Thursday, February 22, 2018

Weihnachten & Silvester in Rostock

I've been stuck on this one for a while because there's not that much to add to the images, but at least it's not quite March yet? Just saying..


I've had that little tree since I was four years old. All the tiny ornaments I've accumulated for it over the years are still at my mom's place; she used to tie them to the bows of my presents. 
Hannes' mom Anke gave us that poinsettia, Andrea made the lovely advent centerpiece, and there they are, all of my handmade and cobbled-together gifts for everybody from the U.S. and Japan, just lurking on the table under the miniature tree and waiting for Christmas to taste freedom.

Wait why does my thumb look so wrinkly?

Anke also got us these way-too-personalised advent calendars.. 
We were pretty chocolated-out after just a few pieces, though, and didn't even finish them.

We headed to Rostock bright and early on December 23rd, ready to begin the four-day marathon of eating, drinking, alternately being social and being slug-like, and then drinking more.

First thing was first: I helped Hannes' mom decorate the tree as soon as we got there.





Oh shit, Marco spotted me spying on them through the foliage, abort abort


Hannes also helped?

"Oh, wow! One of these handmade, light-up paper stars is for us?!"
Thank you, Denny's mom's friend!

"Now tell me all of your pointy secrets."

This is Denny, the one dressed as a waiter serving the hot booze. He and his wife Katrin live just around the corner from Hannes' parents, and every year on this day they invite everybody over for Bratäpfel mit vanillesoße, baked apples with vanilla sauce. 

Of course, there are plenty of other treats, too. 
Those chocolatey ones are (or were) frozen bananas.




Why are we like this lol


I mean it's not like she needs it to turn into a prince, she should really give somebody else 
a shot at the kind of 6 1/2-foot-tall goofy happiness we both know so well


Marco seems a lot more playful and smiley than he was even just a few years ago when I first met him, though I'm not sure what might have changed. He clearly loves kids, though. Which is great, as long as the conversation about them doesn't drift back toward us for a while..

"You see children, basically all you need to know about chainsaws is.."







They even made a special apple for me without breading, but I don't know if we ever got a definitive answer on whether or not there was marzipan inside? Anyway, it's good stuff. Come for the Bratäpfel, stay for the Mops. 'Mops' is German for 'pug', and they have an aging one that looks just like the one on my mug of glühwein there.

Some men just want to watch the world burn
(and eat the sweet syrupy sauce straight-up with a spoon)

Everyone is laughing and happy in these pictures except Hanna, who had just gotten
 accidentally punched in the face by one of the boys lol. Fair enough.




Okay, the little one is better now even if she did get vanilla sauce on her sleeve, 
but I think dad.exe has stopped running p:



Hannes looks at the wee lads and lassies like this, too, the same way he looks at dogs.
Sigh. :/



Quaint, handmade wooden Christmas things, whether they play music like this or light up 
or spin around by the heat of a candle flame, never get old. 

Omg this dog



See? Siiiiiigh
Maybe I'll be ready to start considering thinking about having one in like 5 years.

"This ponytail is mine now"
"Ow"



Omg I can't

THIS DOG

"Kissies? Can I have a kiss now?"
"No. I saw that. You think I'm hideous. Don't look at me."

The very warm and toasty party wound down, and we trekked bravely for about a block 
through gale-force Arctic winds back to the safety of Anke and Marco's place.


The following day, the 24th, is the main Christmas Spectacular Spectacular-type event.
For my family that was always Christmas Day, the 25th; the night of the 24th was for going to Christmas Eve mass, eating Mexican food, driving around to look at lights on the way home, and then falling asleep to the 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story on TBS, or, in more recent years, Elf, before gathering at the grandparents' house again for presents and a huge meal.
Not so in Germany! Christmas Day is a quiet, peaceful, contemplative day to be spent with your closest loved ones, maybe something more like Thanksgiving is for Americans. Except instead of blind hysterical consumerism to compliment it all, there's a lot of alcohol. Like, more than in the States, or at least more than my family drinks. Approved.

First thing's first, though: here Hannes and his dad, looking like more or less the same person, mince garlic, onions, apples, bell peppers, and hard-boiled eggs (no one knows why they were dyed for the wrong holiday, it was apparently done at the store by someone with a festive sense of humour) for the traditional Christmas and day-after-Christmas potato salad. Because in this rich and hearty land, the potatoes flow like soju flows in the land of bibimbap.


Anke showed me the recipe book she inherited from her mother, which was quaint and heartwarming af. This little illustration collage (of her) was done by a friend and coworker of her mom's.

"Das Kochen, Backen, Braten, soll Dir stets gut geraten.
Mit Rezepten aus Omas und Mutter Kiste
mit Geduld und Übung biste
bald eine perfekte Köchin.
Es ist noch eins zu sagen,
die Liebe geht durch den
Magen."

"May your cooking, baking, and frying all go well.
With recipes from Grandmother and Mother's trove
with patience and practice you will soon be a perfect chef.
There is just one thing left to say:
the way to the heart is through the stomach."


Look at this dank disco couple tho! #the80s


Hannes and Marco put up the Santa hat-shaped windsock banner thingy in the same
gale-force winds that continue whipping over the flat spongy plains from the Baltic all winter long.






There was a lot of lead-up to Christmas, after we left Tokyo and spent two months apart and Hannes found a job and an apartment in Hamburg in record time and as the long and stressful marriage process was getting started. It was kind of like the finishing line for the year, and he was legitimately happy enough to do a little dance.










Wonder Twin Powers, Activate!
(also me grudgingly wearing the tiniest of the stupid hats)








This extremely difficult puzzle was unlike any I'd seen before; all of the pieces are holographic and magnetic, and although you're meant to use the lid of the tin it comes in for putting it together, the image of the complete puzzle printed there doesn't actually correspond to the pieces you're placing on top of it. Which change depending on how you look at them. (´;δ;`)





As yes, hot cheesy drunk soup outside in the cold





"It hits the spot, though"



I really like this one.





Oops! Sorry, don't mind me, just keep romantic dancing in the kitchen..





We exchanged gifts with Nico and Andrea before they left.



They clearly enjoyed the box of goodies I had put together from Japan and the storage unit.



During the obligatory rounds of Feliz Navidad (because I mean that song only ends when someone pulls the plug) the time to Skype with my mom rolled around, and everyone drunkenly sang to her in a joyous, cacophonous scene generously sprinkled with ridiculous hats. I wish I could have gotten a video of it.

More importantly, we all with my mom could have been there again, but flying to and from Europe is just too expensive for most people to do more than once in a lifetime, let alone once a year.



... more drunk soup lol


And finally, a cute selfie of everyone!
This is a much smaller group than usual, but for one little apartment, it's definitely enough.


I don't know why, they're just like anything else, but I thought these were stupidly cute



Cookies Hanna made together with her grandma, Nico's mom, like they do every year. 
For me they made those sunflower seed and peanut clusters held together with egg whites, which actually ended up being perfect for breakfast. Thanks!



When we're over, especially for a holiday, Hannes' mom never stops hustling and bustling back and forth, and the coffee table is always coated in a generous layer of snacks and treats, many of which are actually pretty healthy.



Like last year, Marco went and played Santa for his coworker's kids in the late afternoon / early evening, and was definitely completely sober for that after his nap
(-shaking head subtly-)






So cute!
My grandparents sent these soft cushy matching robes as gifts for them.

My mom sent highballs with Hannes and Marco's names on them; they each got a set of four and exchanged one, so that each would always have their own glass while visiting the other.


A pretty neat Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas T-shirt from my mom, 
with one of the Ralph Steadman illustrations on it

"Excuse you, what?" -stares in German-




This is an exceedingly pleasant little lazy Susan my mom sent to match the engraved coasters she got Marco for his birthday. They're made of smooth grey slate, and you can write on this one with chalk. So of course, Hannes instantly grabbed it and drew a penis on it.

The best I could do with no money: a cute cactus ornament (that I repaired and wrote '2017' on) and one of my favourite holiday tins from some time way back in the 90's, a funny little ceramic tile from Tucson to add to the trinkets in the guest bathroom, and regional liquor minis.


Hey, big success!



:)

Also, let's all take a minute to give a shoutout to ASU's Japanese program and JPN 206, the calligraphy course, because as it turns out these things do have real-world applications!
As handmade gift wrap!

The jewelry set and Michelle Branch CD (mentioned in a conversation about 
listening to music in the car 4 years ago) inside were also big hits.



lol


Yet another big hit, the second known photo book of the Korean hardcore punk scene covering the time during which Hannes and I were living there and were a part of it. You can read more about this book and its author here.


It's kind of funny, actually: I happened upon Young Jun's analog photos while browsing Instagram, and the more I looked through them, the more startled I was that we weren't acquainted. He was at several of the same shows we were in 2014, and knows JP/Octopoulpe. We chatted for a bit and he said he was equally surprised that he doesn't remember having seen or talked to me, either. Well, it's a small world either way, and this book made Hannes pretty happy. Those were good times.


My mom bought one of these Jim Shore decorations for herself and a matching one for her youngest brother maybe 10 or 12 years ago, but he passed away suddenly in 2011. I found the double while purging our mountains of stuff, and we agreed that Anke and Marco should have it.




Hannes' gift to me, aside from flying me to my new home and supporting me entirely for the foreseeable future, was a new lens for my camera. It's smaller, better in the dark, and has some macro capability. Why, there's some of that macro goodness right now in the texture of his glasses and beard!


Awww


Oh boy, it really is good in darkness..

The next day, Christmas Day, we slept in and started on the wine again almost immediately.
I think I had one small piece of toast for breakfast between sessions of nearly eating myself to death.

I took some pictures around the apartment with my new lens.
Anke has been going to a weekly ceramics class for a while, and her adorable goofy fish have been a big hit with everyone who's seen them. She's been giving them away as gifts almost nonstop. 
She also decided to keep my calligraphy practice paper and framed sections of it, lol






much macro
so detail
wow




And here's that potato salad I was telling you about!
Mine had no dairy and the hardboiled eggs were kind of added as an afterthought, because Hannes' parents were still using blood test results from two years ago to figure out what to feed me. I told them I was sorry for the trouble and that, honestly, I can barely keep up with being hypersensitive to food myself. 


The solution? Soft, fluffy falafel with a little bit of sweet mustard.


The next day was the really big meal, with the traditional Christmas goose.
I'm not sure about this bird, but last year, the goose came from the property of one of Marco's friends just down the road, where it lived happily and freely with other geese until it was killed. Eating meat is definitely not necessary, but I mean, if you're going to, hyper-local, free-range, native species meat is the way to go.


-fatness intensifies-


My giant fluffy potato balls, or knödel, have a cobbled-together (that was the underlying theme of Christmas, I think) but very tasty gravy-like thing full of mushrooms on top, because I've been trying to have as little soy as possible to keep my various digestive symptoms at bay.


I'd never had Brussels sprouts before Christmas last year, actually, but they're really good! 
Especially with a touch of nutmeg. The dark green stuff is kale, and the other one is red cabbage, boiled in apple juice until it's tangy and a little bit sweet.


This stuff was surprisingly good, and definitely better than the other one we tried that looked a lot fancier. It's another local specialty, cumin liquor, a shot or two of which you're supposed to have after a heavy meal, or just whenever you feel like it, really. I don't know where this was the first time I visited Hamburg and people wouldn't stop trying to murder me with disgusting Pfeffi (re: Listerine) and Mexikaner (re: tomato soup, sometimes spicy) shots. It's super smooth like good vodka.


And eventually there was dessert.. Some kind of raspberry white chocolate ice cream 
and also a lovely cassis sorbet :O


Hannes taught me that eierlikör, basically strong eggnog, is best when poured over ice cream like this. Cue Homer Simpson drooling sounds and unrelenting guilt


The view of the city from Anke and Marco's apartment is pretty nice.


But, as with all good things, Christmas skidded to a quick and sudden halt.
(This is actually a very subtle selfie)


It takes about 2 1/2 hours between Rostock and Hamburg by train, and much of the landscape looks like this, though there are also plenty of trees and occasionally deer.


... and also the occasional nomming.

Most everyone had to work the days between Boxing Day and New Year's Eve, though I'm confident that very little actually got done.
The Goodbye 2017, It's Been a Weird One Drinkapalooza continued in Hamburg with the huge double 30th birthday party Lars and Daniel threw at DildoFabrik, which I'll talk about in the next post. For whatever reason I thought I had a day between waking up terribly hungover from that and going back to Rostock with Nico, Andrea, and Stefan, who all crashed at our place along with Ivanhoe, but no, that was the next morning. Hannes was so hungover he could barely get out of bed, and I felt like something that had been microwaved but was still frozen inside.

Either way, Nico was driving and he and Andrea didn't drink very much, so the only thing that actually sucked about it was that I had to pack clothes for three days while barely conscious and functional. The drive back was even smoother than the train rides are because that's how the Autobahn is, and Hannes and I crashed and burned at his parents' place, which we had to ourselves because they had different plans and were out of town.

So the next morning, on New Year's Eve, we took our time getting up, Hannes made some of his kickass scrambled eggs, and we laid on his parents' extremely comfortable sofas binging the entire 6th season of Black Mirror before it was time to take a bus over to Nico and Andrea's place. (All in all a very weak season that relied on samey and recycled ideas; we were disappointed.)


Hannes' parents left us not only sparklers and sparkling wine, but also another ceramic creation of Anke's. The clovers and marzipan pigs are widely-circulated symbols for luck in the new year, and plenty of people can be spotted carrying the ones they were given while drunkenly going home on New Year's Day.




It was much the same procedure as every year; this is the third New Year's Eve I've spent like this, and it's always really nice. This time, though, unfortunately, I forgot to bring the adapter to charge my camera battery, which is Japanese, and after just a few photos it went night-night. Oh well.




It was extremely misty and foggy, if you can't tell..



Back on the 24th I had promised Gabriel, Andrea's nephew, that I would draw him a Pikachu, because he had asked if I would and he probably gets a little tired of Hanna getting all the presents and attention all the time. Having to do two more for other kids was inevitable, so I traced the first one, and then Hanna also wanted a unicorn. At that point I wished Andrea had fetched me two vodka tonics sooner, but she was clever enough to find a nearby candy package with a cartoon unicorn on it for me to refer to so that I could do it easily. Big success!