Thursday, December 29, 2016

Chilly Nights, Frosty Mornings

We have had some gorgeous winter days here, with clear and sunny days that bring chilly nights and frosty mornings. Temperatures dip into the twenties during the night which is something we don't experience too often in our area (yes, we're quite lucky). When we get frost alerts, we usually cover our citrus trees because they don't like these low temperatures, but almost everything else will do just fine.

I went out into my garden one of these mornings to take some photos of the frost. It was rather lovely. The fence posts displayed ice crystals and even my little ceramic bird looked cold.

The plants that are around for winter were stunning with their frosty coats. The red and yellow gaillardia displayed the frost gracefully.

There were beautiful leaves that were even more gorgeous with their frozen dress.

The pineapple sage nodded gently even though it didn't take the cold too well.

There were still some seed heads of the purple coneflower standing. They were absolutely stunning this morning - I was so happy I was able to catch this with my macro.

Please stay warm, everybody!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Silence of Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve and today I want to share a blogpost again that I wrote four or five years ago when I was still writing for Vision and Verb. Recently my thoughts went to the time of Advent and Christmas back home - I felt so totally and completely "un-Christmassy" this year that somehow these thoughts silently crept into my mind. Kaefer and I were listening to some German Christmas carols while baking cookies and that's when my thoughts started to travel home.

In Germany, the “big day” is not Christmas Day (and we even have two of them!) but Christmas Eve – Heilig Abend (Holy Eve) as it is called. It usually starts out hectic, often with the last big shopping because all of the stores and supermarkets will be closed for the following two days. But around 2:00pm the shops (including the grocery stores) close and by 3:00pm at the latest a magical silence covers the entire country like a beautiful veil. The ideal December 24th brings snow in the afternoon and turns the world into a winter wonderland by the time the first church bells start to ring.

Oh, the sound of church bells – how much do I miss this! They ring every day (at 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning, at noon and again at 6:00pm), but on Christmas Eve all the bells are ringing, from the smallest, highest pitch to the biggest one with the deepest, loudest sound. It’s a concert of bells that resounds through the silence, calling for mass. Christmas services start in the later afternoon, the first ones mainly for smaller children, showing nativity plays and involving the kids. Later in the evening follow the more “grown-up” services with meaningful sermons and the old German Christmas carols sung by the congregation. Everybody knows these songs and since the churches are always packed on Christmas Eve it is a strong and joyful singing.

After church it’s back home – and waiting for Christkind (Christ Child). Yes – it often is not Santa coming through the chimney (there are not that many houses with a fireplace anyway) but Christkind. When I was a child I always envisioned Christkind with golden curly hair and a flowing white dress, an angelic smile on its face. It would place the presents in “die gute Stube” (“the good room” = living room) and magically disappear, unseen by anyone. The children are called in and they stand in awe looking at the Christmas tree – that was brought in and decorated only the day before (or even in the morning) and very often carries real candles on its branches (I’m a little bit afraid that those of you who have read about how we set the advent wreath on fire now might think of us as pyromaniacs). I have always loved the real candles, it smells differently and the whole atmosphere is – yes, magical. After singing a few Christmas carols everybody opens their presents accompanied by Christmas music on the radio.

And if you’re still awake or missed the afternoon/evening service you can go to midnight mass – always my favorite Christmas service. A huge tree is lit (some with real candles – we live dangerously in Germany!), the atmosphere is festive and peaceful – it is our “Silent Night, Holy Night”.

May the magic of Christmas touch your heart, wherever you are.

If you're celebrating Hanukkah, I wish you joy and happiness. May you have a peaceful Holiday of Lights.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Opt Outside

Are you busy this time of year? I know that I am. There is so much to do that I haven't had any time for visits in Blogland, and forget about writing a blogpost. My shop has been pretty busy over the past six weeks which makes me very happy. I participated in two holiday fairs and did well. On top of that I started a new part-time job in a high school library at the end of October - when I get a few pictures I will tell you more about that. Ten days ago Kaefer came home for the holidays and I enjoy every single minute with her. It is wonderful to hear her singing all the time, she's practicing the piano a lot and we binge watch old seasons of "Call the Midwife".

She was home a couple days over Thanksgiving as well. We celebrated Thanksgiving with friends of us and their extended family - a wonderful loud and crazy family, just the way I like it. On Black Friday we decided not to join the other famous craziness but opt outside instead. I think this started last year when REI announced that their stores are closed for Black Friday to give their employees - and customers - the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. It was such a successful idea that it was repeated this year, and this time the California State Parks participated by giving away free passes. We were lucky to get a pass to our Sugarloaf Ridge State Park which is just 10 miles away from where we live.

It was a rather gray day, perfect for hiking. We did a four mile hike up the mountain and then across some meadows back down to the parking lot.

Every now and then we stopped for the views. Even here in the wilderness we could see vineyards - they seem to be everywhere in our county.

We walked through forests and open land, up and down, sometimes very steep. I'm not very good at steep climbing anymore...

But we were rewarded with great views from the top over the land to the bay - I think that you can see San Francisco from here on clear days.

There was still some fog lingering over the valleys.

On our way we saw so much beauty. Nature always fascinates me and I feel refreshed after spending time in the outdoors.

But the very best of this day was that I could spend it with my two favorite people.

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?