Monday, March 30, 2009

Five Photographs to Say Goodnight With

I know daylights saving only pushes the clocks forward an hour, but for some reason it has seriously kicked me in the ass. It is now 11:30 which means my body and mind still think it is 10:30. Mia and Lilly are in bed. Jasper is in bed (that's what happens when you are a night owl and you marry a morning person. Bless those crazy early risers!!) Usually this is my creative time when I busy myself with the various projects and ideas I am always coming up with (I of course have my faults, but being bored or at a loss for what to do simply isn't one of them!) But now I'm so tired in that jet lag kind of way, I guess because of the time change. I'm going to bed soon, but first I want to post five random photographs stored on my computer to say goodnight with. Here they are:

Sunday, March 29, 2009

It's only a paper mood....

So there's this really gorgeous art supply store a few blocks from where I live called Modulor. The staff is snooty and artsy fartsy and their prices are a little on the high side but, dammit, the place is so inspiring. Gorgeous paper as far as the eye can see, wood grain sheets so miraculously thin, objects made of colorful, beautifully dyed felt....

I've been buying supplies there for a while but
have recently been inspired by their beautiful card stock cards. Why not mount some of my stitched photographs instead of just backing them with felt? Mounted on card stock brings a) color and b)versatility (they can be framed, set up on a bookshelf or even be merely used as a card...)

Yesterday afternoon Jasper watched the kids for an
hour while I went and lost myself in Modulor's lovely aisles. Besides the card stock I came for I also bought this exquisite retro style Japanese origami paper and blank Moleskine pocket journals. Last night I combined the two and then stitched a vintage color film advertisement to the cover. I love the end result, but the stitching was (quite literally)a pain. I never before knew it's possible to get a thumbache!

Anyway, here are some pictures of my latest endeavors. I'm sure there will plenty more to come! :)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mix it up, baby!

As anyone who has read this blog likely knows, I have a bit of a thing for graveyards. I've traced it back somewhat to my childhood in Arizona (they were one of the only places where there were trees and grass). As a teenager I was also a bit of a "light" goth, i.e. I didn't wear all the make-up and went easy on the black lace but I was into the music and wrote lots of depressing poetry (the first boy I got involved with wrote me a poem partially in his own blood which I found VERY romantic!) But the main reason for the graveyard love is that they are so beautiful here in my neighborhood, full of art deco and art nouveau ornaments and delightfully delipidated.

Still, I did
n't really want to take all of my pictures for my shop in the graveyard. As someone who bores easily, it is necessary to mix it up. I made a funky necklace a while ago which I call Neukoelln Forever (rough neighborhood I lived in for a while, I wrote a blog entry about it earlier this month....) Anyway, I knew I wanted to take pictures in a more urban, gritty setting but I have no desire to actually go to Neukoelln right now because, with the baby buggy, steep stair and no elevator, the U-Bahn is too much of a pain in the ass and it takes too long to walk there (about 40 minutes)when the weather is so "wechselhaft" as it is these days: clouds and sprinkles and general crapiness.

Today, when walking toward Bergmannstrasse here in Kreuzberg with Baby Li, I ran across the playground on Solmsstrasse. Placed where a bombed building once stood that was never re-built, they went with an urban jungle graffitti art theme. Perfect for posing with my necklace. Here are some pics:

As usual, I had fun. Baby Li also found it ok, I assume since she continued peacefully sleeping. Afterwards we went together to Cafe Molinari for a delicious Italian hot chocolate. Yum! :)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

33 Is Such A Wonderful Number

Thirty-three is such a wonderful number. 33 is they age Jesus was when he rose from the dead and how old Buddha was when he became enlightened. I heard that stastic years ago when my sister's boyfriend celebrated his 33rd birthday. At the time I was still in my early 20s and 33 sounded absolutely ancient. Now I'm 35 so I've already passed the marker....

Anyway, this post isn't about my age or Buddha's: In my jewelry shop Rose, red Rose I posted the 33rd item a few days ago. To celebrate I am having the 3 x 3 x3 sale. 3 items on sale for 3 days 3 weeks long. The items and price reductions I will choose on a lark, so stayed tuned! (I thought of reducing everything by 3 dollars, but decided this would be taking the theme too far....) They will be presented in the three pictures down below.

Hopefully this will change another number 3, namely, the number of sales I've had since I opened in February. ;)

Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How very Mary Poppins it is!

One of the things that I love about Germany (and yes, there are some things! Hope I haven't been overly negative....)is that there are some professions where people still wear their traditional costume. One of them that comes to mind is a chimney sweep (and yes, there is such a thing still!).

I remember
the first time I saw a chimney sweep (in German, Schornsteinfeger.) He was was wearing an all black suit, a jacket with tails and sporting a top hat. I assumed he must be going to a costume party somewhere. I mentioned this to my boyfriend and he told me there was no party. He was just a chimney sweep on his way to work. A chimney sweep all decked out in a coat with tails and a top hat? How very Mary Poppins! But it got even better: My boyfriend told me chimney sweep were considered good luck and that people like to touch them when they see them so that the luck will rub off on them.

"B.S.! I
said, but he swore that it was true.

"And they don't care that perfect strangers touch them?"

My boyfriend just shrugged. "It's part of their profession."

A year or so later I saw a female chimney swe
ep in full costume shopping at H & M. But I was too chicken to touch her, though I wanted to...

Another profession where they do this is a Zimme
rmann, or carpenter. Their costume looks like this:

The walking stick is because, after their training, the do a year or so of travelling around the country or abroad, where they hitchhike and work at places where they stop along the way, something called to be auf de
r Walz. Actually, I just saw two down the street today with their ISO mats strapped over their backs which gave me the idea for this post. Apparently if you see one hitchhiking and don't pick them up it is very bad luck. So if you see this fellow in the future, be sure to stop!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Belated thanks for a wonderful gift....

Seeing this poster for a party in honor of International Women's Day (March 8th)reminded me of an amazing experience I had in Moscow 7 years ago. I studied Russian at an institute there for a month in February and March 2002. The program was sponsored by Humboldt University here in Berlin where I was also studying Russian for a couple of years (university is basically free in Germany, so I signed up because you get all sorts of wonderful discounts, but I was never really that interested in finishing a degree. When people asked me why I was studying Russian in Germany I first was honest and told them "For the cheap health insurance I get." but it was always obvious that this answer disappointed them. Instead I started saying "Because I wish to explore my German-Russian roots." Also true, and they found this answer much more interesting and romantic!)

With me in Moscow were 60 or so Germa
ns, a guy from Spain, a girl from Taiwan, two French women and, strangely enough, an American from Green Bay, Wisconsin. At the time I was still in my first, very complicated marriage with a partner who was quite controlling, so I was really happy to be away, somewhere new, and have some freedom. I didn't know anyone on the trip but I was up for anything. When someone asked if I wanted to go somewhere I would immediately say yes.

Do you want to go to a Piano concert? Yes. Do you want to go see Swan Lake? Yes. Do you want to go to an opera? Yes. Do you want to go to a soccer game? Yes, yes and yes. (Though I'm not at all a soccer fan really, the game was interesting for one reason: there were a lot of hardcore soccer hooligans there eating dainty little ice cream cones in the cold. Russian ice cream is very delicious and is most often bought during the colder months from kiosks like this one.

I often crave cold things in the winter and hot things in the summer, so the Russian ice cream tradition made sense to me.)

The classical music concerts I went to were amazing. I studied music in college and was training seriously to be an opera singer for several years. Althou
gh I always loved the music, I hated the stuffiness surrounding it: Pale little men clapping politely as their glasses slip to the edge of their noses, jowly women with tight, pursed lips. The message was clear: classical music is a serious, uptight business....Not so in Russia. Not only did the musicians get passionate, so did the audience. They would leap up from their chairs and shout "Bravo! Brava! Bravissimo!!" At the end of performance they often tossed long stemmed roses onto the stage. It was in Moscow that I started singing again.

On March 8th, 2002, International W
omen's Day, the Spanish opera singer Monserrat Caballe was in town. I went into the city with several people that day including the guy from Spain. International Women's Day is a big holiday in Russia, as it is in every former Soviet country. From what I gathered, what it usually means is that the men give women chocolate and flowers in the morning and then proceed to drink the rest of the day. We saw many of them in the subway, swaying and stumbling, though it was only the early afternoon.

The Spanish gu
y was from Barcelona and was also a huge opera fan. He was totally excited that Monserrat Caballe was in town (she is also from Barcelona)and suggested that we go and try to get some tickets. We did, but the tickets were all over 100 Euros, which was way above our budgets. Later, just before the concert started, we saw scalpers selling tickets out front. They looked just like the football hooligans I had seen at the soccer game. The Spanish guy (Marc was his name, I think)asked how much they wanted, but the price was still too high.

We walked around for a bit longer when, suddenly, the two ticket-scalping-football-hooligans came up to us and started speaking in rapid Russian. My Russia
n wasn't very good, so I couldn't understand them, but one of the other people told me they wanted to give me one of the tickets for Monserrat Caballe. A present for me, in honor of International Women's Day.

In shock, I didn't really know what to do
. It had to be a joke. But Marc snapped me out of it. "Take it and go!" he said. And so I did. I stood in line, still expecting I'd be turned away, but I wasn't. My seat was near the front row and I was surrounded by Russian Oil and Mafia brides who were dressed to the hilt while I was in jeans and a t-shirt. I don't think I stopped grinning for the entire hour that she sang.

Later I realized that, in my surprise and disbelief, I hadn't even thanked the scalpers for the gift. And so now I say thank you, for one of the best gifts I have ever received, and all because I am a woman....

Monday, March 23, 2009

Viva la Handmade!

Since I spent the first few years of my life living in an urban, Jesus Freak commune in Sacramento, I think part of my soul will forever remain hippie. I love that Michelle Obama is stressing the importance of homegrown food and putting an organic garden on the white house lawn (though I definitely do not have a green thumb!) It wasn't until I moved to Europe that I realized simple things like making your own salad dressing or a baking a cake from scratch really aren't that hard (and I am far from being a domestic goddess!) Something about being an American makes you think most food should come in a bottle, can or box....

I also truly am into the idea of the handmade revolution. I opened my first Etsy shop last year, but then took a break for about 8 months, taking it up again at the end of January. I love that everyone is doing their own thing there. Be it a housewife in Mobile, Alabama, a hipster in Madrid or an metal artisan in Sydney, people are gluing, sewing, sautering, etc. all over the world.

I did a shop local search today for stores located in France. Here are some of the highlights of what I found:

I spent two weeks last summer near Bordeaux, France and completely loved it. It's no wonder people are making such great things there. I am SO going to buy that skirt from Malam (vintage French newspaper cloth)one of these days!

Viva la Handmade France!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Astrology, a love story.

When I was in college a good friend of mine told me she wanted to do my astrology chart. At the time I thought astrology was something totally bogus. I worked in a bookstore and all I associated it with were the dumb girls with long, fake nails snapping gum who bought The Only Astrology Book You'll Ever Need or Love Signs. Still, this friend was so cool and I liked her so much that I said ok, let's do it.

I'll never forget the night we did my chart together. On the floor of her dorm room we looked up each sign based on the time I was born in the back of a book (The Only Astrology Book You'll Ever Need, in fact.) As we did so, we discovered that, besides my Aquarius sun and Pisces Mercury, all of my other personal planets and rising sign are in the earth signs (Capricorn, Taurus and Virgo.)My friend started looking at me sideways. All fire and air, she was sure she wasn't compatible with earth signs (we ha
d a falling out about a year later. One of the reasons she gave for breaking the friendship was that she couldn't handle my Capricorn moon....) The books she had weren't any good and, like most shallow astrology books, they also tended to slam earth signs. The words of praise they use are "practical" and "reliable" but they make it pretty clear that, in their opinion, earthy people are B-O-R-I-N-G. That night I went to bed feeling pretty depressed.

Later I guess I had a few options: I could have decided astrology was bogus after all. I could have just forgotten about it. But I felt this burning need to prove that the reading had been wrong, that being earthy didn't mean I was boring.
Whenever I had a free moment at my bookstore job, I would skim through every astrology book I could get my hands on, both good and bad. What I learned, besides that being earthy doesn't mean you aren't interesting, is that astrology is an incredibly complex art. Planets, signs, houses, aspects, elements, and all of those things are just the basics. To learn to read them is like learning a language and mastery is only something that comes with a lot of time and practice.

Astrology soon became a sort of secret hobby, secret because I didn't tell everyone about it. I know so many people still think it's a load of phooey and I didn't want to get in the position of having to defend or explain myself or to become a missionary, trying to bring in new converts. And I got a lot out of it. I don't pretend to know why, but if you read a correct natal chart of a person (day, exact time and place of birth)it is as individual as their finger print. (If anyone is interested by the way,, the website set up by Liz Greene, can give you your natal chart and a fairly decent explanation of it, though a computer reading can never really go into depth like a reading with a person....) Astrology can help you accept parts of yourself you don't like or have been resisting. It helps you know yo
ur limitations- you will never really be like Suzy or Mary, so stop trying- but it also points out your potential. Astrology helps break you out of that egocentric mode of judging everyone based on your own perception. People have different needs and ways of expressing them and have a right to these differences. Maybe so-and-so will never be your best friend, but accepting that they are just being themselves is somehow liberating.

Liz Greene runs an astrology school in London. My astrology-introducing ex-friend I used to fantasize about going there. I thought off and on over the years about embracing my secret hobby and finally making it a public one. But London is so expensive and I could think of no other reason for going there. Then, one day on a whim, I googled Astrolgy Berlin and found out that there is an astrology school here as well. I checked the school out first to make sure it was serious, then immediately signed up for their year-long weekend intensive course.

Little did I know that, in that course, I would meet my future husband.

I don't want to go into the story of how we came to be, but I ca
n say that it was not love at first sight. But once we did get together we both pretty much knew that that was it. Like me, he has an air sun sign (Libra)but underneath, instead of earth, he is a big pool of water signs (pisces, cancer, scorpio). If we hadn't met in the astrology course I don't think there is any way we would have gotten together. We moved in different circles and our attraction and compatibility wasn't obvious right away. Now that we are married and have two daughters I can't imagine anyone who would fit me better.

So, I guess you can say, ultimately for me, astrology was a love story that brought me a family. Something I would have never guessed all those years ago on the dorm room floor of my now ex-friend....

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why isn't it my birthday everyday?

One of the greatest things about having a shop on etsy is that you get to see all the great things other people are making. Of course, the temptation to shop constantly is always there....I'm on a pretty limited monthly budget. The German government pays Elterngeld (parent money, literally translated)to one parent for the first year if they stay home with the child. The amount of the money you get is 67% of your former monthly income with a cap (I think...)of about 2500 Euros. The money is tax free and a gift as long as you don't work (if you still want to work part-time, then you pay taxes on it.) Rock on German government!

My husband and I decided to split the money into two years which means that the monthly amount I get is enough to cover some bills, health insurance and groceries but, besides a tiny bit of spending money, that's about it. The money I earn from any sales at my etsy shops pretty much goes directly back into my shops because I spend it on supplies and occasionally onadvertising. But there are also so many lovely things to be had in etsy land. Here are but a few:

Other people have already benefitted from my desire to press that final sale button. My sister got some lovely pear and ginger soap covered in gold leaf in the mail just yesterday, a gift I spontaneously decided to have her sent. The shipping price to Europe would have been a bit high, but the soapmaker had covered the soap in GOLD LEAF. The soap just had to be bought. Rock on, gold leaf soap covering soap maker!

Still, I really should get myself a little something soon. I've been a good girl, really, I have. And besides any buying I would do would be supporting fellow creative folk. Hmm...My birthday may only be on February 16th but, as Alice learns, it is my un-birthday 364 days a year. Maybe it's time to do a little celebrating.....

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chamisso Platz, won't you come out to play?

When I was in high school, I had a pen pal from Berlin. I remember writing her and saying it must be great to live in a place with so many old buildings. In the town where I grew up in California there were two old farmhouses just over a hundred years old which everyone considered ancient. I liked the idea that in Europe, everything was hundreds, sometimes even thousands of years old.

But my pen pal's answer disappointed me. She to
ld me Berlin didn't have that many old buildings. A lot of them were new. And it's true. So much of Berlin was destroyed during the war. They built up a lot of new buildings in the 50s, some of which were ok, and more in the 70s, all of which are atrocious. Something really went wrong style wise in the 70s. Berlin had a lot of money, so they paid people to do things like knock down the "old fashioned" plaster ceiling ornaments or plank the walls with dark wood so that you truly have the feeling you're living in a boot. In the coal oven apartment where I lived a previous tenant had resurfaced the old doors. In Altbau (mid 19th century)apartments the doors look like this:

But, again in the 70s, it was popular to put plywood over them and an steel door knob so that they would look fresh and modern (i.e. ugly). Most of the buildings in my neighborhood are the old Altbau, but they often have a gray stucco surface, either because they didn't invest in restoring them after the war or some idiot in the 70s thought it looked better that way and got a government grant to get the job done....

Chamisso Platz is different. So many gorgeous buildings with art nouveau fronts and wrought iron balconies. More Paris than Berlin really. My husband has lived in this neighborhood for over ten years and he said that it used to be really easy to get an apartment there but now it's nearly impossible. There is a really great playground right on the square. Before our eldest daughter was born my husband and I landed there one day on accident. We wandered around the swing sets and rose bushes, surrounded by boisterous children and both were freaked out with the realisation that this would soon be our world. But I have long accepted my fate and embraced it. Besides, it really is a lovely place with all of those gorgeous buildings surrounding it. On Saturday, while Jasper played with Mia in the sandbox, I took some shots of Baby Li. Chamisso Platz thank you for being so beautiful and inspiring!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Vintage Wonderland

So I went on a huge Melitta collecting kick around five years ago. Melitta a German coffee wares company that has been around since the 1930s. Thanks to legions of meticulous German grandmas, you can still find a lot of old pieces here in mint condition. I scoured the flea markets and ebay for great pieces in unusual colors.

I still love the pieces I have, but I find I don't use t
hem. For our wedding, my husband got a great full set of Hutschenreuter Apart from the 1960s. I have a rare light pink Melitta coffee filter from the 1950s, but these days I really drink espresso. On a whim, I decided to put them up for sale in my shop Schaufenster. Now all there is to do is wait and see what happens...

Friday, March 13, 2009


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