Oliver Charles: European Cold Spell!

A cold spell in Europe brings a welcome break from the pandemic status quo. 

Covid still upon us. No restaurants. No movie theatres. DIY projects completed. No dimly lit sexy bars (and their too sophisticated cocktails that you felt/feel/will feel obligated to buy, but if you’re honest with yourself, you’d really rather have the house red). All we had to look forward to was a long week or two of below freezing temperatures…delightful.

And what does one do in these dire circumstances? OC Sweater on, layer up, get a friend or two, and go for a skate! 

The Morning Part: 

Let’s start at the beginning of the festivities. We had a massive day ahead of us, many plans, lots to accomplish and many photos to take. Naturally we took extra pains to get out of bed at the crisp and early time of 9:37 AM. We made rapid moves to get clean and I was in the kitchen by 11ish to make my from-scratch pancakes. Like many other days this quick bed to kitchen transition was facilitated by my easy wardrobe choices; pants, tshirt, Oliver Charles Sweater. My OC really is a great layer for cruising around our flat; which is cosy, but it’s still German winter. It was 9.5℉ the night before, so even looking through the windows could cause a shiver! 

Now, I know what you are actually curious about of course; my pancake recipe. So here we go: 

1-2 cups of rolled oats

2 bananas

1 egg

A dash of vanilla extract

Oat milk to desired consistency. 

If you’re thinking “Oh shit, I came here to read about sweaters and now I’m reading a god damn food blog!” I can only say… everything goes in the blender. Rolled oats first until they are powdery, then the bananas (peeled ideally), egg, vanilla extract (salt and some lemon juice can be nice too) and the oat milk. Blend until it looks like pancake batter. Add more milk for some thin-bois. These will be gooey and banana-y, easy as that! Eat with peanut butter if you are me, or apple sauce if you are like my partner. Food blog over, Auf Wiedersehen..come back soon.

The Afternoon Part: 

Now that our bellies were full of deliciousness we surprised even ourselves with a bit of adult competence and made a soup as fast as you can say: Schlittschuhlaufsonntag. We packed extra jackets and snacks and a handful of beers from the market downstairs and drove 30 or so minutes to one of the many frozen lakes around the city. I learned quickly that skating in Berlin is a rare occurrence with temperatures dropping low enough just a handful of times over the last ten years. As a result, the lakes were teeming with all sorts of riff raff; it was perfectly jolly. 

We trooped out to the ice loaded down with bags and skates and firewood and found a nice spot to set up camp. Before putting our skates on you could really tell that we were in the height of winter; it was freezing! I had layered up a patagonia puffy, jean jacket, and had my black overcoat on hand for backup. I could still feel the frosty bite—it was past time to get moving! 

I could really wax lyrical about ice skating. You can glide and scratch and slide to a stop. Spin until you feel dizzy, and go just a little too fast. Maybe it makes me feel alive because you are always right on the edge of disaster. It is also very cute to hold hands with your partner and cruise along, not a care in the world—very romantic. 

Skating is also great exercise (if you’re doing it right!) and as we warmed up, layers started coming off in spite of the high temperature of just 26℉. By late afternoon, I was all the way down to just my OC. 

At one point, the police drove up to the lake and tried to ruin the fun, but also brought along some unintentional hilarity of their own. “We are appealing to your sanity! This ice hasn’t been approved by the relevant ministry for safe ice skating. Please vacate!” Needless to say, there were plenty of us appealing to each other’s sanity for the remainder of the day. 

One of the highlights of the day (and when my OC sweater really shone) was when I pulled together a little 2v2 hockey game with some locals. There is nothing like pond hockey; I love it. I definitely got a bit sweaty too, but my OC did well to breathe while I played and I never felt in danger of overheating. The best part? After the game when I started to cool off I never had that sweat turning cold moment. The one when you start freezing after a good workout on a cold day. In my OC sweater, I didn’t have to rush into layers or worry about being cold and wet the rest of the night. Which is good because the fun wasn’t finished. 

The Evening Part: 

The sun started to angle lower over the lake and we ruefully returned to our things, diverting a handful of times to perform “just one more spin” out on the ice. We regrouped at the car, fetching our soup and snacks, changed into heavier pants and got extra jackets. We moseyed out across the lake to a quieter area, further from the parking area. 

We found a small hollow along the shore with a break in the trees. The sun was edging nearer to the horizon across the lake from us. There was a small depression and we scraped off the thin layer of snow and ice. We built that wood teepee, you know the one, and lit our matches. After the normal amount of huffing and puffing we had a cheeky little fire going.

As the sun dipped below the trees, the temperature dropped rapidly. As a base layer my OC sweater does a nice job of providing insulation. All the zippers were drawn and all the buttons, buttoned. Scarves and gloves and hats and fresh socks emerged for the real planners! 

My Oliver Charles had handled everything I threw at it out on the ice: Slowly meandering with a beer. Sweating in the hockey game. Keeping me warm when I cooled off after the hockey game and then even warmer when I layered up for the night. I couldn’t ask for a better companion on a day like this. 

Finally we huddled around the fire, our feet in that blessed sore-but-free feeling that can really only be experienced via ski boots and ice skates. We pushed the pot of soup near the little blaze and smiled across at each other. A small campfire is its own magic. Its occupants are part of an open secret, a camaraderie of heat and visual stimuli. We giggled when the little blocks of gouda we were roasting slipped off our sticks into the coals beyond reach. We sang songs and dipped bread in the soup and bemoaned the beer running out. 

Regretfully we put the last few pieces of wood on the fire and took one more minute to savor the moment. As we walked back to the car in the glow of a day well and truly spent it was clear that this was one for the books. An echo of a song from our fire passed over me once more. Despite the cliche, I sang quietly to myself and the moment;

“Reachin’ out, touchin’ me, touchin’ you

Sweet Caroline, 

Good times never seemed so good.

I’ve been inclined, 

To believe they never would”

See the original post on the Oliver Charles #Repeat blog.

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