We flew back from our vacation today only to find frozen pipes in our wall (and then had to watch how two gaping holes were sledge-hammered into said wall by our kindly super), an unpleasantly loud carbon monoxide alarm, and air colder than it was in Berlin - which makes the airing out of a possibly carbon monoxide-filled apartment almost entirely impossible without freezing to death.
Ah, home - there's nothing like it, is there?
So! A photo essay it shall be.
Tea the day before Christmas in Brussels. Well, tea and Champagne. It's always the right time of day for Champagne, isn't it? Especially when you get to have your tea and Champagne with Belgian gaufres, warm and yielding and studded with crunchy pearls of sugar.
The potato focaccia that is making the rounds in my family right now (a recipe soon, I promise). Roughly: you boil a potato, let it cool, then mash it into a fresh yeast-flour-olive oil dough. Let it rise, top with tomatoes, dried oregano, and that gorgeous salt and bake until browned and puffy. From Puglia to Modena to Brussels to Berlin - now it's my turn to bring it to New York.
Then, because, as I was saying, you can never have too much Champagne, oysters and pink Champagne on Christmas Eve are very fine indeed. They are even better when eaten in the company of family; family I have not celebrated Christmas with since I was five years old. Taste-testing British oysters versus French ones with my cousin's nine year-old daughter was even more fun.
Our friends in Berlin kept some of their Christmas dinner warm for us so we still got to eat some leftover goose and red cabbage when we got to Berlin a few days later. I think Father Christmas navigates his way through northern Europe by the scent of braising cabbage alone.
And then, be still my beating heart, Ben flew all the way to Berlin to surprise me - to walk through the cold city and visit with my friends and drink milky tea with me and my mother and celebrate the advent of the new year and keep me company when I said goodbye and flew back to New York again. How did I ever get so lucky? God only knows. Really.
Happy New Year, dear readers! May it be a healthy, happy, joyful 2008 for you. I cannot even wait for all the surprises that this year holds in store.