Monday, December 29, 2008

May I Introduce You To... friend "Pippa", or should we just say, a friend of a friend. This "mini" dress was so much fun to do as a Christmas present for my niece and I think she really liked the new outfit for her favorite doll. It was quite enjoyable to make something so small and cute.

Keep checking back for the upcoming matching dress that is planned for this summer. To be continued....

Christmas Musings Part II

My second musings for the season are more about the of the way of life in Germany, rather than my previous ramblings of contrasting the numerous traditional differences. This year on Christmas day we slept in and and began our day with a huge spread of food on the table for brunch. My mother in law had lovingly thought ahead and had purchased bacon and sausage to supply a few "home comforts" for me. After breakfast the whole family spent a few lazy hours on the sofa until we just couldn't take it anymore. Then the much anticipated phrase came rolling out of someone's mouth..".wir brauchen ein bisschen frische luft" (we need a little fresh air) So we all piled on as many clothes as we could find and bundled ourselves with hats, scarves, boots, gloves and anything else that would keep us warm in the cold, but fresh winter air.

The sky was so clear, the air so crisp...what a perfect day for a walk!

It may sound strange, but I can't really say that this is something that we do regularly in the States. I mean, we do walk, but it is not so much a way of life as it is here. Of course one deterrent to this could be that we don't have pedestrian walk ways on every street like here.

But is is always fun on holidays when we get that stuffed and overeaten feeling to get up off the sofa and move. It really is a special family time of visiting and exploring all the wonders of being outside.

It was fun dragging our cameras around and my husband and his sister had a great time taking photos. We flipped to black and white mode which I think tells quite a different story in itself, but is still able to capture just a small glimpse of the German way of life.

Christmas Musings Part I

To say that Germans think differently than Americans, I would have to say is the understatement of the year. Or is it actually the other way around that Americans think differently than Germans? Whichever way it is, I should probably leave it as just the understatement of the week to allow myself the future freedom to again state the obvious. This season's musings are derived from such experiences from my second Christmas in Germany.

The holiday started off with the whole family gathered at the home of my parents in-laws in a small little village out in the countryside. We began "Heilig Abend" (Christmas Eve) singing Christmas carols at the Rehab center, dressed in our holiday best. It has been sometime since I last sang Christmas carols other than with the radio and just around the house a few weeks prior to the special day. Traditional coffee and cake time followed our singing tour as well as a trip to the local village church that boasts of architecture worthy of notice and mention. But despite all the yearly traditions, some can be altered even in Germany when dinner was served before gift opening. This of course was allowed because the kids had not yet arrived and the excitement of gift opening is a little easier for adults to bear. I imagine that most children in the States would love the idea of being able to open all the presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, but nothing beats the excitement of a Christmas morning opening presents in your pajamas only to later swim out of the sea of ripped and torn wrapping paper.

My husbands family has somewhat altered the customary bratwurst and potato salad evening meal and replaced it with smoked trout and eel served with a cold potato and tuna salad, oven baked bread, and an assortment of cheeses and salamis to round the meal. Not exactly what I would consider to be the typical meal that makes it to the Christmas Eve dinner table in America, but nonetheless tasty. The Christmas tree was lit by flames dancing atop the carefully and strategically placed beeswax candles, again something that one would not see on the other side of the pond. Christmas trees in Germany would be more simply adorned with straw ornaments and apples or red bulbs, while the average Christmas tree in America would be somewhat over the top, colorful, blinking, and so bright it looks like candy you can eat kind of a tree.

Our Christmas morning started late with the standard German spread of food including cheese, salami and wurst, the ever essential butter, jellies, honey, and spreads, and the staple of every German meal....bread. One might argue that all those items are not so uncommon, but for me as a breakfast meal they are still strange and unfamiliar for the American palette. What else, of course, would follow brunch on a holiday afternoon, but family members lazily spread over the sofa reading, visiting, and nibbling on chocolates. The following days the evening feasts repeated their yearly routine with oven-roasted goose for the first Christmas day and wild deer for the second Christmas day, and of course the ever expected staple in the renowned German cuisine... potatoes and red kraut.

I suppose on the surface one could quite easily assume that there are no real differences to this common institution of eating and drinking, time spent with family and loved ones, love and laughter, lights, gifts, and music. At it's core, this holds some truth, but for the one on the surface who notices all those minor differences, those slight distinctions are the very things that makes the day what it is in mind and in heart.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Frohe Weihnachten...

which means...."Merry Christmas" in German. May it be a warm and wonderful time with family and friends, filled with laughter, relaxation, and reflection, enjoying the greatest season of the whole year.

How Could I Forget...

Every fashionable girl knows the importance of accessorizing... so here is a matching necklace, one for my niece and one for her "Pippa"

Monday, December 22, 2008

Shhhh...It's a Secret.

Just a quick peek at my proudest accomplishment for a Christmas present this year...

My two year old niece in Germany has a sweet little doll named "Pippa", complete with yarn hair, that is in desperate need of new clothing. She seems to think that her current wardrobe is simply out of fashion. Now, how could I refuse a request like that?

What better way to chic up a project than with fabulous fabric from the ever talented fabric designer Amy Butler. This fabric is incredible! Amy has a way of combining colors and her designs are so strong. I used fabric from her new Midwest Modern collection (which you can find here...more patterns to come soon)

I added a sweet little accent flower in a coordinating soft aqua fabric with a green leaf. These are so fun to make if you haven't tried it already.

These "quick yo-yo makers" are put out by Clover and these make for the perfect "crafting on the sofa" projects. They show on their website sample application uses and the possibilities are endless. Happy Crafting!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's Never Too Late To Be Thankful

For an American to make the transition from what I would consider to be a somewhat "tradition-less" country to a country overflowing with traditions, there is one American tradition that I just don't want to let go of...Thanksgiving. I would almost have to say that this is one of the only American traditions that is celebrated nation-wide in almost the same manner. Everyone usually gathers with their family to eat the single best meal of the year with the most harmonic blend of flavors and tastes that has ever been invented. (turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and the always tasty and most-anticipated...pumpkin pie!)

Really the idea was not even my own to do a Thanksgiving meal here, but the idea from a good friend of mine that had lived in the States for a few years and had also come to love this wonderful day of overeating and relaxing with the family. I would almost have to say that it is partially about her embracing her past memories, but mostly an outlet for this talented former recipe writer of Essen und Trinken Für jeden Tag. (a wonderful cooking magazine in here in Germany)

Since I was working on Thanksgiving we decided to celebrate on the only weekend that was available for everyone, but it had to be before Christmas! We kind of thought of it as a late Thanksgiving/pre-practice for Christmas eating dinner, but's never too late to be thankful, right?!?

It was the first Thanksgiving that I have ever celebrated with Christmas music in the background and pine branches and Christmas ornaments adorning the table. Unlike many Americans, we did not put up our Christmas tree today, our day after "Thanksgiving", or plan to get up a 4:00 am to flood the shopping centers for the "Black Friday" rush. (considered the most crowded and #1 shopping day for retailers with all the after Thanksgiving day sales...really crazy!!!)

We had a great time laughing and talking, and the kids kept themselves entertained with building forts out of the sofa cushions. It was a small group, but with the people that I consider my family here. I was on "explosion duty", what my husband calls it when I cook, and he was on "clean up" duty. But I think it is obvious who the real brains of the kitchen was. It was so cute...that evening, the daughter of my friend, who is usually quite shy and quiet, waltzed into the kitchen, pulled up a stool, and proceeded to help me with the mashed potatoes while clarifying that she already knew what she was doing because she cooks in kindergarten. Ah, the making of a chef and what better way to begin future career endeavours than to help prepare the best meal of the year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

To The Core...

Recently I've been talking about several of the traditions that I have been enjoying about Germany over the past two years, and now I wanted to share one of the most well known (besides Oktoberfest, which is mostly regional to Southern Germany) This one has to be my favorite....the Christmas markets! As I've shared before, we have taken part in two Christmas markets, but these were more Kunsthandwerk Märkte (Handcraft markets) rather than the general markets that are found in just about every city and many smaller villages throughout Germany.

As has been our standard tradition for the last three years, we met up with friend of ours at the Hamburg Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market)

For the average American mind this might seem really strange and quite a foreign concept to go to a market that is outside in the middle of winter and stand around the whole evening in the cold, but I have to say, there really is nothing like it. The Hamburg market is beautiful. The market is set in the Rathaus (Courthouse) square and as many times as I have been there, the architecture takes my breath away every time....and to just think, that building has been there just about as long as we have been a country!

But of course I don't just go for the architecture. I guess if you make it to the third year of doing the same thing as the previous years, it has officially reached the status of tradition... really a staple. I will dream of this until next year's Christmas market....."meat on a stick"! My new annual tradition...

Another difference between Germans and Americans is that Germans like to keep it real. And by this I mean that they don't like to use fake, plastic, flimsy paper and styrofoam plates, cups, and utensils. They like to use the real thing. It is very common and normal, even as such public events to get your food or drink in a real porcelain mug or plate. You pay a fee upfront and when you return the dishes, you get your money back. I have to say that this beats the way Starbuck's does it!

Just about every Christmas market boasts a few standard items, that if left out would make the market quite incomplete. Things like candied almonds, glühwein (spiced wine), bratwurst, wooden children's toys, and of course, the ever popular gingerbread heart cookies with a love confession to that significant other or birthday wishes to a beloved niece.

I guess I have always been traditional to the core. I have always loved it, thrived on it, and now....I am living it!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gut Basthorst Christmas Market

We just finished our second Christmas market at Gut Basthorst this weekend, and I simply must say...boy, was that a lot of work! It is almost like setting up a whole entire store that stays up for the weekend, and then you have to pack it up and drag it back home again.

We had great neighbor exhibitors, which really makes a big difference. I can remember doing shows with my dad and it was great to visit with other artists, hear all their entertaining and sometimes far fetched stories, and of course get lots of tips and advice for other shows.

Its not hard to tell that I love color...I think I always have. I have always been attracted to strong patterns and interesting textures. My old roommate even noticed one day at the mall that I walk through the aisles and touch an item on just about every rack. I just can't help myself!

I have been finding myself these days using a lot of fabric from the fabulous fabric designer, Anna Maria Horner. I got so many comments on the way I used her fabrics in my designs and the fabrics themselves. This stuff is simply glorious! It constantly astounds me at the talent some people have. The last quilting collection from Anna Maria, called "Garden Party" is so fittingly named... it really does look like there was a party in the garden with a certain psychedelic twist and color combinations that widen the eyes. This is definitely some really sweet eye candy and in this case I really have a sweet tooth.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Ghost of Christmas Past

This will be the first time in 34 years that I have not been home for Christmas. So far it just hasn't seemed like Christmas time to me. I see all the decorations, hear the familiar songs, (yes, even in Germany) and am surrounded by the things that should evoke memories of Christmas past, but they just don't seem to fit with Christmas present.

One thing could be that we haven't even put up our Christmas tree. Now I am not the kind to put up the tree the day after Thanksgiving (this is the last Thursday in November for those non-Americans), but normally the middle of December I start getting in the mood. Last year I made my mom wait until just a few days before Christmas because I wanted to put the the tree with my two nieces. I think they had more fun decorating themselves.

Last year we slept in Christmas morning and slowly started moving to the kitchen all still in our PJ's (except for my mom the earlier riser) and cooked a nice family breakfast together...Eggs Benedict. This is the kind of breakfast that dreams are made least my dreams. With having gone the previous year without all my American food comforts, lets just say that this hit the spot. I think my husband had more fun trying to take artistic photos of the food than eating random!

But what topped the season off, and what I think takes a good Christmas and turns it into great one is....SNOW! So much of my childhood is tied up with memories of snow and for me it somehow completes Christmas.

But these are somehow the musings of Christmas past. Things that will somehow never be the same again.

I have, however, totally fallen in love with the Christmas markets here in Germany and even working them is fun. We seemed to have even started a few new traditions of our own like meeting the same friends at the Hamburg Christmas market for the last three years. We drink our spiced wine and eat what I like to call "meat on a stick". (this is the most delicious grilled pork grilled over and open flame and leaves you with the, I can't wait until next year!) And I look forward to what the "Ghost of Christmas yet to come" holds, meshing two worlds into one to form new Christmas traditions.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dinner Conversations

I guess this evening's dinner conversation with my mother-in law ended up sparking the idea for tonight's post. I was trying to explain to my mother-in-law about someone I had met recently that I thought was just "cute as a button". I guess it is something that we say often in English, but it just doesn't seem to translate quite the same into German. I´ve always loved buttons, but I cannot really say why. I remember when I was a kid I would rummage through my mom's vintage button box which held some of the most fun and fantastic buttons I have ever seen.

Last year I went to the Wolle & Handarbeit Messe in Hamburg (wool & handcraft fair) It was delicious! I saw so many great things that left me walking out the door feeling so inspired and ready to create. I stumbled upon a really great booth that had the most fantastic buttons. So I gave my husband the biggest puppy dog eyes that I could give him, and by the end of the week my buttons had been delivered. And were they ever fabulous!

The thing my husband didn't tell me that the very buttons I had chosen are typically used in traditional German clothing. This is often used with heavy olive green wool, leather, and usually mixed with deer horn embellishments or silver buttons.(just like the ones seen above) It is really great for me to see such clothing, because again, we don't have these kind of traditions in the States.

So for me what were just some really great buttons that I saw at at craft fair last October, are really quite common here. I'm sure when people in Germany see how I use my buttons, it might appear to be quite odd and interesting. I have no prior experience with this style and so I am not locked into the idea that these buttons only match with this one traditional clothing style. According to my husband, the results are really "cute as a button".

Monday, December 1, 2008

Werkstatt der Engel (Workshop of the Angels)

So we just finished our first Christmas market for this year, and I have to say....who would have thought that one day I would be making and designing my own purses, doing Christmas markets in quaint, historic old castles, and explaining what I do in a foreign language? Well, I certainly never would have. But I am.

Christmas markets in Germany are just the best! There is nothing like having a hot glass of spiced wine in the fresh open air with friends and enjoying the excitement of the season. That is one thing that I love about this is so drenched in traditions.

I always loved doing art shows with my Dad. It was lots of work, but it's always fun to "people watch" and interact. It's hard for me to believe that now I am doing it. Here is just a taste of what my market booth looked like at the wintermarket Werkstatt der Engel at Schloss Eutin....

Friday, November 21, 2008

First Snow!

There is nothing like a first snow! It's like it almost brings out the kid in me.. reminiscing about waiting to see if it had snowed so much that school would be canceled, snow ball fights, winter boots and scarves. Despite all the exciting things that snow brings, there is something so pure and still about a first snow.

It was thrilling to wake up and peer out the window at the cold, white blanket that covered the even brought out a few friends. I think only Leo showed up today, but a busy little squirrel was running here and there, evidently just as excited as I was.

As much as I love snow, I always hate to see it go. Snow doesn't last long here, but that was OK for today because I had lots of outside work to do. Planting tulips and daffodils, looking forward to the joy they will bring in spring, announcing that summer will soon follow. Of course if one must work, it is better to do it in style.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Have you ever felt like your day was like trying to drive a wagon that was stuck in the mud? Well, I had one of those days today. Even though I got several things accomplished, I just don't feel like I can see the results. So my stack has been somewhat transformed and I am on the verge of finishing several purses, but managing several different projects today took up quite a bit of my time.

I did a little sewing, some e-mailing, cleaning, jewelry inventory, ...and oh yeah, I placed a fabric order today. Joel Dewberry and Anna Maria Horner. Two really great designers from Free Spirit Fabrics. Just a little sneaky peak of what's to come from Anna Maria.....

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