Sunday, July 29, 2018

Craft(y) Project: Simple Origami Hanging / Mobile

Remember the cute and generous surprise that was waiting for Hannes at the office when we got back from our mini honeymoon? One night in a Schlafstrandkorb, or beach sleeping basket, on the North Frisian island of Föhr, a beautiful bouquet, some Kinder Schoko Bons, and a bunch of origami boats?

Yes, you remember.
Well, I really loved those stupid little paper boats, they match our decor, 
and I wanted to keep them.

 They lived on our dining table like this for quite a while, surrounding the centerpiece I made by combining the three simpler ones we got - along with cash - from various well-wishers and family friends, like a little tropical island. That wine there happens to be the one Tobias gave us while we were in Heidelberg, too :)

Finally I decided to make a simple little mobile or hanging out of the boats using nothing but a single piece of fishing line (which I somehow still have an unused roll of from my first year in Korea) and a bit of glue.

I cut a piece less than a metre long and folded it in half, so that there was a loop at the top. I used a nearby mechanical pencil to poke little holes in the pointy folded tops of each boat. Then, I arranged them how I wanted to hang them, knotting the fishing line to hold each in place and applying a little dot of glue so they wouldn't pull through.

Folding the piece of line in half to create a loop at the top means there were two pieces at the bottom. So I hung the little boats from each of those the same way, at intervals like plant leaves.

Like I said, the colours match our decor so conveniently: the light blue dining chairs, dark blue dresser we use as a shelf and storage for household items. the scratch-off map of the world with Germany in the middle conveniently being blue, the octopus pillows, etc.!

This is a really cute, simple, cheap or even free idea, similar to the paper crane mobiles I made as a kid and the tropical fish one I once made for a friend's baby shower, so I wanted to share it. 

Even if you don't have any fishing line, you could just use thread from your sewing kit, or buy a roll for a dollar or two. This is a nice way not only to keep origami or other paper ephemera, but for artsy-fartsy-types, not-so-creative types, those on a tight budget, and even kids to make lovely little handmade gifts! ^^

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Craft(y) Project: Matching Gift Totes for Visitors

One of the wedding reception projects I'd decided was necessary early on was gift totes to welcome my mom and three friends flying in from all over the world. We'll mostly be in Rostock, but they're flying into Hamburg and staying here for a few days and the beginning and end of the festivities, and that's where we actually live, so yeah.

I spent more on these than I intended - at 3.99 they were a little steep for fabric shopping totes - but I used a gift card and they were the best and highest-quality ones I'd seen. 1.99 isn't going to get you very far, honestly; these are thick and will actually last.

They're pretty plain, though, with the graphics all clustered toward the bottom, which is pretty dumb when you realise that you can no longer see anything except the pointy building tips once there are things inside. But that's okay: my plan already included customising these with fabric paint.

I used Marabu Fashion-Liner, which I found at my local (re: ~35 minutes away on foot) craft store, in metallic gold, and it turned out to be as close as possible to the exact same gold as the printed City Hall design and 'Hamburg' text, which made me feel very warm and fuzzy OCD-satisfied inside.

Originally I wanted to do dark blue, offwhite, and red nautical ones, but on our side of town 
I couldn't find the ones I'd seen, and they were cheaper and crummier anyway. 
Plus black matches everything and is more adult.

Okay! Well, off to a good start.

I knew I wanted to make the Rathaus look a bit like the Disney castle 
and decided on the text I wanted to go with.

"Courtney and Hannes' Hochzeits-Garten Party Extravaganza!
 ♡ August 2018  "


Ironing on high temperature / cotton setting with a thin piece of fabric over the paint 
in order to fix it and make it machine-washable..

And finally, done!

Disneyish, just as I wanted. Yas.

This one's for Angelique: a little bottle of Absinthe and a Mucha bookmark from Prague, winter house slippers (because she lives in Cascadia near the Canadian border), awesome dark witchy stickers by Meika, and The Botany of Desire by the insanely-appropriately-named Michael Pollan.

For NiQui: "It ain't a book unless someone's dead!" so I found a highly-rated murder mystery published last year, and she really digs England, so bonus points for me, because it's Victorian too. Sanddorn (sea buckthorn, a Baltic thing) tea, ceramic teabag/spoon rest and tiny wooden scoops, all from Rostock, a cute filter for loose tea like this, and a very pretty jar of Italian cherry topping.

For Rejon: Lavender honey (her favourite) from Bulgaria, the same tea and a similar holder, also a shot of strawberry-lime liquor for both her and NiQui, a Miraculous Ladybug vinyl sticker by PomiFumi, and finally, This Earth of Mankind, the first book of The Buru Quartet by Toer, because she's living in Jakarta now and this is an Indonesian classic. 

Last but definitely not least, the gift package for my mom: a book I thought she'd like based on her loving The Goldfinch, sad romances, and historical dramas; herbal chill-out tea and lavender aromatherapy drops for the bath or shower, a pretty summery wreath, a hand-painted wooden egg and two adorable little corn husk ornaments from Prague (the second one with the lovebirds is in with the wreath because I'm going to see if she'd like me to attach it).

Also a handmade Prague bookmark, two pretty ceramic bird clips, a half dozen of the stickers I made for her to take home, and oh yeah, some sugar-free Danish butter cookies :3

Cute, huh? I hope they're surprised! :D

Friday, July 13, 2018

Craft(y) Project: Wedding Couple Party Favour Stickers

Basically I'm pretty ashamed of how poorly this drawing of us came out, but I'm posting this anyway because I really like the idea, which is why I went through with it even though I've never been able to draw myself (with one decent exception when I was 14) or Hannes.

This painting has just been sitting like this for over two years because I just can't manage not to fuck up our faces any time I try. I don't know why! It's some kind of weird complex or something! Maybe when I figure this out and can start using myself as a reference like most artists do I'll finally develop a distinctive style.

Anyway, you know how it is when you get a certain idea in your head, and you just have to try it or have things that way. That's what happened here. After happening upon the idea of an illustration of a couple photo on stickers as a wedding reception party favour, I was like, I'm doing that.

I used Vistaprint, the same famously cheap American printing company I ordered my very basic and silly Etsy shop business cards from a decade ago. Other, smaller companies and individuals with their own businesses do higher-quality vinyl stickers in a wider range of options, but like, if you know me, you know my money situation. For 92 stickers I paid $16, plus $5 for a graphic designer to fit the image to a sticker manually (as 3" circles were too big and I couldn't get this to fit into their 1.5" template evenly, which is probably intentional on their part), plus VAT (even though I thought the total cost of an item and shipping had to be over $25 for the EU to charge that, eyeroll), plus shipping. This was by far the cheapest possible option, even including the extra 10 bucks I didn't expect.

Here are the progress pics. 
Aside from my spooky-ass amphibian girl face I thought I got off to a strong start.

I regretted filling in his gums and hated how it looked. I don't know why I did that.

After filling in the lines on my face and predictably fucking it up massively because of this weird drawing-myself-complex, I decided to see if using white paint to soften the pen lines and create some shadowing like I did with the Octopoulpe sticker design I had just finished (more on that later!). Hannes had also complained that he looked old and like he had round doll cheeks, which he isn't, but he does tho.

Until I started on my own face I didn't even realise these damn pens were green and purple. Wtf. The caps look black and the colour is indicated nowhere on the pens or packages. UGH.

I'm very pleased with the finished product, even if my face looks straight-up bad and Hannes thinks we look like "creepy Doppelgängers of ourselves from the Upside-Down or something".

But whatever, at least my mom likes them.

Again, I am embarrassed by the poor quality of this illustration, but I really love the concept! I've posted this anyway not only because it's short and quick, but mainly because I hope someone comes across this and does it much better! It's a really cute, inexpensive wedding (or birthday, etc.!) idea.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Dancing Into May

Dancing Into July

** Dancing Into 2019

*** Help

I thought I could plow through ten posts in June and then only be (one year and) one month behind instead of two, but once again, I was wrong about being able to catch up. Mostly I've been preoccupied and overwhelmed by having too many small tasks to prioritise and get through, so I never felt like finishing those posts. Oh well. 

Starting this way so often is trite, but I never learn and never stop procrastinating, so here you are with me in this endless loop. Maybe after September I can get my shit together (Back and finishing this on Christmas Day, lol), since our wedding garden party and its accompanying entertainment, trip to Prague, and music festivals will be done by then, and I won't be trying to blog about this year and last at the same time anymore. 
(So yeah, basically it's next year, last year, and the year before that now lol seriously send help this is not the good kind of lol)

"Dancing into May" is a saying derived from a pagan springtime ritual or festival that is now known as Walpurgisnacht, a Christian feast day to commemorate Saint Walpurga and the successful Christianisation of Germany. What it specifically commemorates is her canonisation in 870.

According to German folklore, Hexennacht was believed to be the night when witches would meet - this now-Walpurgis Night of April 30th - on the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz mountain range. Christians would pray to Walpurga to protect them, and at some point they decided that they had been sufficiently protected from their threats, real or imaginary, and began to give thanks to her instead, by lighting bonfires. Doing this to ward off witches and evil in general is still fairly common not only in southern Germany but northern and central Europe, and the Balkans. So, that's why it's Walpurgisnacht now. 

This isn't a case of Christianity completely overriding paganism, though: I can assure you that many people interested in witchcraft mark this day on their calendars, and it is also a custom for women in the Harz especially to make themselves up as witches and go dance in the woods on a mountaintop. And I can't say for sure, but I feel pretty confident that clothing is optional. This continuation of the original tradition has mainly taken on the more widespread, family-friendly form of dancing all night anywhere and however you want, though. 

You can read more about Germany's May Day traditions and celebrations here; it's pretty interesting stuff.

After four-plus months of only a few hours of dim light per day accompanied by freezing snow, rain, sleet, ice, and wind, just trust me when I say that everyone really, literally is that happy that it's fucking springtime. I mean, you saw how our Easter went

Easter is supposed to be spring, but April don't give a fuck. May is the start of the friendly weather. It's not even officially summer until the solstice, which is kind of a weird and mild but very pleasant change of pace from the hot sweaty places I'm used to.

I didn't dance into May 1st, but that day, I had to go to the Hauptzollamt, or Main Customs Office, to pick up a small package of my own stuff my mom had sent me, including my old external harddrive. Packages are often intercepted by customs and people are charged for various reasons, including not declaring their items properly and/or thoroughly enough, so I was worried that I'd have to pay out the nose to get my own things back. On top of that, the letter that I got in the mail told me to bring as much proof of purchase with me as possible, so I scoured the Interwebs for records of purchases 8 years ago and whatnot.

It was 50 shades of hassle, and just getting your things in the mail in the first place, whether it's via Deutsche Post or DHL, is pretty difficult in general here because of very poor service, and I was pretty stressed out by this whole thing, which felt more like an ordeal than a pickup.

But, wouldn't you know it-! I didn't see that you had to get there at least 45 minutes before closing time in order to take a number and eventually be helped. It was somewhere at the bottom of the notice we got in the mail about picking up the package, but I didn't see that until it was staring me in the face in much larger print at the office itself. 

On the closed window.

I had gotten there 28 minutes before closing time that afternoon. 


This is exactly what I mean by "ordeal". Bureaucracy is a nightmare everywhere, but Japanese and German people are especially good at rendering it into a living nightmare.

It was a really nice day though, and the Customs Office is in the Speicherstadt, 
the scenic brick warehouse district, so at least the walk was pleasant..

This is the classic view of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, 
of the Wasserschloss here, seen from the beginning of the block. 

Luckily for the customs people, I was about to get heckin' hangry in spite of the pleasant stroll and weather, but one of the restaurants with vegan options I had bookmarked and been wanting to try was only another ten minutes or so away. 
..So they were safe, for the time being..

I had vegan phờ and a Vietnamese coffee, 
which is very rich and sweet and decidedly not vegan.

It was good! Better than the one at Loving Hut. The decor is not only cute and authentic, but they actually have super hot chilis and sauces on the table, which is impressive, because Germans are scared of spiciness and in many cases will avoid anything red. When I say "super hot", though, I mean that I was lowkey worried for a minute that I might die after eating one teensy little ring of one, and it took a solid 10 minutes of putting all my effort into acting normal to recover. Holy shit. 

I went back to the Hauptzollamt later that week and did get my stuff back, totally free of charge. The guy was really nice, and mostly interested in checking the external harddrive my mom forgot to write on the custom's form somehow. I told him everything that was in the box before he opened it, and he never even asked for the ID or other proof of purchase of all the items in the box I supposedly needed to find (and ask Hannes to print after taking screenshots) beforehand if I wanted to avoid having to buy it all back from them. 

Oh, and he was nice enough to tape the box closed again for me, but with really shitty tape that straight-up didn't work. Sigh. I don't hate the player, I hate the game.

This is the Hansaplatz, a town square not far from the main station in the center of the city, in St. Georg, where I was that evening.

I managed to take an attractive phone pic of the fountain and trees, but *just* below where it cuts off at the bottom are loads of addicts, drunks, homeless, and presumably refugees loitering around. Hookers in doorways and walking around, trash everywhere. Even more everywhere than usual, because people in Germany just throw all their damn cigarette butts and wrappers on the ground like thoughtless children. This particular plaza, it's a real shithole. In my country somebody would get shot or stabbed here every other weekend.

Why the fuck was I here, then, you might ask? 
Well, I was meeting Hannes here, before we met Lars, Solvig, and Daniel 
at the nearby Savoy Theatre for Avengers: Infinity War once they were all off work.

The theatre was super cool, stylish, and like the old-fashioned Cine Capri that we used to have in Phoenix before that tidbit of culture, too, became a soulless beige box housing another mediocre franchise. 

I was very unimpressed by the movie, though; Starlord meeting Thor was probably the best part. Nothing can live up to the quirky 80's video arcade hilarity of Taika Waititi's Ragnarok for me at this point.. sorry. It was cool that half of everyone and everything in the universe died though.

You've probably noticed now that the long dark winter is over and we're into spring posts that Germany is a very lush, green place. Its soil is rich and fertile, it's mostly quite mild out, it rains pretty constantly, and it's blissfully free of natural disasters. Berries, apples, cherries, and root vegetables - and, come autumn, also mushrooms, though these are of course grown indoors year-round - abound. 

May is strawberry-asparagus season and these cute little stands, which sell produce, jam, et cetera straight from local farms, pop up on street corners everywhere, especially outside train and subway stations, and even in the middle of downtown!

Look at this one! It's metal! It looks so hot! I wouldn't want to work in there!

(this one had raspberries too)

As April's cherry blossoms are disappearing, it's time for the rhododendrons to start.

This is our street :B

This is also our street.
And, okay, nevermind, some of the cherry blossoms are still going strong at this point..

Interestingly, these mostly bloom one colour at a time, even though they're the same flower.

These Barbie hot pink ones are last. 
First it's white, then light purple, then lilac, and then these.

But there are even more colour variations than that, 
including these interesting orchid-looking dealies.

Here, have a salad of fridge leftovers I cleaned out because we were going out of town for the weekend, because May 4th is Hannes' dad's birthday. This was extremely satisfying after I got home from the gym. Lots of spinach, a sliced beet, pumpkin seeds, wildflower honey, and that stuff on the top is pan-grilled halloumi cheese, which is high on the list of best things that have ever happened to me.

Our 3-hour train rides basically look like this. Hannes is nice enough to get me a really stylish mini bottle or two of wine each time (they're like 1.99), fruit cup, and vegan broccoli salad. Such salads, many healthy, so fresh, wow!

We arrived at Anke and Marco's place to find Anke at work on some adorable birthday brunch treats in the kitchen. Strawberry season was just about to start but wasn't quite ready yet, so she was using Spanish strawberries for these filled tart-like cookies.

Also peaches, on top of fresh-made vanilla pudding.

"Oops! See, it was perfect until you pointed a camera at me, now I messed up!"

Those little round ones are delicious and gluten-free; instead of gelatin and milk she made that pudding with agar agar and almond milk, but alas, the GF cookies were still flimsy and weak as they were saturated with delicious butter.

What a spread! I love brunching with the in-laws on their veranda, it's glorious even when 
it's too hot in the direct sunlight or too chilly or there's not a birthday going on.

The men headed to a football game for the afternoon and I hung out with Anke, doing my best to practice communicating with her and figure out some wedding party details.

I asked Hannes to send a selfie and he delivered, but he was also impressed 
that they snuck "ACAB" into this Hansa jersey sign.

Marco never forces smiles for photos but make no mistake, he was having a good time.

Once the men returned the grilling began, because that is the natural way of things.

Andrea, Hanna, and Moni joined us, and we had a delicious meal.

A new variety of cider! And that round yellow thing there is cheese!

This, however, was utter garbage. It tasted like a strong, bitter medicine made partly of celery. My burps also tasted like strong bitter celery medicine. Whatever you do, don't drink this Italian Kräuter. /PSA

Everything was fine once we broke out the normal herb liqueur, though!

It was a very nice, lowkey birthday weekend, and per usual, on Sunday after breakfasting together again, we took the long, annoying, three-train, three-hour construction route back to Hamburg. We decided to stop at The Factory, our local Biergarten, for something between lunch and dinner. As in, like, during that timeframe. Not fourthmeal.

I got their baked potato with grilled veggies and salad while Hannes had a Flammkuchen - which is basically a giant cracker presented like a pizza - with goat cheese and thyme honey.

Sprizzione and beer, too, of course

Yeah.. he looked a lot better than I did lol.

We even shared a little Apfelstrudel for dessert. There was hardly any pastry involved; 
it was warm, fresh, and delicious. I regret nothing.

We sometimes wonder in passing what this adjacent building was or is. It's impressive now that the trees are finally leafy and in bloom; it looks like an old castle turret.

Just some more rhododendrons on the way home.

There are a lot of birthdays and holidays in May: May Day, the 1st, is German Labour Day; Marco's b-day is the 4th and my mom's is the 9th; Mother's Day was on the 12th this year I think? and Herrentag or Mens' Day is the 10th. (This is also German Father's Day and Christi Himmelfart, which is not a slutty sorority girl as I like to say, but Ascension Day.) German Mother's Day is the 13th, and there's yet another Christian holiday on the 31st after Pentecost on the 21st. Phew! Having trouble keeping track? Me too. But I'm very happy about how much time people get off work as a result.

So, the above was only the first of three trips we made to Rostock in May.
Another way I kicked off this month of celebrations was by preparing a box of gifts and goodies for my mom to send off a couple of weeks before it, and her birthday and Mother's Day with it, rolled around.

A variety of local chocolates

A miniature painting from a charming street vendor in Heidelberg

Also biscuits and healthy schmackos, a little paper angel made of sheet music from a church market, a particularly nice smooth stone from the beach at Warnemünde, and two pretty handmade ornaments from the boardwalk there. She really liked the package.

On the 8th of May, I realised a high school dream by going to see Gogol Bordello.

This is a medium-sized venue smack in the middle of the Reeperbahn bar-sex club-party circuit, and to be honest, it's too big for me. Way too many people can fit in here and it's really hard to have a good view of the stage. It's similar to Hafenklang, which is also bigger than I prefer.

It was a heck of a show, though, even if I was still kind of in limbo, still in a funk, and didn't dance or anything. Everyone else had come from work (why are all the damn concerts here on work nights?!) and was pretty tired, too, but also had a good time.

The extensive lineup has changed a lot but Eugene Hütz, though he's aged, is more of a concept than a person, I think. He's still just as into this shit as he was when I would have chosen to see them at their peak if I could've gone when they played in Phoenix, 11 or 12 years ago.

This part was particularly amazing: he was crowd surfing on top of a drum.

It was kind of beautiful, really, just purely good vibes from kind of a ridiculous variety of people but who all believe in concepts like individual freedom, freedom of movement, and solidarity with the oppressed.

Here's the video. There was no literal dancing into May from me this time around, but I mean like, this band dances for everybody, and all the sunny eating and drinking goodness definitely counts as celebrating the end of winter!