Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fighting The Christmas Blues With Lots Of Old Junk

When I was a kid, my dad had some sort of grad student position at this weird institute at the University of Arizona. Sometimes we went with him to work. I remember a lot of big gray machines with colorful wires, metal shelves filled with iron pyrate (i.e. Fool's Gold), an old tank from Vietnam and a vat of liquid nitrogen. If we begged him hard enough, he would put some object into the liquid nitrogen; a piece of plastic pipe or, one time, even a rose; and then show us how it had turned to ice.

My brother was crazy about going to my dad's work but, although I liked it too, I remember getting bored pretty quickly. Somehow I had the feeling it was more for boys. Plus, I started having nightmares that my hand got dipped into liquid nitrogen and then melted. Because of this, his job (and science in general) didn't really win any brownie points with me.

I think it was these memories that stopped me from going to the Deutsches Technikmuseum for so long. I'm always looking for ways to escape the mommydom drone of playgrounds and ice cream parlors and the museum is actually within walking distance (well, sort of...) from our apartment but, I don't know. A technical museum? The place had too much of a whiff of boys and dirty socks. If someone had told me it's actually Ye Olde Junk Shoppe, I would have gone a lot sooner.

We went today and found lots of old machines and phonographs and televisions and printing presses. Cool, decrepit vintage treasures that the girls-all three of us- really got into (the picture above this one shows Lilly a few seconds before she got chewed out by the security guard because she just couldn't resist those oh-so-shiny typewriter buttons....)

The building is also really amazing; the old part is all red brick with warm wooden floors and antique, hand-painted signs. From what I could gather, it used to be a gigantic stable for a large part of the city's horses. Apparently there is also a windmill and giant park, though we'll have to wait til spring to check that part out.

They also had a lot of dioramas. Dioramas. Why did they ever fall out of fashion? Even the name is cool. Speaking of which, I have this one for sale in my shop right now. Hope to find more later. Mia definitely agrees with me on this one. She told me she thinks all museums should have some of those little houses.

We ended the day with two greasy schnitzels at the museum's restaurant. Nothing like deep fried pork and crinkle fries on a foggy Christmas Eve Eve. Santa would be proud I think.

Merry Christmas everyone. Hope you survived the holiday stress and are going to take it nice and easy wherever you are. See you again Zwischen den Jahren (the German saying for the time between Christmas and New Year's, literally "Between the years.") :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

White Christmas

A true-blue native Berliner, my ex-husband's mother used to complain about just about anything. One of her favorite complaints every year was our lack of a White Christmas. "Na, typisch. Schon wieder kein Schnee zu Weihnachten. So is' det Leben."

One Christmas Eve we woke up to find the garden covered with a blanket of snow. But my ex-mother in law still found a way to complain about it. "Tja, endlich!" It's about time....

I've lived in Berlin for almost 11 years, but except for last year, that was my only White Christmas. Most other years it rarely snowed and, when it did, the snow only stayed on the ground for a couple of days.

But last year there was such a crazy amount of snow for so long and this year seems to be going in the same direction. I took a jaunt through the local graveyard again today on my way to the U-Bahn to get Jasper a frame for his Christmas present (Shhh...Don't tell!)

It's the same graveyard from the post a couple of weeks ago, so you can see how much snow has fallen since then. You might be expecting me to complain, since I've definitely been vocal about how much I hate winter. But actually, I'm loving it and this although my back is constantly aching because of all the buggy pushing/sleigh pulling through the sludge (oh how German of me to complain about such things!)

Glühwein, sledding, icicles, oh my! ;)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Computers Are Of The Devil

When I was a child in Arizona we went to a store-front hippie church called The Vineyard. I'm a little vague on the details, but I remember at some point this holy roller gave a special sermon on all things that are of the devil. On that list were electric guitars, barbie dolls and telephones, though telephones might just have been a rumor spread by some of the girls in my Sunday school class. I'm not sure what ever happened to that holy roller, or even what his name was, but if he has since added computers to his list of Satan's little helpers, I most definitely would agree with him. My computer seems to have come down with a bug making it crash at any given minute (though it has the hardest time with e-mail and facebook....) Just writing this post is an act of courage and no, I don't dare add a picture to it. A tech guy is coming (hopefully) sometime next week, but until then things will be pretty slow for me in blog-, e-mail- and etsy- land. Merry Christmas everyone, and say your prayers for me to Saint Clive, patron saint of the computer chip. ;)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why Don't We Learn From the Bears?

Seriously people, I think bears are really on to something with this hibernate-through-winter thing. Wouldn't it be great if, say, shortly after Thanksgiving we all retreated to our warm and comfortable, albeit musty, caves and curled up next to our loved ones not waking up again til the middle of April? What would we really be missing out on anyway? Christmas? Overrated. New Year's Eve? Such a bore. President's Day? Please. We could pig out all summer, go to bed fat and wake up thin and ready to party. What more could a little old person ask for?

As you can see from these photographs winter has already come to Berlin pretty much full force. I will always have way too much California/Arizona in my soul to think much of this season. As a child, I spent many a Christmas Eve swimming outside when we went to visit my grandparents in Phoenix over the holidays. In my East Bay adolescence/young adulthood we would talk each year about maybe going up to "visit" the snow. "Hey, why don't we drive to the Sierra Nevadas say "hi snow!" and then drive back home?" Sounds good. Little old East Bay me just has no need for it covering the courtyard of her apartment building....

I finally broke down and bought a pair of imitation Uggs today. Uggs stands most definitely for god-awful-ugly, but the darn things are pretty warm and I decided warm, un-stylish feet are better than stylish, numb blocks of ice posing as feet. Still, winter does have some highlights like Glühwein and taking the girls to Hasenheide for sledding. They say this winter is supposed to be the worst one in a 1000 years (go German optimism!!) so we should have plenty of frosty-building fun....

When the sun actually shines it's also not that bad. It finally did on Sunday and I took a little jaunt with Baby Li through the graveyard on Zossenerstrasse Ecke Blücherstrasse which is about a five minute walk from our apartment. Several famous people are buried there including Felix Mendelson and Fanny Hensel. So many art deco crypts and sculpture of weeping angels and Victorian wrought-iron fences that are deliciously decrepit and run-down. I had fun taking some ghostly self-portraits in the glass door of the old crypt below.

Yes, when the sun shines winter is bearable, but in Berlin it rarely ever does. Today it's back to leaden gray skies and darkness like when Sam and Frodo got too close to Mordor. The weather forecast says it should stay this way for a while. Nice. April is how many months away? Crap. I shouldn't even start having such thoughts. No matter what anyone ever says, no matter how excited people get about skiing or snowshoeing or freezing their asses off for some unknown jolly reason, this is my two cents:

Winter is for the birds!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Warm and Safe

I just realized that it's been a while since I wrote in my blog about my two beautiful babes, Miss Mia and Baby Li. Lord knows, we've been spending a lot of time inside these days what with there not being a sun anymore and everything....Most afternoons we go to the Marheinke Markthalle, the indoor market about a ten minute walk from our apartment. It's a bit pricey of course, but you can get great produce there and a decent cheap lunch at one of the many food stands. They also have an ice cream place (gold star from the girls) and a toy stand with lots of cheap goodies (double gold stars from the girls). Mia especially loves it there. On any given afternoon I might say to her, "Mia, do you want to go to the library/museum/playground/zoo?" to which she'll inevitably answer, "No mama, I just want to go to the Markthalle."

One of her new favorite games is to roll this jumbo silver marble, which I bought for her at (you guessed it) the toy stand, down the stairs and across the hall. She's very careful not to get in anyone's way and there's plenty of room, but she (or rather I) still get some scowls from the sour puss Germans. I'm sure I'll get Berliner Schnauze about it someday (Berliner big mouth- I SO need to write a post about this...) but I already know what my answer will be: Eine kinderunfreundliche Kultur ist eine tote Kultur." A culture unfriendly to children is a dead culture.

Besides irritating Germans with her child-like frivolity (a lot of Germans, or at least Berliners, still most definitely believe in the virtue to be seen not heard and of course kept on a short leash....), Miss Mia is also very much in love with her stuffed duck, LuLee, which she chose out herself from a thrift store in Oakland. That he's a duck is no coincidence considering that she was obsessed with this vintage cartoon of the Ugly Duckling for a good four months.

The first time she saw it she came to me and burst into tears. "Mama, nobody loves that little duck. He was all alone." For weeks afterward she was obsessed with the good mama versus the bad mama and how important it is to keep your babies warm and safe, pretty heavy stuff for a three year old. But she's such a sensitive little soul. And a good mama to her little duck I must say. She actually lost him today on the way zum Bäcker with daddy. Jasper re-traced his steps while Mia got frantic, but no LuLee anywhere. Finally, he saw a woman who lives at the home for the handicapped on Blücherstrasse where the duck was lost and for some reason he had a hunch. He asked her if she had seen the duck and, low and behold, she pulled it out of her purse. Later Mia told me: "Mama, that lady was so nice. My duck was all alone and she took such good care of him. She kept him warm and safe."

While Mia is sensitive and sometimes thin-skinned, Baby Li is a gregarious little creature that just lets everything roll off her back (and also doesn't take her mama's scolding the least bit seriously...) I often call Mia my little cloud while Lilly is my little mountain. Solid. Compact. Jolly enough to constantly make even Berliners smile. She looks quite a bit like I did as a child and I love to dress her up in vintage dresses I find on my thrifting escapades. This little cherry red rick rack number is exactly like something I would have worn circa 1976.

While Lilly also likes watching the Ugly Duckling, it doesn't have the same effect on her as it does on Mia. Mostly these days she likes to watch these cartoons we found about Ganesha and Krishna on YouTube (god bless YouTube!) Really great stories. I love what brats the Hindu gods sometimes are, not to mention the fabulous Indian accent and turns of phrase. The two videos below are her two current favorites.

(I'm not sure why Brahaman's two hot young daughters were any good for "settling the burning sensation" in Ganesha's body, but maybe you have to be a god to understand these things.)

(Hmm...That snake also has four hot young wives. Maybe they are onto something.)

In addition to being schooled in Hindu mythology, Lilly seems to have her first pre-school crush. The lucky lad is the new one in the group, a Lebanese boy named Malikikin. Lilly literally called his name in her sleep a few nights ago and since then says several times a day: "Malikikin is a nice boy." Ah, young love.

Well, I better be off to bed as it's quite late. Tomorrow we might bake cookies again with the vintage cookie cutters I bought from the shop the Pink Cobweb when I was in California. I'm pretty sure I had that pig when I was a kid. The others in the set include Humpty Dumpty (both Mia and Lilly went through a huge Humpty phase, though it has died down a bit), Jack and Jill, a windmill and lamb and a rather sinister looking clown. I remember how much I loved using cookie cutters when I was a kid and how beautiful the cookies always were. A few days ago the three of us put on our aprons from another etsy shop, Boojiboo, and started baking. I never realized how hard it actually is to use cookie cutters. Jack and Jill looked like monstrous blobs and Humpty was hardly recognizable. But the cookies still tasted good and the girls had fun. Come to think of it, that's all that really matters.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Waters of March

Below is a little video I made with Marcio and I performing The Waters of March, Tom Jobim's classic tune. The tracks were recorded separately (i.e. him on the guitar first then me singing) which was sort of schizophrenic since it's important we play together. The guitar and voice are sometimes a tiny bit out of sync, but then again, maybe I'm just hearing this because I know what a strange experience it was to record it like that....The photographs in the video are from my trip to Cheyenne, Wyoming and Western Nebraska last year. Really, I just used them because they are on my computer and were easy to upload, but they actually somehow fit perfectly with the song. I posted a video of another song on my vintage blog, so click here if you'd like to take a look. :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Taking Pictures

I haven't been doing any singing really since before I left for California in late September. When I got back, Marcio (the guitarist) was in Brazil. He got back on the 4th November but we finally managed to meet up for the first time today. Both of us were a little rusty, but it was good to get back in it.

At the end we took these photographs in the stairwell of my apartment building. I love the warm gray color there not to mention the fabulous natural light. Our landlady is a super anal doctor living in Switzerland who inherited the house (I think) from her grandmother. She can be a pain sometimes (and will probably be a nightmare if we ever decide to move...), but the plus side is she keeps the house (and stairwell) in beautiful condition.

I use the light in the stairwell all the time to take photographs for my shop. Nice to use it now for a different reason. I'll be setting up the MySpace page with the songs we recorded and some of these pictures later this week (and then posting it here of course. ;) ) My favorite picture is the first one because it's just a cool photograph. We'll probably choose another one, but I'm not sure which one I like best. I'm leaning towards the second I think....Anyway, it would be great to hear which one is your favorite. Vielen Dank und bis bald!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Have I Ever Mentioned How Cool The Ethnologisches Museum is?

I already know the answer to the question I posed as the title of this post which is, yes I have. Still, I went to the Ethnologisches Museum on Friday and was once again blown away with how amazing it is. First of all, the building is a true architectural mid-century gem, with amazing light and amazing spaces. The museum is also in the b.f. middle of nowhere (ok, on the campus of the Freie University, but that's also in the b.f. middle of nowhere....) so it's less likely to be overly buzzing with tourists than any museum somewhere around Friedrichstrasse.

On Friday, in fact, I had the place nearly to myself, though I did just miss a large group of rowdy 13 year olds (the danger of going on a school day in the early afternoon). "Shit!" I thought when I saw them at the entrance, but luckily they were leaving, not coming. Otherwise it was just me, a handful of older scholarly looking people and an art class making large coal drawings in the South Seas room. There was also another photographer, probably around my age, silently taking different shots in different rooms.

Among many others, I took some photographs of these 19 century African masks. I'm going to post some of the photographs for sale in my new photography shop, Augenblick Photo, but none of these here cut the mustard. I'm having a professional print done of each photograph I'm interested in offering for sale, but also being extremely picky in which ones I choose. I actually totally love the photograph of the beaded mask, but when printed it's just too out of focus in not the right places. Glad it at least found a place on my blog. :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Halloween In Germany: Adults Attack Children

Halloween has slowly been making it's way into Germany in the past ten years. The first few years I lived here they started selling ceramic jack o' lanterns and other knick knack junk. Then people started having parties, you could buy actual, none-edible pumpkins ("halloween" pumpkins are too stringy to eat and not the kind you can make pumpkins soup out of which a lot of Germans make at home), etc. etc. This year was one of the first where a fair amount of kids went trick or treating. Below is a newspaper article from the Berliner Tagesspiegel (Daily Mirror) that I have translated for you to give you an idea of how it went. (The information in parenthesis are my own comments.)
Halloween: Adults Attack Children
The Halloweenization (Germans have this super annoying habit of changing nouns into verbs...It drives me nuts, especially when I'm doing an editing job and they are doing it all over the place in English too) of Germany has been met with resistance. In several cities (though thankfully this time not in Berlin!!) adults beat up kids. An older woman from Steinenbronn in Baden-Wuerttemberg felt threatened by the children who demanded "Suesses, sonst gibt's Saures" (trick or treat), as is done in the American tradition. She grabbed her walking stick and struck back. One child suffered a minor head wound. Similar incidences occured in Boeblingen and Esslingen where a 79 year old even used pepper spray against three boys dressed in costume. In Regensburg in Bavaria a 51 year old beat two ten years olds with his walking stick (a little young for that I would think, the walking stick I mean) after the boys rang his doorbell. Both boys received bruises and a bump on the head. In upper frankonia Rehau a house owner slapped three boys who rang his doorbell and then proceeded to chase them.
The police however also reported many incidences of vandalism and criminal activity on Halloween night. In Bergheim in Nordrhein-Westfalen three men dressed as vampires and ninjas robbed a taxi driver. In upper Bavarian Neufahrn several teenagers set up a street blockade with two cars and attached trailers. In upper fallischen Schwandorf several teeangers threw firecrackers into trash cans and mailboxes (gasp!). In Oy-Mittelberg (lord, what a name) in upper Allgaeu three boys blew up a jack o' lantern with cherry bombs (quick, call the national guard.) In Pilsting in Nieder Bavaria two teenagers threatened a group of children with a knife and air gun. They wanted the candy they had collected.

(Oh those wacky Germans! As usual, taking everything far too seriously on every front....)

p.s. Speaking of Germans, Jasper pointed out that it's strange that we say "trick or treat" when logically it should actually be "treat or trick." Honestly, I had never thought about it before. I guess it just doesn't have the right kind of ring to it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Further Proof That I Am Out Of My Mind

Ok, so maybe I'm being a little bit hard on myself. But you definitely could say that I am at least indecisive. Just a few short weeks ago I wrote a post about how I was consolidating my two etsy shops and how much it drove me crazy trying to run two shops, blah blah blah. But since I've been back I've opened not one but two new shops which means I now run three. Without further ado (and before you start questioning my sanity) I present them on this humble Schaufensterbabe post.

New Shop Number 1: Schaufensterbabe (Son of Schaufenster)

Yes folks, I have opened another German kitsch and vintage housewares, art, toys and books shop. Of course, I could have just re-opened the now defunct Schaufenster, but I would prefer to have one started in this tax year....

I don't have much listed there yet (opened it on Saturday morning) and most of what I do have listed is left overs from Schaufenster. But I noticed they didn't get much attention in Curious Knopf as I suppose people only really go there for the vintage clothing (jewelry also doesn't sell that well, though it gets a lot of heart, but no, I'm not opening a separate jewelry shop. Got to draw the line somewhere!) I already did some good flea market shopping on Sunday and will soon be listing, among other things, some German dice games from the 30s and some sweet original fairy tale illustration from the 1940s, so stay tuned.

New Shop Number 2: Augenblick Photo

Some photography does sell well on etsy, but it tends to be photographs that are heavily digitally enhanced, usually with pastel colors. 9 out of 10 seem to feature a ferris wheel (personally, if I see another photograph of a ferris wheel I think I might hurl. I found them pretty the first twenty times maybe, but now I just can't take it anymore...)

I think I've sold all of one photograph in the two and a half years I've been on etsy (and it was digitally enhanced, come to think of it...) but I like having a place where I can showcase my work, especially the new kick I'm on of taking photographs of art fragments (i.e. details of statues, paintings, etc.) It's a little like cheating since the work of art already exists, but you definitely learn a heck of a lot about framing.

Oh, what fun. ;)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sugar, Fat and Pills

A few days into our (very) recent trip to the U.S. Jasper turned to me and said, "Sometimes I think the U.S. is all about sugar, fat and pills." Two things should be mentioned. First off, Jasper is most definitely not one of those arrogant European snobs who tend to be blatantly anti-American (and yes, there are plenty of those, though their statements and opinions are often incredibly ignorant.) He loves the U.S. and is always praising the friendly, open West Coast manner, one he clearly prefers to the stick-shoved-way-up-into-the-nether-regions-of-the-anus of your typical Berliner. In fact, there have been times that I've been the one who had to remind him that there are some things wrong with the country.

Secondly, we stayed almost the entire time with my mom in Alameda, California, not in some redneck hamlet in Western Texas. Her Victorian apartment is a ten minute walk to restaurants, cafes and shops where we went everyday as well as Crown Beach, a sandy, albeit somewhat dowdy strip of beach facing the Bay. So much of the food and produce in the Bay Area is fresh and delicious. San Francisco is filled with wonderful restaurants and we (once again) had one of the best meals of our lives at The Olema Inn near Point Reyes National Seashore.

Still, so many of the portions in the restaurants where we ate were absurdly huge but also so delicious that we of course ate every bite. And even in the ever-environmentally conscious Bay Area people still use their cars A LOT. So much of our time was spent driving from point a to point b, walking around a little and then getting back in the car and driving home. That combined with the monstrous meals and sweets that were beyond sweet made us both soon feel like a big slab of butter in desperate need of being churned....

Still, we probably would have been just fine if we hadn't watched The Terminator one night when we stayed at a beach house in Sea Ranch which we had arranged through a home exchange (more on that later.) There we were, cuddled up on the futon with a glass of wine, wondering why the hell the Süddeutsche Zeitung named Terminator one of the best 100 movies of all times (though I used to love watching Predator and Total Recall with my dad and brothers, so I wouldn't call myself an Arnie snob....) What was much more disturbing, however, were the commercial breaks.

Every single time there was at least one spot advertising some sort of miracle pill. Having trouble with occasional abdominal pain? Try Lexadrin. Allergies got your goat? Give them a run for their money with Alepren. Can't get it up? Go for Viagra (well, duh...) I like the racy disclaimer that you should consult your doctor if you have an erection for over 4 hours. But then again, all of the ads say you should consult your doctor. What they don't mention is that he or she is likely to receive a kick-back...

I've seen these ads before of course. I think they started in the late 90s right before I left the country for good. Still, it's shocking to see how much they have increased. As of now, it is still illegal to advertise for prescription medicine in Germany. Frankly, I think that is a very good thing.


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