I don’t know how to start this post except to say that the difficulties mounted this week. Olivia passed away.

You may remember the posts I wrote about my sweet little cavalier, and how worried I was about importing her. About two months before we moved she began to get sick, but our vet assured us that it was only a food intolerance and that she was fine. She wasn’t. Our vet here eventually diagnosed her with congenital renal failure. Our puppy barely had any kidneys at all.

She’s been gone one very lonely week.

And then we had visitors. Welcome visitors, wanted visitors, but such a low low followed by running around the city was too much for me. Yesterday I stayed in my pyjamas, watched Gilmore Girls, and cried while stuffing Cheezits (a well-timed present from our visitors) in my mouth. It was cathartic. Today I got dressed, went out for coffee, and watched Gilmore Girls. Progress.

There are still fun things for me to cover and some new trips in the future (Rome! Bavaria!), but for now I think I’ll do a little wallowing, maybe have a junk food binge, and finish Season 2.

baby takes köln

We took our first trip (not moving, no other family) last weekend to Köln and it was something. S doesn’t remember the many times we jumped on a train or plane to visit other cities last time we lived in Germany, and frankly, her verbal skills were not nearly as advanced as they are now. You know what I’m getting at: 5 year olds are champion complainers!

My favorite episode went something like this:

— I want to play in the fountain!**

We go to the Rheingarten where the fountain in question is located.


— Ok, we’re here.


— OH MY GOD GO! Play!

Falls knee deep into fountain, while I reconsider non-refundable train tickets.

Oh, and we brought the dog!

In between the 5-year-old’ness, we managed to see some amazing sights. The Kölner Dom, for example, which S insists is bigger on the inside, because I let her watch Doctor Who that one time, and the Museum Ludwig were both highlights.


S especially liked the Präterium and kept asking Jon to teach her “Aladdin,” which is how she says “Latin.”

Köln is very small compared to other big cities and was easily doable in 36 hours. We stayed near the train station so going back and forth (especially since we occasionally needed to leave the dog there) was an cinch. I wouldn’t recommend our hotel, so I won’t write about it. The staff was friendly, but the rooms weren’t well kept. We chose it, because it was still available last minute and allowed pets.

We had much better luck with restaurants. The first recommendation, Die Fette Kuh, was found within the comments section of an article about Berlin’s current burger boom. Located in Severinsviertal, it’s quite out of the way of the usual tourist spots. The regular burgers (i.e.: for beef eaters) were great; Jon even said he liked it better than our burger joint here. I, unfortunately, made a bad choice: the veggie teriyaki burger. The veggie patty itself was delicious and much better than the Berlin offerings I’ve tried, but there was so much teriyaki sauce the whole thing fell apart. I made myself feel better with garlic fries.

We tried one of these Weckmänner for a snack. Its tastes like challah, and has little raisin eyes and a clay pipe. I’ve never seen these anywhere, but Köln.

Later we had dinner at Great Wall, which was better for everyone. We made a reservation online, which didn’t really mean anything; we were told when we got there that they didn’t check it. The restaurant gets fairly busy – busloads of Chinese tourists were regularly brought by – so be prepared for fast, curt service. Its incredibly close to the Dom, too. Just walk straight ahead and there you are!

Despite the at times negative commentary from S, I hope we take another weekend trip soon. **Playing in fountains is a thing German kids do. All the time. Any fountain. And sometimes they get naked. It’s weird. I’m sorry, I’m very open-minded, but there are some things about me that are just American and I can’t change them. Here’s a list:

º Letting children play naked outside is weird, and letting them do it in a public fountain is probably some kind of health hazard.

º I like enormous coffees and I’m not apologizing for it!

Die Komische Oper

Shall we get back to the fun stuff? Thank you for reading my previous post about helping the many,many people seeking shelter in Germany. I hope you can help us help them, too.

On to how we’ve been keeping ourselves busy in the Hauptstadt…

Since S is in school for an astounding eight hours (not the usual thing in Germany), we’ve been filling up our weekends with as many fun, family activities as we can. Last Sunday, we found ourselves in the Komische Oper.

Many cultural and government institutions have a yearly Tag der offenen Tür or Open Door Day. This was my first one, and it was specifically geared towards families. The stage was open to exlpore and had been decorated with a fanciful collection of props for the children to climb on. The thought of going on stage, even just for a visit, was pretty scary for S. I think she was worried she would have to perform! . After checking out the stage from a few different angles, she finally built up the courage to do this…

Do you seethat little hand poking out? That’s S about 20 feet in the air on the opera’s pulley system.

As we left she asked why no one was singing? Can she go back so they will sing to her? We bought tickets to Snow White and Die Zauberflöte as soon as we got home.  I’m so excited!


I’ve had the beginnings of a few blog posts in my head, but they’re usually gone by the time I get home to my computer. Or they feel to self-absorbed, too naïve and far-reaching. Is there anything worse than a mommy blog preaching about how imperfectly beautiful life is?




I hate those blogs. Where did they come from and why? I have a child, but that doesn’t mean I have the magic formula for potty training, air travel, or sleeping through the night, and I hope that when I write that we went here or did that, that you do not think I’m telling you what to do nor how to do it.

I’m an American expat/immigrant (I’ll use both until I have a chance to write about the difference between these politically charged words) mom living in Berlin. There are a lot of us and I can only share what I do and hope you come back to read more.

I’ve also been thinking of the refugees, and how shallow it feels to write about last weekend’s Verkauffsöffenesonntag. There are thousands of people fleeing to Berlin every day. If you’d like to help them, please click through the links below. All of them will lead you to local, grassroots-level groups committed to helping people build stable, safe lives.

Kreuzberg Hilft — We dropped off a donation here earlier this week. Website in German only.

Refugees Welcome/Flüchtlinge Willkommen — Has been described as the “Airbnb for refugees.” They help set up refugees with spare rooms in actual homes, not camps/shelters. Website in German and English.

Give Something Back to Berlin — A list of volunteer needs and offerings. I just signed up to mentor a refugee university student (via Skype). Website in English.

Finding Berlin has a great write-up with suggestions for further help. I’ve been referring back to it quite a lot the past few weeks.

I hope you take a moment to read and click through even if you are not in Berlin. There are so many ways to help.

PS: I’ve edited the post to include an image of the Französischer Dom. The church was built for the Huguenot refugees in the 18th century.

To the Top!

We took turns doing things we have abject fears of this weekend. I went on a boat and only thought about what was UNDERNEATH the boat about 1/4 of the time. Jon went to the top of the Berliner Dom.

This was maybe the more exciting activity of the two for S, who didn’t understand why we couldn’t go all the way up to the “X.”  The rest of us felt that 267 steps was quite enough.

I’ve been to the Dom quite a few times, but before this trip I didn’t know that it is entirely cared for and maintained by its congregation. Of course, the ticket sales must make up a large part of the budget, but given the size and grandeur of the Dom, its still fairly impressive!

Neta, Mitte

Oh, Neta.

After a very hot Schifffahrt down the Spree, I insisted on stopping at Neta for lunch. Like most Americans, I have a strong possibly ironic relationship to Mexican food. There cannot be enough of it and it can’t be spicy enough. A terrible lack of good Mexican food is the scourge of most European expats. So it was a surprisingly hot day – we’ve had more than enough of those in Berlin – and we’d just gotten off of a boat. I hate boats. I needed comfort.

So off to Neta.

At 12:30 there was only one other table, which should have been enough of a warning, but I reasoned it away with the the idea that its Sunday morning and most of Berlin is either still asleep or nursing a hangover over brunch.

I can’t say there was anything I enjoyed about the meal. The tacos were overstuffed and cold and Jon’s burrito came with the wrong filling. We very quickly decided that Delores is the better Mexican option in Berlin — although we still have to try Maria Bonita or Chapparo.
The boat ride down the Spree, however, was a big success for those of us who enjoy water-related activities. S spent the entire hour incredibly transfixed on the water.

Our boat, with Reederei Riedel, started outside of Hauptbahnhof and sailed east just past the Nikolaiveirtel. There are plenty of other cruise companies should you have a more specific wish to see something. We were just looking for something new to do with S. The hour-long ride was a little too long for her (there were a few babies on board who were very vocal about just how long it was), but she found the experience interesting enough and now we can check it off of our Berlin list.

Next she wants to take a train trip to a new city. Where should we go? S doesn’t care as long as she’s in the train for a long time!

Tadshikische Teestube, Mitte

Have you been to Berlin’s worst kept secret? The Tadshikische Teestube is one of my favorite places in the city.

I’m not sure why I was convinced for so long that the Teestube was so unknown. Maybe it was because of its original location in the Palais am Festunggraben. Once known as the Zentrale Hause der Deutsch-Sowjetischen Freundschaft or House of German-Soviet Friendship,  the Palais is tucked behind the Neue Wache, a memorial to the victims of war and dictatorship,  and from what I can tell, doesn’t see much foot traffic.  I was never comfortable going inside, it felt a bit forbidden, certain that at any moment a very stern woman with a very German haircut  would pop out of nowhere to shoo us out again. What else was in this palace, I have no idea, but the Teestube used to be upstairs and to the right. Not exactly an obvious spot for a cafe.
Now, however, its located in one of Mitte’s beautiful Höfe, just a few doors down from the Neue Synagogue
We made a reservation so that we could drinking our tea lounging on pillows, but there were plenty of tables outside if you feel like just wandering by. Most of the other customers seem to be just stopping by for a quick drink, but we opted for the full Russian tea ceremony. For two people,  it comes with something like this.
 Off to the side, and unfortunately cut out of my photo, is a very lovely samovar filled with very good tea.
S was especially excited about the cookies. It was her first time there and she’s been taking about THE COOKIES for days. Frankly. THE COOKIES are not that exciting unless you are a 5 year old who has never been allowed to manage your own cookie intake. I’ve never had anything other than the Russian tea service at the Teestube, and I’m looking forward to going back to try more dishes. I might have to go without S, so that I can indulge in my own version of THE COOKIES for the Russischer Zupfkuchen.

Boxhagener Platz and the International Beer Festival

The theme for Saturday was “Give and Take.” I got the farmer’s market on Boxhagener Platz, he got the Internationales Bier Festival.
Boxi also has a great playground, so there was giving and taking all around. Knowing that we had a long day ahead of us – especially in this unusual heat – I didn’t buy anything we would have to schlep home (that would come later). I did, however, buy a very excellent Milchkaffee from the Passenger Espresso cart.
They have a coffee cart at the market every Saturday. Lucky for me, they also have a cafe much, much closer to my home.
Then it was time to wander over to Karl-Marx-Allee for the Beer Festival.
We bought tiny beer mugs with teddy bears on them and then had to explain why there was a mug for beer, a grown-ups only drink, with a teddy bear on it, because teddy bears are for kids, mama.
The mugs were meant to build your own tasting of sorts among the many, many stalls. Not everyone was participating, but there was more than enough for me. The first beer I tried was something amber-colored. A bee selflessly sacrificed himself by drowning in mine, forcing me to pour him out. S found this very interesting to watch. Next up was a kirsch or cherr-flavored bier It was a pretty ruby-color and tasted less like beer. Win!
J tried more than I did and actually enjoyed them. Give and take.

Angry Chicken, Kreuzberg

Angry Chicken has been on our list of places to try for a few years. Now that we’re finally free from the stroller, and S is almost like a real person, we finally made our way over.

It was extremely difficult for me to go to Angry Chicken. Not because I didn’t want a delicious bowl heaping with spicy, fried chicken, but because I had to walk past so many cozy looking coffee shops on the way there.

Unfortunately, idling over a latte and croissant for a few ours is out of the equation with a 5-year-old…or a hungry husband.

The restaurant is teeny, tiny – again, hurrah no stroller — and seats roughly 20 people. Self-service at the counter and sorry, no toilet, so whether or not Angry Chicken is truly kinderfreundlich depends on your individual child’s stamina. We were seriously pushing it, but made it through!

Here’s what we ended up with:


The “So So Angry Chicken” which is only the second spiciest on the board. Jon ordered it only because he didn’t noticed the “Furious” chicken directly below. It was delicious.

My meal was less successful. The “Happy Vegan” tofu burger had amazing toppings, but the patty didn’t hold up and was bland in comparison. Jon says this is my fault. After all, who goes to a restaurant called “Angry Chicken” and orders tofu?



I blame my burger tunnel vision. Berlin may be in the midst of a burger craze, but options for non-beef eaters are limited. I’m still looking for my turkey burger. Do you know where I can find one?


Angry Chicken

Oranienstr. 16


Parks and Rec

In between stuffing ourselves silly, we took a stroll down one of my favorite parks.


Böcklerpark starts at the Landwehrkanal and ends at the Michaelkirche.

We took a right at the end of the park and walked along the wall. We stopped for a visit with the one-eyed pony  at the Kinderbauernhof  am Mauerplatz.


Jon and I have been visiting the one-eyed pony for almost a decade now. It is entirely possible that it no longer lives there, that perhaps it has moved on to horsey heaven, but we can never remember what color it is…or was. Its a fun/morbid family tradition! Our own Li’l Sebastian.

Spread your wings and fly, One-Eyed Pony! We’ll miss you in the saddest fashion. Or we would, if we knew for sure.

We seem to really love mini-horses. Check out this post from a few years ago in California.