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local time: Moon Festival & celebrating an urban harvest

Tray with mooncakes, sticky rice dumplings wrapped in leaves, other Chinese cakes, lemons and tamarind pods

Across Asia yesterday, people celebrated the harvest and family unity at the Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival. Honolulu is the first place I’ve ever lived where I had access to locally baked mooncakes (not to be confused with moon pies). And so I bought mooncakes for the first time, filled with sweet lotus paste and double salted egg yolks, at a Chinatown bakery, along with zongzi, savory sticky-rice dumplings wrapped in leaves.

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local time: Honolulu street art — in pink

On a bike rack, a small knit object resembling a spam musubi (spam wrapped around rice ball with seaweed)

A spam musubi, careful readers will remember, is a Japanese-Hawaiian treat consisting of a rice ball (omusubi) with a piece of teriyaki spam tied to its back with a strip of nori seaweed. A very small-scale guerrilla knitter appears to have constructed the spam and seaweed part out of yarn and attached it to this bike rack in front of the Box Jelly, the co-working space I’ve been frequenting. Continue reading

local time: Eating in Honolulu / a recipe for spam

Display of spam at Longs/CVS drugstore in Kaimuki, Honolulu during Hurricane Julio

Before moving to Hawaii two weeks ago, I was pretty curious about the food situation. I’d heard conflicting things about the food selection and supply on these remote islands. Some said that any fresh food is expensive, with negative effects like the enduring popularity of spam (the food that gave junk email its name). Germans warned that we’d never have good beer, bread or cheese again. But other friends pointed out advantages such as the great climate for farming fruit and vegetables, plus the positive influence of immigrants from all over Asia. As I’m exploring the grocery stores, farmers’ markets, kitchens and strip-mall restaurants of Honolulu, I’m finding that there’s some truth to all of this, and there’s a lot more to the story as well.

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local time: “Say something in German.”

“Local time” is a new series within the blog about my current transition from Berlin to Honolulu. Still fresh from the plane and caught between time zones, cultures and stages of my life, I find myself reflecting on the past eight years of becoming a local in Berlin and, looking ahead, wondering how I’ll relate to American culture and local ways in Hawaii. Because much of my design work is about place and belonging, I’d like to write about the transition here and explore how it informs future projects here on the islands.

A footstep away from leaving Germany for the transit zone of Frankfurt Airport and then Honolulu, I was stopped by the German officer at passport control with a request, the likes of which I had never encountered at immigration in any country before.

“Sagen Sie was auf Deutsch.”

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Goodbye for now / a bon-voyage cocktail

Smiling woman with tray of fancy fruit drinks.
This is Dorothee, one of my hosts at my temporary studio share, with her amazing sparkling-wine-and-mango creation that she served for a bon voyage toast at the studio. I’m saying goodbye to Berlin and moving my studio to Honolulu for two years; my flight goes tomorrow. It has been a hard couple weeks of saying goodbye, but it’s just goodbye for now. Looking forward to visiting whenever I can and keeping up with my cherished Berlin friends and colleagues on and offline. Cheers to that!

Update: here’s the recipe for Dorothee’s Bon Voyage Mango Cup!

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East German potato salad

Plate of potato salad with pickle

Potato salad is the perfect summer food: it’s cool, it’s fresh, it goes well with sausages and watching soccer. But what goes into the potato salad? That is the question. For me, part of integrating into German culture these past eight years has meant gradually shifting my taste in potato salad from American (favoring ingredients like peas, celery, fresh dill, mustard and mayonnaise) to German.  Continue reading

June letters, news and moves

Plate of strawberries on a tabletop

This first week of June, things are feeling summery and full of changes at my studio. For one, I’ve temporarily moved to a studio collective in Mitte for the month, after the Multiverso studio collective closed its doors in May. This Monday, I celebrated my first day (Einstand) in the traditional German manner by bringing my colleagues something sweet — strawberries from one my beloved giant strawberry stands.

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Bleiben Sie Buchleser!

Sign on stack of books in a store window, announcing closing of store (in German)

I was sad to find this sign in the window of a little used bookstore on Berlin-Friedrichshain’s Niederbarnimstraße, where we used to look in regularly. We often found oddities, treasures and gifts there, in recent years priced by the kilo: a volume of Grzimek’s encyclopedia of animals that inspired us to buy the whole set; a beautiful hand-colored print of a hummingbird for a friend.

Dear customers! The used book store will close on May 1, 2014. I have enjoyed selling books to you, holding interesting conversations and getting interesting feedback. That’s over now and I will miss it very much. Keep on reading! —Anette Wargowske

We will miss you too.

Needle-sharp package design

Sewing needle packing with modernist design

The design of this packaging, for sewing machine needles, caught my eye. It looks quite Modernist to me, with the simple grid with a space for a different fabric and/or stitch pattern for each type of needle. Schmetz is an old German company, founded in 1851. However, I saw these needles in California.