The First Frost

It’s pumpkin season now, which means soup is very often on the stove and the other day, I found the most delicious thing at a bakery down the road; a pumpkin and marzipan Taler, covered in dark chocolate. It took me a cup of coffee and a follow up tea to get through it, but get throught it I did. Eating at this time of year is a lifestyle, one to which one must commit in order to pad the psyche for the impending winter.


It is quite lovely to live in a place that celebrates seasonal eating with such gusto. That collectively loses its sanity when Spargelzeit rolls around, that has fields of strawberries open for picking in the summer, has never met an apple they can’t include in a pastry (like today’s sweet bread filled with apple and marzipan and topped with icing). A country that tracks summer through berry availability and counts Lebkuchen as a food group for the entire month of December. Or at least, I count Lebkuchen as a food group for the entire month of December (and November. Okay and October.) and I don’t feel like Germany has a problem with that.


(On that note, I have already started eating Lebkuchen. I didn’t want to say anything earlier because I know it is early, but I have been fighting it since the first of September, and the other day while grocery shopping I dropped a bag into my trolley and as I was explaining to SG that  I  knew it was a tad early, and good Germans wait until at least November, he told me he had already been eating some at work! The traitor!)

But. while it is all very well to celebrate the berries and sup the soup and survive the Spargel by virtue of litres of Hollandaise sauce, one cannot forget the flipside of seasonal eating.  The other night, as we tucked into a bowl of pumpkin soup and commented on how lovely it is to do so on a chilly Autumn’s night, SG said to me, ‘I can’t wait for the first frost.’ And my stomach dropped. Poor thing, you are probably thinking, so terrified at the thought of frost and the cold it signifies. Well yes, there’s that, but there is also the fact that the first frost is mother nature’s big old thumbs up to GrünkohlSomewhere on my horizon is a big pot of stewed kale and wurst, which will be served with a side of encouragement to sprinkle the entire steaming mass liberally with sugar.


But with the first frost will also come the invitation to start playing Christmas carols, to perhaps start eating Stollen for breakfast. And then the Glühwein will start showing up in gigantic quantities in the supermarket (where I first encountered it in Münster, my first Christmas in Germany, and promptly drank it cold out of a wine glass) and then the Christmas markets will start …

But I am getting ahead of myself. The first frost is still some time off. The markets are still awash with orange. There is this whole season to enjoy first, and enjoy it I shall (try to. Despite the rain.).


The Sodden with the Gorgeous

Alright, alright, the leaves are turning. And yes, I got more than I could ever have hoped for with the warmest September in the history of Septembers, so I shall shut up. Onward we march, the scent of woodsmoke in the air, the crunch of leaves underfoot.




I said to SG the other day that, for the first time since moving to Germany, I feel completely and utterly prepared for the impending cold. (Although as soon as I said that, I realised I need a pair of gumboots, which I promptly ordered online. Sehr wichtig.) I have a waterproof(ish) Übergangsjacke (probably could do with a new, totally waterproof one, I suppose), a Winterjacke (which will do until I find a longer, warmer one, because I am sick of having a cold bottom) a lovely wool Mantel for dry but chilly days, a lighter Mantel for dry but slightly less chilly days, a blanket SchalSchnürrstiefel, normal Stiefel, (but not, it has just occurred to me, real Winterstiefel which hitherto hasn’t been a problem because I avoid going out in the snow, but I foresee, unfortunately, having to spend time in the snow with the children this season. Hmmmm.) three million Mutzen and, also in my online shopping basket along with my gumboots, I placed faux sheepskin lined Hausschuhe (my very first pair of real, official house shoes.) With just a hint of smugness, I announced that for the first time in years, I truly feel like I have an appropriate outfit for almost every single weather occasion Schleswig-Holstein can dream up. When I lived in Sydney, I genuinely don’t think I owned a coat. And if I did, it was one my mother forced me to buy when I was 14. Now I have enough to categorise by weather type. I don’t know who I am anymore. 



Excepting a brand new pair of Winterstiefel, which are on the top of my shopping list, die Lüdde is also prepared for the incoming cold and for her first, how can I say this, Real Winter. Real in the sense that she will be out there in it, come rain, hail or shine. And real in the sense that we don’t have any plans to skip 3-6 weeks of it, by fleeing to Asia or Australia. Scheisse. Last year, when days were particularly shitty, we just didn’t go out. But this year, she is bigger, less containable, completely awake to the lure of playgrounds and parks and puddles – especially puddles. This year, when it snows, she will want to be right out there in it (which is a shame … I suspect SG will be spending a lot of time rolling around in snow, while I sip hot chocolate and wave out the window). So this year, her Mum has to German up and get out there in the cold/wind/rain/snow. This year her Mum has to follow the ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes’ mantra, by which the Norddeutsche live their windy lives. This year, die Lüdde truly gets to appreciate the wonders of a full-on, all-in-one Schneeanzug and I, the wonders of wrestling the child in and out of it on a daily basis. I can’t wait.


Autumn, like Spring, makes no guarantees up here. Days can be blindingly gorgeous, with blue skies and golden light and chestnuts galore, and one tumbles down the street chicly dressed in non-waterpoof garb and lovely little boots, clutching a hot drink and thinking numerous romantic thoughts. Or days can be grindingly grey, sodden, filled with puddles and wet clothes and cold feet, and one races down the street wielding a pram covered in a plastic poncho and an umbrella that has become the wind’s plaything, wearing the non-chic, waterproof clothes and praying someone won’t stop you to point out your baby’s ears are exposed to the wind and they will surely freeze to death. I seem to find myself doing more of the latter than the former, but as a result one makes a point of really enjoying the lovely parts of Autumn; pumpkin soup and collecting chestnuts and realising every second tree is an apple tree and there are few lovelier sights than a tree covered in blushing apples.


And so you take the gorgeous with the sodden, amass a huge jacket wardrobe, and spend a lot of time wondering how soon is too soon to crack out the Glühwein. Answer; it is never too soon.


Sunday Ausflug: Eckenförde

A truncated nap, a Sunday afternoon stretching ahead of us with two snotty kids, and rain that followed through on its threat the moment we stepped out of the apartment building. What’s a family to do? Well, firstly, hit a bakery. The Sunday queue will ensure the rain has time to stop by the time you emerge with a Rosinenbrötchen for the toddler and something starchy and filling for the adults. Starchy and filling is precisely what the crispness in the air calls for, come Autumn (and Autumn has come. Leider.).


Despite the break in the rain, we needed the baby to sleep and it was a bit too fresh to do an hour-long trek with die Lüdde’s nose, so we got in the car. He yelled until we hit the Autobahn and then, with no clear destination in mind, but a determination to keep him asleep, SG took a couple of turns and we headed out to Eckenförde.


Eckenförde is one of those lovely harbour towns with cobbled, stony lanes and hot Fischbrötchen wherever you look. More importantly, to my mind, the shops are open on a Sunday. So we released the toddler in the warm confines of the bookshop while we found some new reads for all of us. She contented herself trotting up and down a small ramp. (The longer I spend with toddlers, the more I realise what very little it takes to keep them occupied. New parent: forget the expensive toys. Give them an empty shoe box and a baby wipe. Or unlimited access to one of the drawers in the study. Or a bowl of water.)

The harbour was stormy and blowy and precisely what we wanted to avoid with the kids, so after the bookshop, we wove through the lanes a little bit, looking at the tiny, old houses.




The cool breeze had clearly taken a few people by surprise, possibly those wanting to hold onto the idea of that glorious Spätsommer. There were a lot of shorts and sandals out and about, when I would have been expecting at least a pashmina. That being said, I definitely got some pointed looks at der Lüdde’s hatless head which was peeking out from the carrier. (Like any good, practical German, I ended up fashioning a hat out of the head cover attached to his carrier and he was a piece of toast the whole time.)


We headed home, mission accomplished. The baby slept, we avoided the rain, and a nippy, wet Sunday afternoon didn’t feel so interminably long. And we got new books.



Buying gumboots for die Lüdde last weekend, I lamented, as one does when making effective small talk, the state of the weather outside. It was a bit rainy, a bit grey, a bit redolent of November but plus about 15 degrees. The sales assistant assured me the weather would improve. I said a Spätsommer would be super (and SG later said at that moment, when he heard me say that, I sounded tremendously German) and lo and behold – a Spätsommer is upon us.


Spätsommer is making up for no-show-summer in July. Spätsommer means people are hitting the beach in September, or whipping their kit off in the park and soaking up the sun in their undies (to be fair, some people do wear swimmers to sunbake in, but others find a secluded spot and bite the bullet in an act of admirable couldn’t care less-ness). The apple trees are full to bursting, but the temps are still sitting at 25 degrees. The daily ice cream is still going strong (double scoop, base scoop always Joghurt Natur). Some enthusiastic Autumn-lovers are determined to bang on about FALL AND PUMPKINS AND ANKLE BOOTS and to that I say, ‘Go. Away. Far, far away. With your ankle boots and your pumpkins.’

Why, why hasten the cold? It will come, and yes, with its the golden leaves and crisp evenings and you can cup your hot cocoa and curl up with your cinammon candles and all of that. But that time is not quite now. Now is the time to catch the sun before it disappears for the next six months. Now is the time to choose the table in the sun and squint through your Kaffee und Kuchen. Now is the time zu tanken.


These warm Spätsommer evenings, call for an appropriate drink. Hugos and Aperol Spritzes may suit midsummer, even early summer, but Spätsommer calls for FederweißerA fizzy, sweet gem of a drink, it hints at an impending golden autumn but hasn’t quite let go of the lightness of summer.


Friday afternoons in Spätsommer call for treats at the park, and for pushing your luck with a grumpy toddler by extending your walk down to the water. Water which will soon be chilly and grey with a wind whipping in off it that could sweep the hair off your head. But let’s not think about that quite yet.


Mostly, these beautiful Spätsommer days call for utter appreciation. The cold is being kept at bay a little while longer. Enjoy it.



I’ve been in a relationship with north Germany since 2011. I think I first came up here in February 2011 and it was ferociously cold. I walked along the Linie for 10 metres, drank a hot chocolate in a cafe, and ate a lot of Joeys Pizza. A month later I was back, and SG took me to the beach. I remember getting a coffee order completely wrong and being called a ‘cute tourist’ and getting into the car with three awful filter coffees, two of which SG had to drink. We wound down the windows and watched the temperature climb. Spring was on her way, and the young (and he was young) man sitting next to me, joked that ‘next year’ we would have a convertible and drive to the beach with the roof down. I distinctly recall thinking how far ahead he was looking, how confident he must have been in our new relationhip. We didn’t get a convertible, but we did have two kids, and end up living down the road from that bakery I got the coffees from.

Anyway. Where was I. Ah yes. So, despite having lived here for more than two years now, and despite our lengthening history, I still get surprised that Germany can look like this – 



And that, on a sunny, 30 degree day, I can climb this slope:


and plant my feet into white sand. Set up my towel-camp metres from blue, blue water. Water full of swimmers and sail boats and kite surfers.



The weather last week was, as promised, glorious and we took full advantage of it. We went to Brazil first, one of my favourites. The water was three shades of blue and coldly clear. I didn’t swim (der Lüdde wanted to eat a lot, but mostly … that water was a touch too fresh) but my daughter hit those mini Baltic waves with her Dad and we couldn’t get her out. She is a true Kielerin-Aussie and I couldn’t be prouder.


On the second day of 30 degrees, we went to a closer beach, the very one SG took me to five and a bit years ago. It is the go-to beach when you want to stick your toes in the sand, but don’t want to drive more than ten minutes to do it. The kiosk is always busy, the staff as slow as snails, and is as much an icon as the lighthouse that rises from the shore. In went die Lüdde again, throwing stones and splashing and shrieking. The Colour Line sailed out to Norway, past the Naval Memorial in Laboe. The white sail boats bobbed around, as ferries puttered to and fro, taking and bringing people from both sides of the fjord, and everything felt just right in my little corner of this country.






Heatwaves & Forecasts

I listen to Aussie radio of a morning, while preparing die Lüdde’s breakfast. Like a good immigrant, I find ways to sneak my own culture into my home through artwork, classic children’s books, food and music. And really, really average breakfast radio. (It also has the added bonus of putting der Lüdde to sleep, which I would otherwise pay handsomely for.)

Anyway, one thing I have noticed over the past couple of weeks is the weather forecasts in Sydney correlate exactly, sometimes to the degree, with the weather forecasts in Kiel. There is talk of ‘rainy, chilly mornings’ and ‘evening showers’ and ‘tops of 20 degrees.’ Sometimes I have to stop making my coffee and check I am listening to a Sydney station, and have not slipped into some bizarre zone in which an Australian reads out the weather for Kiel. It seems, however, Sydney is having a rather summery winter. Or we are having a rather wintry summer. Or Sydney is having its normal August and we are having an absolute shocker.

The good news is, a Hitzewelle is coming. The bad news is, it’s two months too late. Summer, despite some truly love days, has been a bit of a bust. May held such promise, with some gloriously hot days. June was just lovely. July I am truly thankful I missed. And now here we are cracking out the sodding pashminas.



We have 9 days left of August, which means we have 9 days left until people start banging on about gemütlichkeit and changing leaves and ankle boots. The very thought makes me want to weep. I am not ready for gemütlichkeit and chilli hot chocolates and vowing to actually wear one of the numerous pairs of stockings I own. I am not ready for layering and my Übergangsjacke (actually, that reminds me, I need a new one) and I am certainly not ready for ankle boots. Or dark evenings. Or darker mornings. I pray the Hitzewelle is a cracker – long and relentless and hot. I want to feel like I am melting, I want the sand to be too hot to walk on, I want to eat ice blocks for dinner. And I want to let die Lüdde go nuts at a water pump in the playground just one more time. Then we can talk about changing bloody leaves.


With all of that being said, Sunday morning was just beautiful. Warm and sunny and fresh and filled with possibility. The possibility, as it turned out, of intermittent rain, thunderous skies, and some delightfully heavy evening showers. But we weren’t to know that when we skipped outside, exclaiming at the morning light. (Nor were we to know Monday would be a complete dud. I am sitting beside the window right now, glaring beadily outside.) So we went down to the water, wound up through the park, and generally felt really smug as That Family Who Take Really Long Sunday Morning Walks Wearing Sneakers. Obviously, later that afternoon, we were the family who arrives at the animal park and realises they have forgotten the pram, so decides not to disembark but leave the sleeping baby and drive to the beach, only to have the rain begin pissing down upon parking.



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Bring on the Hitzewelle.



It is not lost on me, that these precious years I will forever remember, are years you will later discount. Years you will have no memory of. Years you will describe as, ‘but I was only 2, so it doesn’t really count.’ Oh, but they count to me. These early days in which your voice is so high and light. These mornings and afternoons with which I try to carefully create a safe place, a loving place, an anchored place you can always return to as life gets bigger and harder. As you get bigger and harder. You won’t remember our easy mornings or afternoons spent at the playground, you won’t remember drawing Nana and Pa, or arguments over the TV, or how every single word you ever learnt was cheered by the proudest parents who believed completely in your evident genius. And kindness. And beauty. And uniqueness. You won’t remember how many times I checked you when you started sleeping in your own bedroom, or how many times your Dad got up to soothe you when you woke. But we will remember, until our dying days, how you smelt, the look on your face when you saw a plane (a helicopter, a hot air balloon, anything!) in the sky, your funny little words, and how you always said goodbye to the moon.

These years are ones that have changed me and your Dad, cracked everything wide open. You were a hand grenade we threw into the middle of a relationship, an apartment, a life, and as you grew, with frightening quickness, you pulled us along with you – are pulling us along with you, and you will never stop. No, it is not lost on me, that a time in my life that will always be so very, deeply significant, is a time of yours that you will know of only through photos and stories. A time that perhaps won’t feel as if it fully belongs to you, but instead was a time of your life you shared with us – with lucky, lucky us.

But that is okay. These years, these memories, they are are ours, Mummy and Daddy’s. They are for us to treasure, to fill, to round out. They are for us to use, so that we may learn how best to help you grow. My hope is simply that, during these early years, in which you are giving us so much joy, we are setting you up for the years that you will remember. And that they, too, will be filled with joy.