Monday, February 4, 2013

Blue, Bluer, the Bluest

When my daughter told me, that her favorite color had switched from red to light blue, I was astonished to find that she couldn’t specifically pinpoint what she meant by light blue.  I asked her, if she meant sky blue, baby blue, powder blue or perhaps even something in the direction of periwinkle?  She just tilted her head to one side and looked at me in a sweet perplexed manner.  It’s moments like these that, as an expat, make me long for my children to have the childhood I had.

Of course, she doesn’t know these colors. She isn’t growing up using Crayola crayons -the luxurious pack of 64 with built-in sharpener- that was a staple in my childhood. My friend Kim and I colored for hours on end. We took crayons to the ends of the Earth and back. They were treated like crown jewels: always careful not to break them, tearing the paper the bare minimum needed to sharpen them when the point became blunt.  Every bit was used, even the stumps. We spent hours shaving them, carefully collecting the fine curls in an old pencil box to use for a grand piece of art, that I’m pretty sure we never made. That wasn’t really the point, though.  It was more the experience of working with the colors, the feel of the smooth wax, the smell, the crumbles of left over color that stuck to our fingers that created their own little Jackson Pollock-esque splatter with every flick of the butter knife blade.

We were –unwittingly- scholars of color.  Through play, we developed a picture, a link to what our understanding of 64 colors were. These colors rolled off our tongues like surgeons calling for instruments in an operating room: Scalpel. Forceps. Clamp. Please pass the Carnation Pink.  Can I use the Burnt Sienna after you?  Cadet Blue is so cold. Plum is so warm.  Instinctively, we knew just what to do with these instruments to get the desired effects.

I’ve forgotten a lot from my days at Crayola Academy, so when I invest in a box, I think I’ll make a ceremony of it. I’ll teach my children to treat them like crown jewels.  We’ll explore the colors, learn the names, save the shavings in a box and maybe, just maybe we’ll get around to making that grand piece of art.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Detective Party, Part Two: Cake

On lazy rainy days my children and I (my husband thinks we're crazy) like to pass the time by watching cake decorating on YouTube.  We've been inspired by cakes ranging from complicated guitars to relatively easy animal cupcakes.  After you've watched some 30 + videos, you start to believe anything is possible. They make it look so easy!

So armed with a myriad of tips -let the cake cool at least an hour before removing it from the pan, make paper patterns of desired shape, use a serrated knife to cut around patterns, do a crumb coat (1st layer of frosting), then put it in the freezer for several hours and finally put on a second layer of frosting- I felt brave enough to give it a go.

My son's party "The Case of the Stolen Magical Trophy" took them on a two hour scavenger hunt in which they found clues and solved riddles in an effort to find the trophy.  The birthday cake was the trophy so it really had to be a finale.  I was a little worried that there might be mutiny if it were not.

I made a pattern and bought some extra bits of this and that, like edible glitter and diamonds.  It had to sparkle!

With the outside of the cake taken care of, I wanted there to be a surprise when the cake was cut.  About a year ago, we stumbled across a video in which a girl shows how to make rainbow  cupcakes.  They looked amazing!  You can check it out here:

I decided to try it out in a cake pan.  The effect was more tie dyed than rainbow but I was satisfied nonetheless. 

The kids' oohs and aahs when they saw their long awaited reward was worth the extra effort!  Plus, I was pretty happy that my head was still intact.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Detective Party, Part One: Invitation

I'm not sure who gets more excited about my kids' birthdays: me or them?  My LOVE for  birthday parties borders on -well- insanity! In order for you to understand the depths of my craziness, I must reveal a dirty little secret: I actually start planning the next party pretty much as I close the door behind the last little goodie bag toting guest.  

After I wipe my brow from having endured three hours of screaming, ceaseless energy, melt downs and general mayhem and begin tidying up the aftermath, my mind automatically starts to wander.  You see, it's not so much throwing the parties that intrigues me, as it is the planning.

Where will my kids' interests take me next? 

That is the question!  Though the themes we've journeyed through (so far) are typical: pirate, princess, soccer, pop star -just to name a few, my mission is to twist their ideas so that often used themes become magical.  

The magic starts with the invitation.  I love creating invites that give the guests a bit of a taste of what's to come - to already get them in character.  

For my son's 10th birthday, we've decided to have a detective party.  The invitation consists of a riddle, that when solved, the invitee discovers that a trophy that grants wishes has been stolen.  They are called upon to solve the crime. 

Last night we delivered the invitations to his friends. I'm curious to see if they figure it out!

Should you be interested in using this invitation, check out the photos.  If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. 

In the coming weeks, I'll post more details for this party.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Feeling Thanksgiving at Easter

"Gratitude" and "Thanksgiving" are words that keep popping up everywhere I least expect these days.

I've come to realize that I have more or less taken them for granted.

That's not to say that I haven't been grateful or given thanks for the good that has come my way. I've certainly covered all the basics: food, clothing, shelter. I've even extended my appreciation to everything from having a wonderful family to finding a parking spot.

But, to really bask in and (more importantly) acknowledge EVERYTHING that I find good, even if it's for a fleeting moment, I haven't done... not yet.

As the big 4-0 slowly approaches, I enjoy giving thought to topics like these. It feels good to grow older. With the gradual decline of my body, my spirit feels as though it's being born. The more I explore, the more I feel whole.

I chanced upon a book called "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. In it, she makes a list of the 1,000 things she loves. Simply by jotting them down does she discover that when she takes the time to notice her environment, life begins to slow down and the beauty that abounds becomes obvious. Noticing the beauty, the miracles in everyday life gives one the chance to reflect on that, which is right in the world. Rendering it nearly impossible not to feel grateful.

So in honor of the book, springtime - the season of new beginnings, optimism and gratitude, I'll start my list of 1,000 gifts:

1. Childhood bunny basket that proudly presented Easter chocolates.
2. Loss of the basket that inspired re-creation.
3. Anticipated arrival of flowering guests in my garden.
4. Thought provoking poems received in early morning emails.
5. Centuries old curved front door of the violin maker.
6. Patient Uncle Herb teaching the meditative art of puzzling.
7. Clip clop of high heels on pavement.
8. Gentle touches when my husband passes by.
9. Aged embroidered cotton Easter dress restored lovingly by a grandmother treasuring keepsakes.
10. Scoop of lemon ice cream eaten out of a hallowed-out lemon on a sunny afternoon.

Viewing the beauty of the world through your eyes would be such a treat, so please feel free to post things (here) that you love, your gifts.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Paul Predicted

An epidemic spread throughout the world last summer:
The symptoms were:
- sore throat (from shouting for one's team)
- headache (from drinking too many beers)
- stomach-ache (from too many grilled sausages)
- dehydration (from sweating through every match)
- hallucinations (of one's team coming home with the cup)

You know, honestly if being sick were normally this much fun, I'd never wash my hands again!

During tournaments, it's fascinating to see how superstitious people, who are usually very rational, can become; even methods employed for predicting winners can pretty much run the gamut.

Before each game, our family checked the internet to see what Paul the Octopus had predicted.  His track record was incredible (at the end of the 2010 WC, 100% of his predictions were correct) so we eagerly watched with bated breath to see if he'd pick the box with our flag on it.

Despite Paul's track record his popularity quickly diminished when he anticipated a win for our opposing team.  They -of course- won and many called for him to be turned into calamari, poor guy.

Come 2012, when the European Cup is held, the fickle world of soccer fans will have to find a new source to forecast their matches as Paul - already a senior as far as octopuses go during the WC - recently died of natural causes.

This bodysuit "Paul" is one of my favorite designs.  I "predict" that you'll love it too!  You can find other products (including a cherry pit heating pad) which feature my little leggy guy at Movendi Designs:

Hope you are having a great start to your new year!

Friday, December 31, 2010

ROOOOOAAAAR into the New Year!!!

Several weeks ago, I promised to give you a glimpse of my son's Advent tree. You might be wondering how on Earth dinosaurs ended up on a Christmas tree.

Before I had a family, I loved toying with the idea of having themed Christmas trees for my future children (I do realize that this was crazy). So, when my first child was born, I was eager to put the concept into motion. As his first Christmas rolled around, he was only 11 months old with no real hobbies, I chose something neutral: seashells and starfish. For the first four years of his life, he loved it!

A nice mix of opaque and shiny 
However, when his sister came along and received wonderful angel ornaments (see blog from December 2010), well, that started him thinking... His tree really didn't reflect any of his interests, seeing as we lived about 400 km from a beach. So, it was a toss up between soccer and dinosaurs. The latter won.

I was totally stumped as to how I should fulfill his wish. Then, it dawned on me that Toys"R"us sold barrels of plastic dinosaurs.  I purchased two: complete with Carnivores, Herbivores, palm trees and rocks. I drilled holes into each object, sprayed them red, green and gold and then glued ribbons into the holes so that they could be used as ornaments.

In Germany it is customary for children to celebrate every day of Advent by opening a door on special calendars.  Hidden behind the doors are either chocolates or pictures.  In order to integrate this tradition into my tree, I embroidered numbers on two different fabrics (even numbers on one and odd on the other) and sewed them into little pouches.

Every year I fill them with chocolates or a small toy: usually something from a Playmobil set. As the month progresses the set becomes more complete - kind of like getting a new piece to a puzzle every day.
He's nearly ten now, and still gets excited about his tree. I hope these feelings don't become „extinct“ any time soon.
Other ways to implement this idea: farm animals, Matchbox cars, planets (thanks, Monica), horses, etc...

Best wishes for a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dinner Club

As I sit here waiting for my guests to arrive, I go through my check list of things to do: 

Candles lit: check!

Background music on: check!

Menus on each setting: check!

Guest bathroom tidied: check!

OK, now I just have to get myself in order (that's usually where the drama starts - what to wear???)

Tonight it's my turn to host Dinner Club. The group consists of nine ladies: 3 Americans, 2 Brits, 1 New Zealander, 1 Australian, 1 Swede and last, but not least a German.

It's actually a really fun concept: each month, one of the ladies puts together a menu that will be served at her house, based on whatever suits her fancy. In the past, we’ve had everything from Vietnamese & Danish to things you can make in 15 minutes. Anyway, after the hostess plans her menu, she sends out one of the recipes to each guest and that guest prepares it and brings it along. Throughout the evening whoever's course is due to be served can be found in the kitchen, along with the hostess and a glass of wine, busily assembling, cooking and / or adding garnish to her creation.

I love meeting up with this group of ladies and trying out new recipes that I would probably never have been bold enough to attempt on my own, i.e. Lavender (real flowers) creme brulle, Persian grape leaf wraps, etc. I usually come home from these evenings with only a smudge of make-up on my face (due to tears of laughter) and always with an extended belly.

Oh, and I solved my wardrobe dilemma by wearing a little black Audrey Hepburn style dress with ¾ length sleeves :)

Here is how to make my menu, that has a flower that doubles as a brooch:
First, select a thick paper that reflects your table decor. You can have fun with this! I chose a paper that sparkled like snow in sunlight. Even though in daylight it was a bit too Liberace, at night, by candlelight, it added just the right amount of shimmer to my table.

Then, decide the look of your menu - should it go with the length or the width of the paper? Print your menu on vellum paper. I usually spread the pages out and let them dry overnight to avoid smudging.
With your glue gun, glue the vellum to the thick paper, where the leaves should go. Next comes the leaves: I picked up some beautiful eucalyptus leaves (that had been sprayed silver) at my florist. Glue them into place.
Take a brooch (if you are interested in these, please contact me) and pin it through the menu.
Now you're done and your guests have a nice little reminder of the evening.

Merry Christmas and happy entertaining!