills, and what have I accomplished in my life? etc.. etc…

Just the other day, I asked myself after I put my daughter to bed : “Am I being a good mother to her? Is this the best that I can give…? and my mind drifts far away…

Social media can be  superficial. Our real lives is not as perfect as the perfect Instagram feeds, or the flawless Blog posts. Sometimes, or rather unsolicited and unwanted, my feed is  full of materialistic things that make me feel so little, giving me pressure to follow the trend and desire to get appreciation from others. The way we see things affect so much on how we respond to it. I decided to change my perspective and shift into being optimistic. Rather than focusing on my worries, why not list down things that REALLY matters to me. I realized that through this, I felt thankful, I felt even more grateful to be able to realize this.

Have you ever thought of “What really matters to you?”

 

 

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Dramatic beauty of cherry blossoms in the Netherlands

“Never get tired of doing Little things for others, sometimes those Little Things occupy the biggest parts of their Hearts…”

During our first legit Bike tour last Sunday, I learned a big lesson.

When cycling, especially on tour, it is so easy to focus on speed and missed out. The thing is,it is  very vital to enjoy the journey.  I took time to notice the fields, the glistening lake against the sunshine, the only red Poppies flower among the vast green fields, the yellow rapeseed farm with the ICE train passing by behind it, the heavily ornamented spire of the church, the clouds and its formations & so on…At the end of the tour, I felt so grateful that I had experience all of these, sweat, aching muscles & everything!

I have tried to find beauty in everything. I took notice of the LITTLE THINGS!

Here are my 40 personal “Little Things”that makes a BIG part in my life:

1.Our little garden. It’s a haven for us.

2.Warm Coffee before the toddler wakes up!

3.Making hand made cards for my friends and love-ones.

4. Tulips! having a vase full of Tulips in our home really makes my day. Anytime.

5.Peanut butter and blueberry jam sandwich.

6.Reading my mother’s offline messages to me, facts of living in different time-zones!

7.Watching the  sunrise and clouds every morning in my kitchen while I prepare breakfast.

8.German Brötchen, and warm bread straight from the oven for breakfast.

9.Lazy sunday walks.

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Glory days for the Cherry Blossoms | Keukenhof, the Netherlands

“YES, Small things, matter..”

10.My husband. For his love , support, tolerance and when He comes home in time!

11. Dutch Gevuldekoek and receiving surprise goodies from my parents in law !

12.Running along the woods, nature parks , river, and a lake all within 30 minutes!

13.The smell of fresh laundry.

14.Eating German pretzels ( Brezen)!

15.Beach walks.

16.Complimentary buffet  breakfast in hotels.

17.The muscle ache after I run, it means I got active.

18.Living 10 minutes away from beautiful nature and river.

19.Painting sessions in my kitchen counter top.

20.Smelling my favorite perfume.

21.Shopping in IKEA .

22.My Father-in-Law subscribe and reads my Blog!

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Pure beauty…No filter needed.

“Each morning, we are born again.What we do TODAY,is what really matters most… ~Buddha

23.Playgrounds in Bavaria. They are heaven’s gift.

24.Listening to  my real soundtrack music ( a break from the nursery rhymes!)

25.My daughter’s hug every time she wakes up.

26. My  very kind neighbors.

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“Enjoy and be grateful for the little things in life,for one day you will look back and realize they were the BIG Things…”

27.Eating ice cream in Spring.

28.A great comment on my Blog.

29.Roses in our garden that blooms wildly and taking photos of it!

30.Making and receiving hand written letters, Snail mails!

31.BBQ’s in our garden in Spring and Summer.

32.Watching sunsets.

33.Cooking home-made meals for my friends.

34.Cards from the mailbox ! Especially from someone unexpected.

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It all starts from a bud. | Keukenhof Gardens, The Netherlands

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter…~ Martin Luther King Jr.

35.When my new German friends invited me to their homes just after they’ve met me. I feel flattered.

36.A good running shoes.

37.Cycling  on a sunny day.

38.When people  want to buy ( & actually bought) my paintings!

39. A jeans that perfectly fit on me .

40.A smiling stranger that I come across the street and say  “Morgen“!

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Don’t miss out the little things, they can be really Great!

“We can not do great things. We can only do little things with great love…” ~ Mother Theresa

 

 

What about you, what are the ‘Little Things’ that matters to you?

 

The law of reversed effort

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The Law of Reversed Effort 

A personal post about what I’m experiencing for the past days.There were days where my mind is like a muddy puddle, unclear and chaotic, and desperately in need of clarity.

The truth is, a struggle  creates struggle and  my life as an expat  is not all  bed of roses.Let’s face it, everyday, more often, it’s bleak and grey ,you are  faced with the hard realities, instead of the fairy-tale fantasies of living in a world of different culture and language. I don’t know, maybe I need to blame the weather, the cold, the situations or my attitude and the way that I reacted to events.

I needed clarity but it is so elusive, the harder I tried to figure it out, the less output I get,  it only gives me all the blurry ones.I’ve felt like I’m in a rat hole that I couldn’t get out.I can’t say what I wanted to say in exact words that I wanted to say. I feel helpless.

I wanted to do things but it doesn’t work the way I wanted it to be.It felt awkward.I felt like my effort were all wasted.I even tried to paint my emotions but I ended up making a mess.

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C’mon Spring, do your thing!

I heard you, I know you might say; isn’t it should be “Try and try until you succeed? ”

So I decided to take a walk in the park one day and just sit there and wait for clarity. At best, I am hoping to just stop fighting myself. As usual, the sun is elusive, hiding behind the clouds.I gazed upon the buds in the branches and the sprouting leaves in the bushes. The grounds start to get greener once again. I saw signs of new beginnings, new chances. A rebirth.Spring is definitely on the way.

How odd but sometimes I felt like I am a plant who wants to grow in the middle of cold winter. I realized that my negative thoughts are apt to be more effective than the positive because the negative usually has more feeling with it.

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A budding signaling a rebirth

“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone”. – Alan Watts

Like a muddy puddle, it’s best to leave it alone to clear.I let my mind rest and my body to just do nothing. Literally nothing. Like my daughter in tantrums, I let her sort her own emotions by staying calm, just watching how things naturally sort themselves out without my constant “interventions “.

Today,the clarity that I needed came.Along the way,and out of my stubbornness, I discovered something beautiful about the law of reversed effort.This came like a wake up call. Many times, things in life only sort themselves out only when we don’t do anything, taking the concept of the Law of Reversed Effort a bit further, it sometimes refers instead to a state of mind, a state of  mind of ‘not doing’, perhaps this is akin to a flow state of automatic action, a mindset of effortless concentration that only resides when we are present and ‘in the now’, because if we try to mentally push things too far in this mindset we just get the opposite result.

Isn’t this also the truth when writing a blog post? Or finishing a project? Our deep need for a clear slate to write down our thoughts? A state of mental relaxation is the only way for clarity to be achieved. Easier said than done but yes, it’s the only way to get things done, naturally, without causing stress in my mind.

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The Law of reversed effort

Like these buds which reminds me that nature has its own course to follow. It’s an autopilot that only nature comprehends.Nobody can intervene. I can’t hurry up the seasons or mold the people around me the way I wanted them to be.Nature has its own way, and it’s definitely not My way.

Here is the original quote from Huxley about the Law of Reversed effort.

“The harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed. Proficiency and the results of proficiency come only to those who have learned the paradoxical art of doing and not doing, or combining relaxation with activity, of letting go as a person in order that the immanent and transcendent unknown quantity may take hold. We cannot make ourselves understand; the most we can do is to foster a state of mind, in which understanding may come to us”. Aldous Huxley (The Law of Reversed Effort).

Any thoughts ?

Have you ever felt like this? How did you overcome it?

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Pussy willow home decor

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Twigs with bulbs with fur-like an animal- Wow!

A typical Bavarian home decoration during early days of Spring up to Easter is a bunch of pussy willow branches decorated with painted plastic eggs hanging on them. But it can also be a great home decor to create a “Spring-y“ambiance. The name of pussy willow in German-Palmkätzchen  translates as “palm kittens” or “willow kittens.” Same thing. Since they don’t have many palm trees in Germany, so they use pussy willow for Easter decorations.

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These delightful branches of pussy willow were sold at the local ‘Wochenmarkt ‘ ( wet market)  we visited  this morning. I don’t wanna go home without grabbing some because I really adore these branches at first sight. I didn’t even know what it’s called so we just asked the woman who’s selling these twigs. It’s Palmkätzchen, she said. My husband called them sticks but for me they are so much more. I mean, they really look nice, in a very unique way. Most important thing, here in Bavaria, they are a real sign of spring! Most locals I have seen today are carrying a bunch in their hands, from out and about and even while cycling way home.

The silk-like buds that cover the branches appeal to the Chinese apparently, who use them as a major display at Chinese New Year.  In Northern and Eastern Europe and in America they are often used as a replacement for palm leaves (a practical issue rather than aesthetic, I think – palms don’t grow naturally that far north) on Palm Sunday.But in Philippines, we grew up using palm leaves during Palm Sunday.The blessed wreaths are placed in doors, believing that the household will be protected from tribulations, or natural disaster like lightning strike.

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The pussy willow is the first bush that blooms after the harsh winter. No wonder it is a prominent Easter symbol because out of its dry twig, bursts a beautiful flower of life.It has many uses beyond decoration and spanking.  Willow branches have long been used for weaving baskets and furniture, and even coffins.  The ancient Egyptians as well as back in the eighteenth century, and Oxfordshire man used ground willow bark to cure rheumatic pain and this eventually led to the development of aspirin. A more recent use is in biomass burning to generate electricity, for example at the Drax power station in Yorkshire.

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Easter is a big thing here in Germany and Germans take the egg-decorations seriously. The shops are flooded now with so many Easter decorations, especially the painted plastic eggs, easter bunnies and other mementos.The busyness of having an Ósternbaum (or  Easter Tree) is also one of the traditions which every household look forward. I guess every house also have a vase of these pussy willows.

If you are into decorating your living room, or you want to create a centerpiece for the coming Easter, you can try Pussy willows for an ideal minimalist home decor.Put it in a white transparent vase without water and allow them to dry. If you got them shipped, simply remove them from packaging and allow them to start drying.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend and all is well.

Thank you for reading my friends. Stay tuned for more local sightings stories. Oh by the way, did you know that here in Germany, the egg box which normally comes in 12 pieces only comes in 10? Dunno why but I only found out today…

What surprising things you have learned lately?Any thoughts?

 

 

 

 

Smakelijk! traditional Dutch Apple pie

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Traditionl Dutch apple pie with cinnamon crumble

Koffee met appeltaart “, or coffee with apple pie is the Dutch’s way of celebrating..well, of everything! It’s sold in every bakery , bars and featured on every café menu, sometimes being the only sweet option listed. Now, as I am married to a dutch guy, I discovered that Dutch cuisine is not the most celebrated cuisine in the whole world , nor it is something you can say as unique- but it has a character, especially in their baked goodies and pastry. My personal favorites amongst all other delicious Dutch pastries are Gevuldekoek, kozakken, the Roomboter staaf , and of course, dutch authentic Stroofwafels. You haven’t fully experience Dutch’s culture unless you tasted one of these. I gave in to this treat when we were in the Netherlands. It’s a good thing that my generous parents in law are bringing us these Dutch goodies whenever they come for a visit.

Appeltaart is Holland’s magnificent national pastry. It dates as far back as the Middle Ages and it is said that during that time, because ovens with temperature control didn’t exist, baking time was measured by the number of prayers a person had to say until the pie was ready.

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Where it all started – Last 2014 , my first taste of the delicious Dutch Appeltaart that I devoured during our visit in the Netherlands.Warm, gooey, with rich cream on the side, paired with my favorite coffee and I’m good.

Here in Germany, it’s almost similar where in I fully  integrated as well  to their “Kafee und Kuchen” habit. Germans have a sweet habit of cofee-ing & cake-iing,  in the coziest way. To tell you, I was surprised to see Germans having a slice of cake and coffee for lunch, dinner & as early as 9 am.

So I dedicated myself to baking , and making apple pie is my favorite. My  version of Dutch apple pie crumble is proven crowd pleaser when I serve it. Once in a while, I opt for my simple recipe since it’s so easy to make with all the ingredients that can be found already in our kitchen, no special ingredients!

My daughter eats apple like crazy, she can down 2 pieces in a day! Before, she only eat parts of it, gnawing on them. I don’t throw the apples,I peeled off the good part and use them since I don’t want to waste. Since  the sight of apples always make me think of a warm gooey apple pie, with lots of crumble, and I mean those soft, slutty cinnamon crumble, the mere thought makes me wanna bake. Our house smells heavenly that my neighbors sniff the smell from 10 meters radius. Now that it’s still officially a snuggle season and everyone loves comfort food, there’s always a  reason to indulge from time to time. Last Fall, I started making my own apple pie from scratch. Making my own pie crust was a success, with the little help from my Google friend and thought why I didn’t make this before.

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The cinnamon crumble topping that I add-on every pie I made. I also made a pie lattice once but I love how these crumble melts into my mouth.

The Dutch’s Gezelligheid and their love for appeltaart is just so wonderful, and sometimes it is  contagious. This recipe is for Mamas on the go,  super easy  to make that you’ll find yourself baking your own pies. I tell you, I forget and stop buying ones from the store.

To create a flavorful, deep-dish apple pie recipe worthy of recommending to others, I used the old-time trick that I’ve learned. I am used to making this filling for topping in our weekend pancakes. My husband loves them so much. I sautéed a combination of  apples ( or whatever is in your local grocery shop) in  brown sugar, cinnamon,nutmeg, pinch of salt, raisins, add some chia seeds (optional)  and butter. Once they were softened, I removed them from the pan and added heavy cream to reduce and deglaze the pan. Combine the apples and cream mixture in a prebaked pie crust and topping the pie with a crunchy streusel and crumble heaven for the finishing. The more crumble on top, the better!

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Juicy gooey and soft apple cinnamon filling of my Dutch apple pie crumble.

If you’re interested in making an apple pie the Dutch way, here I wanna share with you how to make one.

Traditional Dutch Apple pie crumble

Prep  time : 30~45 mins., serves 10.

For the crust
1½ cups [360 g] unsalted butter, cubed, room temperature
1 1/3 cups [240 g] brown sugar, packed firmly
Pinch of salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
5 cups [600 g] all-purpose flour ( type 405, the one I used here in Germany)

For the filling
5 firm apples or 3 soft apples (such as Golden Delicious or Pink Lady)
Finely grated zest of ½ orange and ½ lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
1/3 cup [80 ml] brown sugar (plus more for the crumble)
2 tsp [10 ml] speculaaskruiden (I use Verstegen Koek & Speculaas)
2 tsp [10 ml of cornstarch ]

Dash of cinnamon (zimt)  and nutmeg (muskatnuss gemahlen)
½ cup [125 ml] sultanas (or raisins )
½ cup [125 ml] chopped walnuts (optional)

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Traditional Dutch apple pie with cinnamon crumble

To make the crust:
In a medium bowl , mix the butter and brown sugar together until creamed. Sprinkle with the salt and add almost all of the eggs, keeping a tablespoonful [15 ml] to brush over the pie later. Pulse until the eggs are well-incorporated. Pour in the flour while incorporating it gradually. Add the remaining flour and pulse just until the dough comes together into a ball. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

Preheat the oven at 375°F [190°C].

To make the filling:
Peel and core the apples, then cut them into bite-size pieces. In a very large bowl, mix the apple pieces with the orange and lemon zest, lemon juice, brown sugar, spices, cornstarch, dash of cinnamon & nutmeg, sultanas (if using), and walnuts (if using). Add a pinch of the spekulaas spice. Sautee in medium heat until it starts to steam a bit. Remove from the heat and add the heavy cream & let it cool while you make the crumble. Set aside.

To make the crumble :

175g all- purpose flour

110 g brown sugar

110g cold butter, cut into cubes

In a medium bowl, mix together the sugar and flour.Mix in butter with a fork or stand mixer ( I prefer to use my hands ) just until the topping is crumbly. Top your pie with this before baking.

Assemble the apple filling in your pie crust and top it with the crumble. Bake for 40-45 minutes and check once the crumble turns golden or brown. Serve with dollop of  whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on the side. Enjoy!

 

Are you a pie person? What is your favorite comfort food?

 

 

 

 

Creating Ambience in your Home

Are you familiar with the good feeling when you finally got home from a long day?

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What’s the aura of your home?

You open the windows and soak the view outside and after kicking your shoes, you lounge in your favorite chair. The familiar scent of your home fills your nostrils. You breathe in and the feeling of sense of belonging…the relaxed feeling, the calmness, right in your cozy own place. Even the taste of your home- made tea , your own favorite mug, the flavor is different from the ones you buy from cafes. It’s all about personal space. I am self-confessed homemaker and for me, creating an aura, a cozy atmosphere in my own place is very important.

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A corner  in our kitchen where we have soothing views of the garden and  ample natural light

Just like style, I believe that creating your own ambience is totally personal. I love it when a simple detail can enhance the overall feel of a room. Be it a lamp shade, a picture frame or a vase full of flowers, it doesn’t matter, the effect always affects your mood. That is why I am a fan of neutral colors and natural lighting from the sun. This is why I love our new home here where we have large windows & doors made of glass.In Germany, curtains are almost rare, totally opposite from the norms in Kuwait where dark,patterned heavy curtains are essential because of the harsh sun.

I can’t claim our home to be completely minimalist ,but it’s almost livable even without the technology disturbances. This works for me since I have a 2 year old kid, where de-cluttering with tons of baby stuff and toys is almost impossible to achieve. Not at the moment. So by keeping things less, it’s less stressful,more appealing and most important –Easy to clean

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A Corner of fond memories of travel and Expat life
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A bathroom with the calmness of greens.It’s only here in Germany where bathroom windows are placed directly facing main streets.

Having an active toddler ushered us to live in simplicity. With the daily chaos and noise from playing, screaming &  running, we’ve been trying as much as possible to bring in the calmness by putting more green plants, keeping our ornaments and decorations to minimum, and keeping our furniture simple and natural. Truly, less becomes more.

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How to create homes with an Ambience .

Our kitchen has the most amazing natural light and I love the views I have when I’m cooking. I watched the sun rises & sets here while I do the dishes,listen to the raindrops, the swaying of the trees, and now, the magical snowfall. Most of the pieces we keep have a sentimental value and putting them in the right places draws us to fond memories of our Expat life.

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What’s the aura of your home?

Ambience is the feeling that you’re creating in which ever place you’re in. Either it has been created by others for you, or self-imposed, you allow that feeling to manifest in your system and to others. As for me, the best ambience to languish is the one coming from your own home. Nevermind the noise, the clutter and the mess–because really, there’s no place like home.

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Our garden in complete whiteness of snow

What about you, what do you think is the impression that others get from your home?

This post is in response to this week’s WP Photo Challenge |Ambience

Are you on Twitter?  follow me on my  Twitter  and my Instagram  for more updates on my Expat Life in Bavaria.Thank you so much for dropping by!

Gästehaus Panorama : A 360° Panoramic stay

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Our Guest cards for the Tiroler Zugspitze Arena

“A 360° Panoramic  surroundings filled with natural landscapes, cozy rooms with  decent amenities, conveniently located, accessible to all attractions in the Zugspitz Arena, and provides a homey atmosphere for my family– This is what I called a “Home away from Home”. The satisfied feeling that I’ve got from our stay in Gästehaus Panorama in Biberwier, Tirol, Austria.”

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Our room view of the Zugspitze mountain in Biberwier,Tirol, Austria
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We have this view while we stand at the entrance of the hotel

If you’re planning for a holiday in the Tiroler Zugspitze Arena, then I highly recommend Gästehaus Panorama for your accommodation. I seldom give reviews on places we’ve stayed , since I don’t have time to look further into details of hotels,or share our experiences, but on our recent Winter Wonderland stay in Biberwier,we were just totally satisfied with this place. It really exceeded my expectations, considering that it’s only a 3-Star hotel as per Hotelstars.Eu standards. The whole region is filled with Pension houses and even on Biberwier/Ehrwald area, almost all houses are turned into a family run hotel business. Gästehaus Panorama offered us with something that you can only have once you’ve experienced it . Once you are here you leave your worries behind and feel totally at home .

 

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Picture of the Winter Wonderland Stay

 

Karin, our Hostess did a wonderful job all throughout the days that she and her family welcomed us in their homey  house located at the foot of the Zugspitze mountain.Our reservation went smoothly and we’ve got immediate confirmation. This hotel is ideally located just a few meters away from restaurants, the Marienberg Ski & Snowboarding resort,and 5 minutes away from the beautiful hiking paths.It has a panoramic views of the mountains, the forest, and sparkling springs that flows nearby. A 3- minute walk to the bus stop for all the Hiking & Winter wandern in the region. There’s so much things to do and I had my top 10 Reasons why I love Winter in Austria,especially in this region.

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Cozy stay at Gästehaus Panorama

Our room was located in the ground floor adjacent to the service entrance area where we can leave my daughter’s Kinderwagen and for guest’s ski and Wintersport gears.There is a Infrared Sauna & Massage room right next to our room. We have TV-Sat, a very good wi-fi connection, closets, and its great that our bathroom was clean, with enough fresh towels & even a hair-dryer! It maybe outdated compared to modern standards but I didn’t see any problem with it.

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Hallway in the ground floor

The beds in Germany and in Austria was one of the culture shock that I eventually got used to. I was so surprised to see that  beds here consists of 2 separate mattress, and with 2 separate blankets. Totally weird for an Asian like me who grew up with different bedding arrangement.Always making us feel comfortable, they have arranged an additional bed for my daughter as well, offered to lend their sled, and gave us all the info and tips we need in exploring the area.

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Wall display

Every morning, we have delicious buffet breakfast personally arranged & served by Karin. Everything  with her personal touch. She prepared everything with the help of her kids and I find that so impressive. We were really pampered and treated like a guest in their house and not as a client in their business.My husband was happy with everything and so as my daughter who enjoys all the many choices of cereals, breads, cheeses, and fruits. their orange juice is really good and the best so far that I have tasted! I could even sit there for hours for the view!

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My daughter checking out  the beds

We always have a great time lounging in the Breakfast room because we have an amazing view of the mountains. When it’s snowing, we all kind of speechless just watching how magical the winter wonderland experience we are having. This place is super -value for your money and worth the travel since now, the new Tirol Express Arena have free train connections from Garmisch-Partenkirchen up to Vils. From the Ehrwald station, you can be in Biberwier within 10 minutes. Going to main attractions such as the Ehrwalder Almbahn & the Tiroler Zugspitzebahn, there is a free bus ride to take you there almost every half an hour! Totally convenient for us since we have a toddler with us and this place is super kid-friendly.

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A very hungry guest at the Gästehaus Panorama

We wanted to extend our stay but we have already purchased our return tickets. If we would have a chance to visit Tirol once again, maybe in Summer, Gästehaus Panorama would always be our choice.We were even offered by a free transfer to  Ehrwald station by Karin’s husband and it was really a kind gesture from them. Totally unexpected.

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The postcard that we’ve brought home from Gästehaus Panorama

If you’re heading to Austria on your next holiday staycation, do check out Gästehaus Panorama. Experience an authentic Tirolean hospitality in their house to have an unforgettable Winter Wonderland & enjoy the fresh snow in the Tyrolean Zugspitze region .

Please Check out their great offers for skiers and Kurzentschlosssene with their amazing deals for 3 Nights in Double/Triple/Single or Family Rooms for only 105 Euros/Person from 11:01. – 01.27.2017 including daily buffet breakfast, 1 time Sauna/Massage/Ehrwalder indoor pool, a trip to visit their alpacas & a parting gift.

Hotel Contact details & Address : Gästehaus Panorama- Prof.Giemsa Weg 1, A-6633 Biberwier/TIROL, Austria

Tel. + Fax .: +43 (0) 56 73-25 46/ Tel .: +43676621 92 01

Email : info@gaestehaus-panorama.at /www.gaestehaus-panorama.at

You can also check their Facebook page and they have an App available in the App store:Gastfreund to have instant travel tips, top news in the Tiroler Zugspitze Arena region, Food & Drinks , Tourist Attractions and so much more!

 

5 Reasons why hand made greeting cards makes a lasting impression this holiday season

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Christmas project 101 : Personalized and hand painted Christmas greeting cards

There’s something about receiving greeting cards, either by hand or by mail. I couldn’t explain it,  but for me, I find it sooo special to receive a card through snail mail or express. It really becomes a lasting impression. A special memento, a keepsake that is treasured. Traditional greeting cards beats all the technology that we have in right now.Receiving cards is totally different from e-cards,and mobile messages that we can send through internet.Call me traditional but I can never trade the crisp texture of an envelop containing a card than swiping my fingers in my iPhone.

It’s Christmas time once again and one of the things that floods the shops and bookstores are wide arrays of Holidays greeting cards. There’s so many designs and styles to choose from.From family to friends, to business and for general media, you name it, there’s always a card for any occasion.Back then in Kuwait, I couldn’t have this lifestyle because the mailing system is so crazy that there is 99% that mails got lost into doom land. There were numerous times that our mails were lost and it’s so hard to track. Now that we live in Germany where the local postal system is just right at our doorstep, I find another excuse.

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My Christmas greeting cards project this holiday season

 

If receiving cards gives a lasting impressions, how about making and giving it instead,yourself?

This year I wanted to make something special. I wanted to make a craft project that I can really do and not compromise. I needed to squeeze my tight schedule for a craft time for drawing & designing cards. So instead of buying dozens of Christmas cards to be sent out to our dearest  friends and family, I decided to make them instead.

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Holiday Craft project : Watercolor painted greeting cards
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The materials are simple and very handy : Watercolor, colored pencils, construction papers or  parchments, a creative mind and  a lots of love!

Why personalized and handmade greeting cards make the lasting impression this Holiday season? Here’s my  FIVE (5)  reasons ;

  • It shows your style – The type of card, design and the content you share always shows  a bit of who you are.Your personality is delivered through your drawing, handwriting, and even on the choice of materials  you used.Remember, every card is special.
  • A bridge to connect with someone special – As an Expat, we are very good in connecting to far away friends & love ones.But almost all of them through our phones. There’s No better way for me to bridge the gap between love ones and friends than making an effort to send a message to them. This also depends on your location and accessibility to make this happen. Sending mails and cards can be expensive too but it all depends on your budget and lifestyle.
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Few of my personalized greeting cards, all hand made, designed and drawn by me.
  • It has the unbeatable element of Surprise – There’s no undeniably bad reason for having a big surprise when you receive something that is totally unexpected. That moment when you receive a greeting card from a friend that you haven’t spoken for years, that family or relative that live across the other side of the world..It’s all about the element of surprise. It’s a priceless gift and oftentimes, unforgettable!
  • It’s really the thought that counts – Okay , so if you’re not feeling creative or crafty and your artwork sucks? Never mind, for what really matters is the thought of giving. I once received a card for my daughter that is drawn by a 3-years old, it only shows smears and dots made out of colored pens, more like a scratch. But for me, I find it so special.
  • It shows that you care – The act of making it,and picking out a design to make cards shows that you care and you are willing to give a fraction of your time during the busiest time of the holiday season, and that is enough reason to make someone else laugh, smile and feel loved.

Do you still need more reason?

To make cards and to give them away  is simply because its Christmas! and who doesn’t want to feel loved this time? I have learned this mantra : You cannot give what you don’t have.

Have a little love, have a little artwork, spread a lasting impression!

“There’s something about the tactile nature of receiving a card,” says Shelley Patenaude, product manager for season cards. “It says that someone cared enough to pick out a card just for you, hand-write a note, and place it in the mail or deliver it by hand. Unlike a message that shows up on your computer or mobile phone, greeting cards make a lasting impression. You can display a card on your mantle for all to see or keep it forever as a memento. And with the hustle and bustle of the season, a greeting card provides that moment of peace that’s just between the sender and the recipient.”

Do you like to send someone a card this Christmas?

If you like my designs of cards in photos above and you want to receive a FREE hand-made & personalized  Christmas card,just write your thoughts in the comments or you can email me at justbluedutch@gmail.com!