Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006


If Money Were No Object

Germany’s Top Husband will attest that I am no high-maintenance Frau. He recently rather sweetly told me that I am his trophy wife because of my brain. And it’s true, I don’t spend money on self-maintenance. I go the hairdresser twice a year, I still have the same rouge I bought when my son was born, my make-up bag consists of six items, I don’t have manicures and facials, and I am happiest in jeans.

However, if money were no object, there are certain luxuries I would allow myself to enjoy.

1. I’d have a stylist do my hair every morning to look like Hilary’s:

2. I’d have the fairies put fresh white bed linen on my bed every day …

3. … and fresh flowers in every room.

4. I’d have a wardrobe full of Levis demi-curve skinny boot cut jeans:

5. And I’d live in a house surrounded by books:

Oh, but I already have that one.

And I have fresh flowers in one room. I have white linen on my bed. I have one pair of Levi’s demi-curve skinny boot cut jeans.

The only thing that’s actually missing in my life is the stylist.

GTH? … Do you know how to use a hairdryer?

[Boy, that man can run fast.]


Briefly Resurfacing

… to say that one of my posts has been nominated as blog post of the year on Expatica Germany. Click here to see more, and please vote if you feel moved to do so.

In other news, I broke my eight-month drought of not leaving the Rhein-Neckar Kreis by heading to Paris on the TGV with my Mama this weekend. We made three important pilgrimages:

  • Laduree, for macaroons, specifically the salted butter caramel
  • Berthillon, for ice-cream, where the salted butter caramel beat my usual favourite, pistachio, into righteous submission
  • Shakespeare & Co, where we dreamed among the bookshelves and bought some books

Otherwise, we shopped, drank champagne at inappropriate times of the day, hopped on and off buses like Parisiennes, saw the Manet exhibition, visited Monet’s waterlilies at the Orangerie, strolled through the Marais, bought a painting in Place des Vosges and watched the herds of joggers storm the Luxembourg Gardens on Sunday morning.

We stayed in a small but perfectly formed little hotel on the Place de Sorbonne, a small but sparkling square with shushing fountains, a few restaurants and, essentially, a Gap. It was glorious. I love, love, love Paris.

Ditto macaroons.

Ditto ice-cream.

Ditto my Mama.

Ditto Germany’s Top Husband who kept Germany’s Top Kids fed, watered and entertained while we were gone.

Now I’m off again, but I plan to be back on the other side of the Easter weekend. Wishing you chocolate of the highest quality and a weekend of the very best kind of sunshine.


Welcome to the Tea Party

I’ve decided that if I don’t crack it as a novelist, I’m going to offer my services as a professional tea party organiser. I love it all: the baking of delicious goodies, choosing and arranging flowers, sourcing decorations, using objects I already own to prettify the room and table. It’s a silly lot of fluff really, but a ridiculous amount of fun. The Headmistress of the young ladies’ college I once attended would have been proud that I am finally putting my skills to good use. (I actually considered creating a category called “Entertaining” to describe this post, but managed to restrain myself for fear of sounding too much like a Fifties housewife.)

So this weekend, I hosted a baby shower for a friend who happens to be having a baby boy. I once attended a baby shower where the mother-to-be had to “apple-dip” for a chocolate bar floating in a child’s potty full of orange juice while her arms were tied behind her back. With that horror in mind, I did some research as to the kinds of things people do at baby showers, and these were three suggestions that cropped up:

* Squash different kinds of chocolate bars into disposable nappies and then pass around the room for people to sniff and guess which nappy holds which chocolate bar. The winner is the one with the most correct answers.

* Each person gets a jar of baby food and a plastic spoon. The winner is the person who can eat their jar the fastest.

* Divide into two teams and equip each team with a roll of loo paper. See which team can construct a nappy on one lucky individual without using glue, tape or pins.

Having digested these, I decided a tea party was in order. Something dignified, pleasant, with good things to eat, champagne for those who could, punch for those who couldn’t, lots of tea and coffee. No apple dipping or chocolate bars in sight.

Instead, there was bunting:


I am hysterical about bunting. I love it. I was quite sad when after a few days my family requested that I took the bunting down because it was “embarrassing”. I looked on Etsy and there are a few people making bunting, but there’s a big gap in the market for lots more of it. I would prefer to use it for children’s parties than the plastic rubbish I buy at the supermarket and then throw away after three hours.

Want a close-up? Here it is again:


There was cake:


Victoria sponge with lemon curd

Lots of it:


Lemon cake

My personal favourite, carrot cake muffins with marscapone icing:


Rose-scented macaroons:


And champagne:


There were also some savoury snacks brought by friends, because I like to focus on the sugar. However, when I have my fantasy tea-party company, there will also be cucumber sandwiches and very fine slices of rare roast beef.

Need any catering done?


Things To Do Instead of Writing

You can spend time with friends, with old friends, who because you haven’t seen them for so long, seem like new friends, and with new friends, who because you feel so strangely at one with them, seem like old friends. You can drink wine with them in the afternoon, share your kids with them, wander new streets with them, and make extravagant promises to babysit their kids, once they have some.

You can spend an entire afternoon in Berlin looking for the perfect dress. You can look for something whimsical and floaty, with tea roses and cleavage, that looks like Jane Austen wore it to a party where there was croquet and Indian tea, but finally buy a twenty-first century dress, a little edgy, a little sharp, but with its curves in the right places. Also with cleavage.

You can drive long distances, to places you never dreamt of visiting, take trains where your children press their noses against the windows, ride bikes around the city of your dreams, bump into pedestrians and mutter sorry in two languages. You can float down a river, or down a leafy path in the Tiergarten and hear the white wolves howl at the daylight in the Zoo.

You can read A Quiet Flame and imagine the encroaching horror of Nazism in Thirties’ Berlin, and then read No one belongs here more than you and be swept away into an imagination and a sensibility that leaves you shell-shocked, war-wounded, but glad to be alive.

You can eat the best ice-cream outside of Elba in a glass palace of shops and elegance, merguez sausages and couscous in a leafy beer-garden, white asparagus with hollandaise sauce in an achingly hip urban square and the best rhubarb cake you can imagine in the courtyard of an Italian restaurant where you are introduced to the chef and the hostess by name.

You can climb with your children to the top of the Siegesauele, admire them hanging upside down and learning to swing and slide by themselves in playgrounds, watch them falling in love with your friends and weeping when they part, and see them take part in their lives with such spirit and joy that you want to shed tears of your own.

Instead of weeping, you shout, “Who loves Berlin?” and hear them yelling back, “Me Mummy! I love Berlin! I love it! I do!”


Meme for a Wednesday

I want to be writing, but with three kids on holiday, one birthday party to bake for and one mother-in-law visiting, working on my novel just isn’t on the cards. Instead, I give you The Meme From YogaMum:

1. What is your occupation? Mother, freelance writer, aspiring novelist.

2. What colour are your socks right now? Grey.

3. What are you listening to right now? The dulcet sounds of Kika, a German kids’ TV channel blissfully ad-free, which is keeping my threesome entertained. The programme is Tanz Alarm, so everyone is dancin’.

4. What is the last thing you ate? Vanilla yogurt with blueberries.

5. Can you drive stick shift? I do so with pride.

6. If you were a crayon, what colour would you be? Turquoise.

7. Last person you spoke to on the phone? My daughter’s friend, Lara.

8. What’s your favourite yoga pose? The beautiful, peaceful tree pose.

9. How old are you today? 39 years, 3 months and 6 days. And I have No Issues Whatsoever With This.

10. Favourite drink? Like Yogamum, I believe that chai latte is the nectar of the gods. My writing coffee-house does the best chai lattes in the world.

11. What is your favourite sport to watch? Tennis.

12. Have you ever dyed your hair? Never dyed, but I have a 20-year-old relationship with highlights that I am now trying to end because of co-dependency issues.

13. Pets? Three human ones.

14. Favourite cake? Cheesecake. It’s the reason I live in Germany.

15. Last movie you saw? The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. The brilliance! The aptness! The respect for both the book and the Botswana culture! Anthony Mingella, rest in peace.

16. Favourite day of the year? Can’t say. Every day is good.

17. How do you vent anger? Some muttering, some short-stepping and then some shouting.

18. What was your favourite toy as a child? A shaggy green dog, who played Prince to the dollies’ Princesses.

19. Autumn or spring? Spring! Even a snowy white one like we’re having now.

20. Hugs or kisses? Both.

21. Cherry or blueberry? Blueberry, but only just.

22. Do you want your friends to respond? Only if they’re in the mood.

23. Who is most likely to respond? Don’t know.

24. Who is most likely not to respond. Don’t know.

25. Living arrangements? I live in a house my husband and our three pets.

26. Last time you cried? While watching The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, when the missing child was returned to his father.

27. What is on the floor of your closet? A worry of shoes.

28. Who is the friend you’ve had the longest? Dani, from Grade Two. Love and miss you, my friend!

29. Favourite smell? A cake in the oven.

30. Who or what inspires you? People who have the courage to follow their hearts.

31. What are you afraid of? Something happening to one of my loved ones.

32. Hamburgers? Nevaire. The disgustingness.

33. Favourite car? I’m not a car person, but I have to say I am fond of our big Renault because it’s taken us on many journeys to many places.

34. Number of keys on your key ring? Three.

35. How many years at your current job? Mother for eight years, freelance writer for six years, writer since I could write.

36. Favourite day of the week? Sunday – the day I sleep in and the shops are closed.

37. How many countries have you lived in? South Africa, England twice, Germany twice and the US once for three months (Atlanta, Georgia).

38. Dream job? Novelist.

Tagging my second oldest friend, Kerry, who I have known since Grade Eight, and who has been a little quiet on the blogging front lately. What’s up, girlfriend?


Alcoholic Christmas Muffins

Has anyone else noticed how much fun Christmas is for the children? They’re the ones getting stockings filled with treats, presents under the Christmas tree, and, if they live in Germany, daily mini-treats in their Advent calendars. Children get to decorate the gingerbread men, decorate and eat the Christmas cookies and in our house, they even get to decorate the tree. The grown-ups don’t get a look-in.

Here’s a German muffin recipe to console the grown-ups and bring them a little Christmas cheer. It contains amaretto and dark chocolate and is not for children, unless they have very sophisticated palates.

Amaretto and Chocolate Muffins:*

150g flour
100g ground almonds
2 tsps baking powder
1 pinch salt
2 tsps vanilla extract (or if you live in Germany, one packet vanilla sugar)
2 eggs
120g sugar
150g softened butter
2 tbsps amaretto (I doubled this)
60g dark chocolate shavings

Heat the oven to 180°c.
Prepare a muffin tray with 12 muffin cases.
Pour yourself a generous glass of red wine and commence sipping.
Sift the flour, baking powder, salt.
Have another large sip of red wine.
Beat the eggs with the vanilla extract, sugar and amaretto till it’s creamy.
Slowly beat in the softened butter.
Mix the wet and dry ingredients.
Taste, with bare finger.
Taste again, to ensure it’s adequately alcoholic. If not, add more amaretto.
Mix in the chocolate shavings.
Eat the leftover 40g of chocolate.
Fill each muffin case two-thirds full.
Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
While you wait, eat any remaining muffin dough and sip your red wine. If necessary, pour yourself a second glass.
Remove the muffins from the oven. Allow to cool (about a minute will do) and then eat with your red wine.

I had one for breakfast this morning with coffee. I think I have a hangover.

* Apologies for the metric measures.