Sunday, December 4, 2016

Unique Art

This week five shops were chosen as Shops of the Week in our Rainbow Artists Team on Etsy. You will see that each of these shops is completely different and the artwork is very unique. I had a hard time choosing just one item from each shop - there are so many fantastic items.

But let's not linger longer but dive right in. The first artist is not that new to you - she is the same lovely woman who published this interview with me back in June - Michelle from Atman Art Studio. Michelle lives in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains in Australia. She creates intriguing ink drawings in interesting patterns - you can find spirals, waves, curves, circles, ovals, arrows and many more. Many of them are symmetrical in beautiful colors and interesting to look at. I am someone who likes spirals and therefore, this drawing (which also appears in her shop header) speaks to me:

Do you like sea shells? Are you collecting them when you walk along a beach and keep them as memories of carefree days? Then you should take a look at Gerry's shop Eagle 414 where you will find wonderful sea shell creations. There are wind chimes, mirrors, clocks, and - those are my favorites - keepsake ornaments. The artwork is incredible. What do you think?

Or perhaps you love pottery - I know that I do. Allison Glick Ceramics is a shop you want to look at - you might find a beautiful gift for someone or for yourself - yarn bowls for the knitter in your family, unique earring holders, Ikebana vases, barrettes - quite a variety. This shop is a mother-daughter team with Allison being the daughter and potter and Sheryl the mother and manager of the business. I have a huge weakness for mother-daughter businesses! One of my favorite items in their shop is this small ceramic bowl:

Talking of yarn bowls, let me go on to Cristina Radu's shop Cute Toys by Cristina. Why toys and yarn bowls? Because these toys are tiny crochet amigurumi toys (and yarn bowls are truly handy for people who crochet and knit) - most of them animals. Cristina lives in Bucharest in Romania and her miniature items are simply cute overload. Penguins, monkeys, bears, bunnies, giraffes, mermaids and even turtles - oh, why don't you go and look for yourself?

Last but by far not least there is Ol Billz Stuff from Montana. He lives right in the mountains and has gorgeous views of snow covered peaks from his home. Surrounded by nature and its wildlife his items - that he calls "stuff" - are related to and inspired by nature. He turns a deer bone that he finds outside into unique artwork. His earrings are made of sea glass or deer horn. Do you need a very unique gift for a man who likes to smoke the good stuff? What about a handcrafted elk horn pipe? Or are you looking for something even more unique? There is something for you, made out of a buffalo jaw:

This was our last "Shops of the Week" for this year. This post wouldn't be complete without a shout-out for our fantastic team leaders Debbie and John. They always come up with new ideas how to support their team members (us!) and their shops. It is heart warming to know that there are people like them around - you can find them in Sedona, AZ. If you can, please visit their shop Thunder Rose Leather. What you will find there, you ask? The most beautiful handmade leather handbags and pouches, and super cute baby moccasins as well. Many of their handcrafted items include excellent beadwork. I love this messenger bag made of elkskin leather and a beaded hummingbird.

Did you enjoy meeting these amazing artists?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

My Two Cents

My dear friends, it’s been a while since I was here the last time. Some of you might have had the funny feeling that my absence was caused by the result of our presidential election, and of course you’re right.

I try to keep my blog free of politics, but sometimes I just can’t sit by silently. This is one of those times.

Like so many other Americans I was glad that with November 8th this election campaign finally came to its long overdue end. My family and I had sent in our mail-in ballots two weeks before – our first presidential election since we had become US citizens. It was not only our vote for the president, but so many other decisions as well on the state, county and city level. It kept my husband and myself debating for weeks and finding our “yes” or “no” decision. It was a fruitful debate where we listened to each other and didn’t call the other one names when s/he didn’t share our opinion. The way it should be.

Since Brexit, however, I had a very bad feeling about the outcome of our election. The last few days before that fateful Tuesday the media acted as if it was no question that Hillary Clinton would win the election, and every time I wondered “how do you know?”

Well, they didn’t. I didn’t even watch the election results on Tuesday evening. The first results trickled in while our polling stations were still open. I curled up on the sofa with my knitting needles, feeling sick. When I only heard grunts from the Geek who was following the election on his computer, I knew that Donald Trump was about to win this election.

Has he? As it turned out, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. In any democratic country this would determine that she became the next president.

But this is the United States of America with the antiquated system of the Electoral College and we have to live with that. We have to accept the outcome of this election whether we like it or not. We can scream and have tantrums like two-year-olds or curl up in bed in denial – or we can try to be positive and contribute in a way that represents who we are and what we believe in.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not in favor of the mindless “get a grip and move on” attitude that we can hear so often right now. I will not forget neither forgive the dreadful things that were said during this campaign. I do not accept that it is okay to make fun of the disabled. I do not accept that it is okay to describe Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers. I do not accept that it is okay to call veterans losers because they were POW while serving our country. I do not accept that it is okay to grope and sexually harass women. I do not accept that one human race is seen as superior to other races. I do not accept that it is okay to turn an entire group of people in the world into scapegoats because of their religion. I do not accept that climate change is a “hoax”.

And the list goes on.

I worry for my daughter’s future. I worry that any men might sexually harass her without any consequences, that this is thought to be okay. I don’t understand how any woman can accept that and how any parent of a daughter can accept that. Thankfully I’ve raised a daughter who has very healthy confidence in herself and who doesn’t accept this either.

I worry for our planet’s future. We so often behave as if we had a second one in the trunk of our cars. Now we will have people in our government who might break away from the world’s mutual attempt to save the planet. Where will we go to when our beautiful Earth cannot provide for us any longer?

I wanted to give our next president the benefit of the doubt. I still want him to succeed for the sake of our nation. But when I see who he is appointing right now all my hopes and my heart sink.

So what can I do? I will continue with kindness in my life. So many little things – as simple as holding the door for someone – can bring a smile on someone’s face and lift their mood. So often I have heard someone say “you just made my day”. I will go on doing it. Rudeness and inconsideration shall not be part of my life. I will be watchful. I hope I find the courage to stand up in public for someone who is being harassed or bullied – after all, I wear a safety pin. I will go on doing my part in conserving the resources of our planet, in sustainable living. Good thing I have a very environmentally conscious daughter who is not afraid to step on my toes if I’m thoughtless. That is the spirit!

These are my two cents.


And with this I return to blogging about walks around the lake, knitting baby cardigans and hats with sheep, and photos of the beautiful islands of Hawai’i.

To all of you in the US, have a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Secret Garden Shawl

Quite a while back I found a beautiful shawl with the name Secret Garden on Alana Dakos' beautiful blog Never Not Knitting. I loved it right from the start, but it took a while until I bought the pattern. When my students at the German School gave me a gift certificate for my favorite yarn store I finally got three skeins of Tosh Merino Light (the recommended yarn in the pattern), a scrumptious hand dyed yarn in fingering weight. I chose the color "tart" which is a rich darker shade of red.

The pattern looked complicated and of course, at the beginning I didn't "get" it, but finally I had a humble beginning.

Despite making a lot of mistakes and redoing entire rows I kept on knitting and after a week it had grown considerably.

Every row in this pattern is different, and every row consists of sections - a section that is repeated several times along the row. After having done several mistakes I got into the habit of counting the stitches in each section, so I marked the beginning of a section with a piece of short yarn. When I was done with a section I simply moved the yarn forward so that I didn't lose count.

As you can see the pattern consists of a lot of cables. I first worked with a bamboo cable needle, but I didn't like it that much. Then I saw a YouTube video where a knitter used a different kind of cable needle that looked like a big hook. One of the craft/fabric stores in town had it and with this the cables were much easier and faster to knit up.

However, this still wasn't my last improvement. After a while I found moving the yarn forward and counting the stitches in each section tiresome. I decided to use small ring markers for each section that would stay there permanently. Now suddenly things really moved along since I didn't have to count the stitches in each section anymore!

Halfway done...

And then disaster struck! About a little more than three quarters along the row my needles broke. Suddenly I had a very short piece of the circle needle in my left hand and the rest in my right one with several stitches dropping off the needle. Holy cow!!! I was close to tears and couldn't move for a few minutes. However, I knew that somehow I had to get the stitches on whatever needle as fast as possible before they messed up the entire pattern. These were very intense moments and it's a wonder that I didn't yell at my poor husband who asked whether he could help me somehow. I just tried to focus and get those stitches back on a needle!

No, I don't have a photo of the disaster - are you kidding me?

The following day I got a new needle and settled back into knitting, one section and one row at a time. The shawl grew and grew...

... until the day before we flew out to Hawai'i it was done. Finished!

I felt wonderful when I had weaved in the last one of the threads. And a little proud as well.

It was quite difficult to get a photo of the entire shawl in all its glory.

There was the option of making a button hole, albeit in a very odd position. It took me two months to buy a button for it and sew it on!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Handmade Playfulness

My friends, this week I'm taking you to four artists' shops where you can let loose and let your playfulness out. All of today's shops are fun and very unique. That's the beauty of Etsy!

First I want you to meet Cindy Doty of Cinful Designs. She lives in beautiful Brookings on the Oregon coast where she makes jewelry and wonderful art dolls. Both jewelry and art dolls are unique, and for me it's the art dolls that always bring a big happy smile on my face. Have you ever thought of dress miniatures as ornaments? Well, how do you like this?

April Luna from Los Angeles, CA is owner of Moon Of Light Talismans. She creates raw crystal and electroformed jewelry and each piece is very unique. If you are looking for some one-of-a-kind jewelry you should definitely pay a visit and browse April's shop. I very much like this beautiful necklace:

With Catherine's shop Tribal Handmade we enter the fairy and fantasy world. Be prepared for cuteness overload. She lives in Lviv in Ukraine where she also makes jewelry besides little fairy houses. It was hard to decide which one to showcase here because all of them are so pretty. This Adriatic coast fairy house is the "winner":

Luna Essence in South Cairo, NY is a shop full of gorgeous handmade jewelry and small handbags. The jewelry is inspiring - you can find Aztec earrings, handcrafted brooches among others, and this fantastic boho style filigree cuff. I love the colors!!

I hope you enjoyed our little "shopping spree"!!!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Let Me Take You on a Walk

Autumn is such a beautiful time to take walks in the middle of the day. The summer heat is just a distant memory, the light of the sun is warm and soft - a perfect time to go outside and walk the neighborhood. I love to see how the gardens are changing in the seasons and what people put in their front yards. Of course, I'm also always looking for inspiration.

There are stunning fall decorations everywhere, be it a gorgeous porch or just a single pumpkin in a birdbath.

Every time I find some new bird houses, either in someone's front yard or tucked away in a tree.

Front yards are always an inspiration for me. I like to see what other people put in their yards, what kind of plants (I'm not fond of lawns), whether there are places to relax and how do they decorate? Is there something I would like to have in my yard?

I certainly like this bird bath a lot.

This little guy looks so cheerful! I actually expected him to start swinging his legs!

I love to see gates leading to the back gardens. Some of them have the air of a fairy tale about them and you wonder what is behind the gate.

Rain or shine, autumn is always full of surprises and colors.

My garden is still beautiful. The gaillardia doesn't look like it will stop blooming anytime soon. The Chinese Pistache has been spectacular this fall. The first two years its leaves turned to a lovely yellow and orange, but this years the color palette included a rich and warm red that was simply stunning.

I hope all of you in the Northern Hemisphere are experiencing a beautiful and memorable autumn.

Have you seen any fences in this post? Yes? Let's link to Theresa's Good Fences then!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Beautiful Handmade Art

Today I want to introduce four more of the Rainbow Artists Team. All four of them offer beautiful handmade art in their Etsy shops.

Please meet KIT (whose real name is Kathy) of Kit's Creations. She designs unique beaded and sea glass jewelry. There is even a beaded necklace with natural driftwood pieces - this is definitely one of a kind! My favorite pieces are her beach themed home decor, like this shadow box. If I had a beach cottage, I know where I would get my decoration!

A very different art is made by Sandy of Little Canary and Co. Her art is Native American inspired, and in her shop you can find beautiful jewelry, bead work, medicine bags and quite unusual dream catchers. This one featuring a mother and her child has caught my eye and my heart.

I always love good pottery. Deborah Hager makes functional pottery with a decorative flair. It is obvious that she finds inspiration in nature, and you can see this inspiration in her beautiful bowls and dishes that she sells at Clay by Nature Pottery. This cup is my current favorite piece from her shop. Doesn't the fish look fabulous?

Bob and Pam Holt are from Louisiana where they do woodworking and work on mosaics. Their shop zzbob also sells mosaic supplies. It's a well stocked shop where you can find a lot of inspiration for your own mosaics as well as beautiful gifts. This handmade elephant bank from reclaimed wood is my personal favorite. I think it would be a great gift for a child.

I hope you enjoyed meeting these fine artists.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

When Pele Is Angry (The Volcano Part 5)

Compared to other volcanoes that like to explode and send clouds of ash and pumice into air, killing everything in its path, Kīlauea is a rather mild-mannered volcano. It mostly drools and dribbles, however on a grand scale. Whereas everywhere else on the planet people usually dread active volcanoes, in Hawai'i people drop whatever they are doing and drive out to see it (you should check out this site if you want to see the newest exciting development at the volcano). Just like so much in Hawai'i, even the volcano is laid back.

However, that doesn't mean it isn't dangerous. Lava destroys, and Kīlauea is no exception. Just ask the people of Kalapana, a historic fishing village and residential area that was wiped out by volcano goddess Pele's anger in 1990. No lives were lost, but 182 homes were swallowed by lava.

From Kalapana you have the best view of the lava coming down the slope and entering the ocean. It is not always accessible, but we were very lucky that it was no problem to get to the ocean entry and the lava flow when we were there. However, these once-in-a-lifetime views come at a price - a long hard hike. You can't just drive up to the lava, park your car and approach the flow. No, it involves a 8.5 mile roundtrip hike on a gravel road through the devastating landscape of lava. Believe me, it wasn't exactly fun.

In the parking lot at the end of Highway 130 you can rent bikes for $10.00 per hour, and many people did that. I don't think that riding a bike on gravel is easy, but it's still a bit faster than hiking through this moonscape.

There were warning signs at the start of the hike. Please note that you are not allowed to roast marshmallows on lava (would someone actually do that???).

And here we are, hiking along the gravel road. This used to be a real road before Pele consumed it. Along this road and up the slope there used to be homes. It is still all private property, and some people have come back and built some sheds on the lava or live in their camper van on their property. When you hike out to the lava you are asked to stay on the road and respect the property of the people who used to live there.

You can see that the landscape we were hiking through isn't exactly exciting or diverse. Far from it.

When you look up the slope you can see little red spots in the approaching darkness (yes, we started hiking out by 6:00 in the evening). That is lava flowing down from Pu'u 'Ō'ō vent, the origin of the current eruption (the current eruption started on January 3, 1983). You can also see the fumes creeping up the hill, but we couldn't smell them which, of course, was good and the wind was in our favor.

The first part of the road is on county ground, but then Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park takes over and everything is a bit laxer. The hiking becomes harder, too.

But slowly excitement was taking over. The glowing clouds over the ocean appeared in the distance, announcing the location where the lava enters the ocean. It caused a new spring in our step. We knew we weren't too far anymore.

Suddenly the road is at its end, covered by lava. First we turned left, towards the ocean, and climbed over lava boulders and rocks toward the cliff's edge. This is what we saw:

It leaves one speechless. This is so dramatic, so full of power. We witnessed how land was created - with a lot of steam, fume and sizzle. The powers of nature at work - it was unforgettable.

Fire and water met and they did it with a lot of show - the best show you can imagine. As far as I know this is the only place on our planet where you can witness this drama, performed by Pele. You don't mess with her!

This was the tiny little fence separating people from the heat and fragile ground of lava and new land. A piece of wire tightened between some poles - a good fence? A joke? Still a fence, and therefore shared with Theresa's Good Fences.

By the way, there was no fence at the edge of the cliff. I told you, everything was rather lax here. Wait until we get to the other side of the road.

The other side is uphill. This is where the lava flows down the slope, coming from P'u 'Ō'ō.

We were standing a mere 5-6 feet away from this piping hot lava flow - 5-6 feet (for everybody familiar with the metric system, this is less than two meters)! No fence (not even a joke one), no barrier. If you felt like it you could walk right into it. It would be your last walk, though.

I told you it was lax. And laid back.

The lava flow changes constantly. It doesn't flow particularly fast, but not really slow either. It certainly doesn't flow quietly - it sizzles, whispers and pops. The heat is intense. I was sweating and my face was glowing similar to the lava (okay, not quite).

The shapes and forms lava is building are incredibly beautiful.

For me this was the highlight of our vacation in Hawai'i. I still think of it often and feel the same excitement I felt back then when I was standing so close to earth's hot liquid. As a human being you feel very small next to this nature show. You know that you can't do anything to change the flow of lava or stop it or redirect it. It does its "own thing". Beauty and destruction are often very close to each other.

Here you can see how close Käfer and I were standing to the lava. This was the experience of a lifetime and well worth the long exhausting hike. My feet were hurting like crazy when we finally reached the parking lot again but such sweet pain!