Friday, September 28, 2007

Podcasts and Craft Swap

I have been spending a lot of time listening to podcasts lately. It has been great! Since I am so late to the game, when I find a podcaster that I like, there are tons of back podcasts to listen to. My favorite knitting podcaster is Kelly from Knit Picks. Knit Picks is my favorite internet yarn supplier and I'm very sad that they won't ship to Europe.

Well, I've made it through all 21 of Kelly's podcasts (22 comes out later today sometime ... but I probably won't hear it until Monday) so I've started in on Sister Diane from Crafty Pod. She posts to the blog daily ... with all different crafts and posts a podcast once every other week. (You can click on the podcast category to find all of the podcasts). I still have 43 of those podcasts to go. That should last me a few weeks.

I've learned about all sorts of craft ideas from Crafty Pod. Currently I'm excited about this idea of a craft swap. She had an interview with the founder of Swap-Bot (Crafty Pod episode 45) which is a website that features all sorts of craft swaps. Here's my understanding of how this works. An organizer says I want to start a swap for ___. They post it saying when people need to sign up by, when items need to be mailed and how many partners each person will have. People sign up to swap ___. Once the sign-up deadline arrives, the computer matches people ... this is done in a way that an uneven number of participants can play. People get emails saying who their swap partners are. They can then look up information on their partner's profile and make a very special ___. They send theirs out and they get one in return ... made specifically for them.

So I've signed up for three starter swaps. One paper craft, one knitting, and one networking. The first (and easiest) closed today. I should get an email tomorrow as to who my partners are. I will have four partners to whom I email my blog address. I will also get four blogs to check out. It is encouraged to post comments and actively participate. -- So look lively folks, we're about to get company. My paper craft swap is to make three Christmas cards and send them out. That should be fun. And my knitting swap is a winter scarf. This swap is a Europe only swap so I will "meet" two other European knitters (one that I send my scarf to and and one that sends a scarf to me).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Düsseldorf II

Longtime readers of this blog (way back from two weeks ago) may notice that there was never an original Düsseldort post. Good Job! However, this trip to Düsseldorf last weekend was our second trip.

What these two trips had in common:
1. Beautiful Weather
Both times we traveled to Düsseldorf we had bright blue sky and it was at least 70° F.
2. Charming Altstadt
Here is a photo of the Rathaus (city hall).
3. Walk Along the Rhein
Many people enjoyed the last hurrah of summer weather.

Here the similarities ended. The last time we went to Düsseldorf we went with a group of at least 50 Goethe Institute participants. The normally excellent German train system was out of whack. There was a problem on the tracks which delayed all trains and made it difficult to get from Köln to Düsseldorf. So we went via the Netherlands (not quite ... but almost). Anyway, it took 4 hours the first time but only an hour this last weekend. With such a long delay the last time, we only had a few hours in Düsseldorf but we did see the Media Harbor, the Altstadt, and Königsallee (Rodeo Drive of Germany).

Königsallee has a canal (part of the Düssel for which Düsseldorf is named) running through the center. There is a street on either side (one direction of traffic each) and then expensive shops. The first time we went was a Saturday ... the street was so crowded you couldn't even look in the windows. The second time was a Sunday so all of the shops were closed. This seems like a great time to window shop ... but I was with two men.

The trip this last weekend was for the purpose of meeting up with our friend Eric. I've known Eric since my first year at CSU Hayward (for my masters degree). While at Hayward, I took some mathematics classes at UC Berkeley where Eric was a graduate student in Mathematics. Eric taught me lots of math. Fortunately for our friendship, Eric and Arlo really like each other and I really like Eric's fiance Mette. Eric and Mette are currently living in Nijmegen in the Netherlands (a common theme when it comes to us and Düsseldorf) where Mette is working at the university (Art History). Unfortunately, Mette was sick and a bit overwhelmed with her course load and so was unable to join us this weekend.

It was Sunday so there were very few places open. However, the main point of the trip was to visit and catch up ... so we walked for a while and then sat for a spell before we repeated. We had a beautiful lunch in the Altstadt (on what I call Restaurant Row).

The mathematicians deep in conversation
Lunch in the Altstadt.
While walking through the Hofgarten we saw this sleeping beauty tree (or the mys-tree as Arlo and Eric wanted to call it). The case appears to be preserving some sort of lichen on the tree ... but I'm not sure.
It seems like the wrong time of year for babies ... but these baby black swans were adorable. I tried out the movie feature on my digital camera. I think it came out pretty well.
Some interesting architecture in Düsseldorf (in the media harbor)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Deutschsprechen and Laundry

For the first time in years I am carting laundry to a laundromat (washsalon). While I will always prefer a washer and dryer in my own home, there is something to be said for the laundromat. When I lived in Los Angeles (the last time I had to use a laundromat) I would drive over with bags and bags of laundry and get an entire month worth of laundry done in an hour and a half. I would usually go on Sunday morning and bring my most favorite of all periodicals -- The Sunday Paper.

Here in Bonn, I have to walk many blocks with the laundry so I can't let it stack up like those who live in a car world. So I go every week. I tried going on Monday mornings but it seems that everyone that doesn't go on the weekends goes on Monday mornings instead -- very crowded. So I have gone on Tuesday or Wednesday for the last three weeks. I bring my knitting and have a fairly enjoyable time.

What does this have to do with speaking German? I'm glad you asked. It seems that anyone who has a question regarding the operation of the machines turns to me. I'm thinking this might be because of the domestic air my knitting lends. It might also be that I've gotten into the habit of smiling at people as a pre-apology for being unable to understand or communicate smoothly. Whatever the case, laundry has become an opportunity to speak German. You wouldn't think I would need to create these special opportunities since I'm living in, well, Germany but I do not tend to strike up conversations ... I need to be forced into speaking to strangers by commerce needs or by being approached first.

Last week I educated an extremely friendly Polish woman, Agnes, on the mysteries of the washsalon. She is also learning German but is much more advanced that I am. We exchanged phone numbers and I was actually brave enough to call her and set up a Deutschsprach date for this past Saturday. She doesn't speak any English (although she understands a few words) and I know no Polish ... so German and pantomime are our only options for communication. It went well ... exhausting, but really good. We met for two hours after I had already spent 4 hours shopping with my other German friend, Deborah. In the past, I have done well in forcing myself to speak German to Deborah ... but evidentially I can't speak German AND walk on cobblestones WHILE navigating the crazily busy Saturday streets.

Craft Update

I finished my hat on Friday. While I am happy with how it turned out it is not quite like the hat I saw on Etsy that I was trying to model. I've included a picture of that hat and the top view of my hat for comparison purposes. I think this knitter used a smaller needle (or thicker yarn) and he definitely did his decreases differently than I did. I don't feel I can just post a picture of someone else's hat so here is the link to his Etsy store. As you may recall, this is the prototype for making Arlo a warm winter hat. All I have to do now is get him into a yarn store to pick out the color he wants.

I've also added several pages to my art journal. Here is my favorite one:

Tour of Bonn Zentrum

Last week Bonn experienced a last hurrah of summer. We had beautiful blue skies and about 75 degree (Fahrenheit) weather. So I at long last took a photographic walking tour of the Fußgangerzone to show the folks back home. The tour starts at the Max Planck Institut für Mathematik (where Arlo is working for the year), winds its way through the center part of the city and then gives a tour of our apartment. Be sure to check out the map feature.

Here is the Picassa Album with the tour.

P.S. I emailed this specifically to some people ... it hasn't changed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Arlo and I figured out how to take the train to Köln yesterday. This is the largest city (although not the capital) in the state of Nordrhein Westfalen. I think I will be going to Köln often as it takes less than a half hour and is in the range of the monthly train pass that I purchase. The train pass is good after 2:00 on weekdays and all day on weekends.

For this first trip we focused our attention on the Köln Dom, the medieval cathedral. The cathedral was begun in the 13th century (1265 to be exact) and worked on through the mid 1500's but work stopped for 300 years. In 1842 construction resumed (using the original plans) and was completed by 1880. During the war, most of the medieval windows and other items were removed for safe keeping and so the originals are in the cathedral today.
We walked around by ourselves for about an hour before taking a tour in English. Unfortunately, you cannot enter the oldest portion of the cathedral during confession so our tour did not take us there. We did, however, see much of it on our own. I would love to take the tour through the excavation site (there was an earlier church on the site that dates back to at least 870) but the tour is only in German ... so it will have to wait (she says with great optimism).

On a lighter note, we also walked down the Rhein to the Mmmuseum. This is a chocolate museum. It was very interesting. I had no idea what the cocoa tree and its bean looked like. (This is a picture of the tree with its blossom. There were no bean pods on the trees but they are about 20 times the size of the flower.) The museum has a small, operational, chocolate factory. It shows each step, from the extraction of the cocoa powder and cocoa butter down to the wrapping of individual chocolates. And of course we got to taste the result.

Crafting in Germany

Germany has been very good for my crafting life. I did not get my normal summer break this year. Almost as soon as the semester ended I started teaching in the summer session and immediately following that I taught a professional development class for two weeks. I then had just enough time to get the house packed up and put into storage before we left for Germany and began our language class. Well, now the language class is over and while this is bad for my goal of learning German it is excellent for my goal of quality craft time.

I completed my first bit of color work with this fair isle pattern. I had to tear it out several times, not because of the fair isle stitches but because I didn't like the rolled brim of the pattern. I decided to make a boucle brim but I had never really knit with this before and it took some working through.

Using some stash yarn (yes I brought a bit of my stash with me) I knit some pot holders. Our apartment did not have any and I am not very good at using towels as pot holders. I also knitted a slip stitch scarf with both the white and a purple boucle yarn. It is very warm and cozy. On my needles now is another hat. I saw this hat on Etsy and thought I could recreate it. So far it is going well, I am just about to start the decreases so we will see. I think this one will be my size so once it is finished I will see how much bigger I need to make it to fit Arlo. He doesn't like the yarn in my stash however so we will have to go yarn shopping -- terrible, I know. I am also starting a jacket for Isobel (Sheri's baby, in Ireland), knitting a present for my niece, and some washcloths (the washcloths here are like mitts and since things don't dry here as fast as they did in Tucson I don't like these very much. I had some cotton so I though I would try a washcloth pattern. My first one came out wide enough but not long enough so I am working on version number two.

I am also resurrecting my love of paper crafts. I saw some beautiful journals on Craftster (can you tell I've been spending a lot of time on crafting websites?) and thought I would make one for my self.
Here are two pictures of the calendar pages that I've water- colored. The nice thing about water colors is that you can either write first or paint first. It comes out either way. My goal is to write in a square each day at the very least. I also have other pages for books, crafts and of course general thoughts.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Language Lessons

The month of August was almost too overwhelming to write about. We attended a language class at the Goethe Institut in Bad Godesberg for 4 1/2 hours a day for 17 days. This was thanks to John, Arlo's Dad. This class was amazing! I can't believe how much we learned in such a short amount of time. Unfortunately, without the structure of the class, I am having a hard time continuing my studies. I am making progress though.

In addition to having our class daily, we had to figure out all of the things that keep life moving. It may not seem like a big deal to do laundry or go grocery shopping but everything is just slightly different. (Ask me sometime about my epic journey to find baking soda.) We managed to get a bank account, set up phone service and high speed internet, as well as register with the city -- all with hand gestures, a few German phrases and lots of patience. While students here learn English all through their schooling, the typical German does not want to have to speak it. If asked they will almost all reply that no they do not speak English. If you try to operate in German and throw in a few English sentences here and there they seem to understand you just fine ... but it is nerve wracking. I felt so guilty that I had come here and didn't know the language. I am doing much better now ... I get tongue-tied and I don't always know the right word but I have become familiar with the people I interact with and this has helped.

Living in Deutschland

Arlo and I moved to Bonn, Germany at the beginning of August. Arlo has a 9 month appointment at the Max Planck Institut für Mathematik that began on the 1st of September. I will be spending my time learning the language (yes, we both came here knowing about 5 phrases of Deutsch), exploring and working on my favorite crafts: knitting, paper crafts, and cooking.