Friday, December 31, 2010

End of Year Blues

It's been a while since I have posted a family photo on my blog. Dwelling too much on the past can sometimes really bring you down, you know. So I stopped for a while. But I thought I'd share this wonderful oldie with you. In this picture you can see 5 German fellows in their World War I uniforms. The tall guy, in the top row on the far left side, is my grandpa Emil Seckler. What an odd picture. Five guys practically hugging a mortar shell. In front of the big phallus shaped bomb is a German sign. In the English translation it reads: Who knows if we shall see each other again. This picture was sent as a postcard (Feldpostkarte) to the family at home from the scene of the action.

I honestly thought about sending it out as a Christmas card to my family this year. Why? I have not been back to the Vaterland for over 5 years - since I went back to bury my dad. The family is getting a bit tired of my excuses. Mostly it's the money thing...We just have not been able to save the $10,000 it would cost to fly our little family over to Europe. What? That much? Yup the car rental, tickets, hotels and this and that for a family of four. Who can afford it in times like this? So here I am again at the end of 2010 making excuses to my family back home.

New Year resolutions seem so silly. What is a New Year's resolution anyways? I guess I did have some at the end of last year. Ahem, like "must visit family in Germany" this year. Another one of them was to get physically fitter, go exercise at least three times a week. I suppose I succeeded in that respect. I worked out hard each week, except for the month when I broke my butt and had to go bury another family member, in the US this time. Definitely not a highlight of my year. All the other resolutions sort of fell by the wayside. I can barely remember what they were. I guess I could check on my blog here, where I made a list with of them. LOL

Forget it! There are quite a few things I want to improve and change in my life. But maybe instead of making huge plans and having a list of resolutions it would be better to just take things on one day at a time. Maybe it's better to work on the small things that need improvement - one thing at a time than to have these huge goals that seem so far out of reach.

Germany I am saving my pennies! I swear I will make it home in 2011!

Happy New Year to all of you lovely people who have followed my blog, customers, friends, Etsy teammates, and random strangers who have dropped in to read and comment on my immigrant journey! Thanks for laughing and crying with me in 2010! Hope to see you here in 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Healthy Salad...

I don't know about you, but over here it's about high time to lay off the sugar and get the family back on the right track after all the Christmas snacking and unhealthy eating that comes with the season. New Year is coming and with it the resolutions - plans to lose those extra pounds we put on... So if you need a recipe that is both healthy and loved by children try this one:

You need only a few items:

  • carrots
  • apples
  • raisins
  • chopped nuts or almonds
  • lemon juice
  • honey
  • apple cider vinegar
  • vegetable oil
  • pepper and salt

I am not giving any measurements here. Our kids love this salad which is commonly known as a "Rohkostsalat" = in translation raw foods salad - in Germany. They make it on their own by just throwing the above ingredients together as they please...

Of course, the apples and carrots need to be washed, peeled, and grated. But once that is done, it's just up to the chef to add other things. Throw in a couple of handfuls of chopped nuts. If you love raisins, like we do, put in a few tablespoons of those. Add a bit of lemon juice to keep the apples from turning brown and some honey for sweetening.

This salad makes a lovely snack or refreshing side dish for any occasion! Best of all: you can tell the kids to make it on their own! That is, if they are old enough to use a peeler and grating tool!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christstollen Part II

Are your READY? First you may want to ask yourself: Do I really have time for this project, in the midst of the Christmas insanity, in the middle of writing & mailing out cards, buying & wrapping gifts, taking your kids to Christmas concerts and Nutcracker performances? Are you sure about this?

Well, if your answer is "Yes", you should start shopping for these items now! Might take you a while to scout for the ingredients:

For >>the<< recipe you need:

  • 1 kg flour

  • 450 g butter

  • 1/2 liter warm milk

  • 200 g sugar

  • 100 g of fresh yeast (ca. 5 tsp of dry yeast)

  • 10 g salt

  • spices: 1 tsp each of ginger powder, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg

  • pinch of ground cloves

  • zest of one lemon

  • 100 ml rum (whenever I am not looking my husband adds more to the bowl...)

  • 500 g raisins

  • 150 g corinths (small kind of raisins, I found them at Sprouts)

  • 200 g almond flour

  • 150 g candied lemon peel

  • 150 g candied orange peel

  • logs of marzipan, if you are feeling rich buy 2-3 (You know they keep that stuff hidden in the baking section at the grocery store, I swear. Usually I find it behind a display of some sort on the bottom of some shelves...Make sure you squeeze the package to ensure its freshness. If the paste inside the cardboard and wrapper are rock hard and won't give, don't purchase! Grab the next package and repeat till you find one that is squeezable. Sorry, but I came home many a time with old marzipan. I guess not too many people buy that stuff)

  • 100 g butter

  • powdered sugar

  • Vanilla sugar ( impossible to find in this nation - find a long lost relative in Germany and have them mail it to you!)

Step 1 Put raisins, corinths, chopped candied citrus fruit peel, almond flour, rum, lemon zest in a bowl and soak over night or for a longer time in the refrigerator. Monitor husband and bottle of rum closely!

Step 2 Make the pre-dough. put flour in a bowl and make a little well. In the well put a few tablespoons of lukewarm milk mixed with the yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Stir taking small amounts of the flour from the side of your well. Cover with a dusting of flour, put a towel over the bowl, and let it rest in a warm non-drafty place ( are you kiddin' me? there is no non-drafty place when you live in an old house ) for 45 minutes. During that time you can work on those last Christmas cards for the uncle and aunt in Germany you forgot...

Step 3 Go back to your dough and see if any rising action took place. If not, write more cards or wrap another gift. Maybe you could mail that last package to a customer. By now the lines at the post office might be too long.But you got time! If the dough has risen, once you return from your errant, add the rest of the warm milk, spices, butter, sugar, and mix all of in with the flour. You know the real German Hausfrau has big arms from doing this. It's hard labor to move these mountains of stuff and kneed them together. Luckily I own a kitchen aid. My scrawny arms could never manage this. So hopefully you have one of those miracle tools, too! Once everything is nicely mixed together into a sticky ball of dough, let it sit and rise for another hour. During that time you could run out and buy another gift for your husband. If he is deserving...

Step 4 Hopefully you have removed the soaking fruits from the refrigerator - so the warm yeasty dough doesn't suffer too much of a shock from the cold fruit mixture! Your bowl is probably too full already. But you can take out batches of the dough and kneed in the fruit mixture by hand. I like to do it that way because you get a feel for how sticky the dough is. Maybe you want to add some more flour...

Step 5 Make loaves. Split the dough into parts, depending on how many loaves you want to make. I usually make one larger loaf and two small ones. But you can do whatever you want. Roll out the first batch of dough flat. Take the marzipan log out of its package, sprinkle some powdered sugar on your workspace and roll out the marzipan as flat as you can. Move the marzipan over on top of your rolled out yeasty dough pieces and roll the two layers together. Sort of like making a jelly roll. Shape the roll into a nice loaf and place onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Start working on the next loaf. You can bake more than one loaf on a cookie sheet! Put towel over the finished loaves and set them in warm place to rise again! Is it Christmas yet? =)

Step 6 I promise you are almost there...Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit while the loaves are rising once again. Bake them until they are cooked all the way through. Now this is the tricky part. In case you thought the rest was hard... Maybe it's living at high altitude that messes me up each year. Sometime I end up with loaves that are way too dry. Other times they are still sticky despite the fact that I stuck in a knitting needle and tested them. It's really kind of hit or miss. I have baked them for 35 -45 minutes. But I am hoping some day mine will turn out as perfect as my mother's. Sigh!

Step 7 It's the last one I promise, honestly! As soon as the loaves come out of the oven brush the hot loaves with melted butter and sprinkle with vanilla and powdered sugar. Does it look like baby Jesus in his swaddling cloths? Good job! Once they have cooled down wrap the precious loaves tightly, put a bow on them, and give them to a person who has been good to you all year. Or feed them to the family right then! They are probably tired of waiting around for you since you spent most of the day in the kitchen...

So sorry for another long post. But I warned you, right!

If you really should endeavor to make some Stollen, please, let me know how they turned out! I'd love to hear about your experiences!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christstollen - The Oldest German Christmas Delicacy!

Ever heard of Christstollen? It's only the oldest German Christmas sweet around. What is it?
Here is a quote from Wikipedia. In case you ever wondered why reformation was inevitable. You know it was not about religion - but about butter, really! =)

"The old name Striezel came from Strüzel or Stroczel, "awaken" (Old Prussian: troskeilis), which came to mean "early-baked loaf of bread". The shape of the cake was originally meant to represent the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes.[6]

The early Stollen was a different pastry, the ingredients were very different - flour, oats and water.[7]

As a Christmas pastry, Stollen was baked for the first time at the Saxon Royal Court in 1427,[8] and was made with flour, yeast, oil and water.

The Advent season was a time of fasting, and bakers were not allowed to use butter, only oil, and the cake was tasteless and hard.[4]

In the 15th century, in medieval Saxony (a region in the eastern part of Germany, north of Bavaria and south of Brandenburg), the Prince Elector Ernst (1441 - 1486) and his brother Duke Albrecht (1443 –1500) decided to remedy this by writing to the Pope in Rome. The Saxon bakers needed to use butter, as oil in Saxony was expensive and hard to come by, and had to be made from turnips, which was unhealthy.

Pope Nicholas V (1397 – 1455), in 1450 denied the first appeal. Five popes died until finally, Pope Innocent VIII, (1432 – 1492) [8] in 1490 sent a letter to the Prince, known as the "Butter-Letter" which granted the use of butter (without having to pay a fine) - but only for the Prince-Elector and his family and household.

Others were also permitted to use butter, but with the condition of having to pay annually 1/20th of a gold Gulden to support the building of the Freiburg Minster. The ban on butter was removed when Saxony became Protestant.

Over the centuries, the cake changed from being a simple, fairly tasteless "bread" to a sweeter cake with richer ingredients, such as marzipan, although the traditional Stollen is not as sweet, light and airy as the copies made around the world."

During Advent I like to bake a few batches of Stollen loaves to give to some special people who have made my life better over the year.

It usually takes me a whole day to bake a couple of loaves, since there are so many steps involved. As we say in German: Gut' Ding will Weile haben!" In translation: All good things take time. Stollen are made with yeast. Yeast means rising time. Rising means waiting. It's a good way to celebrate Advent. After all it's about waiting, right? There are so many different steps involved. I was going to post a recipe here. But since this post is so lengthy already I shall have to make you wait. It's Advent after all! LOL

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Artfire - I don't get it...

Okay, so I have been on Artfire since October this year. I mean seriously, that's when I opened a Pro account. Before that I had a regular account but never visited much. There was all the hype about locking into the $5.95 deal back then. Now I have been there as a pro for almost 3 months.
How in the world does one get sales on that site? I just can't figure it out.

1. I transfered all - or most of my Etsy items there
2. I offered them for less money than on my Etsy site
3. I checked in daily
4. I tweeted and facebooked about it
5. I kept getting featured in tons of collections, heck I even made it to the frontpage one day.

Still NADA. What is the secrete of that site? I just don't get it.
Meanwhile I have sales on Etsy every day....I should be happy. Looks like my eggs will have to remain in that one "etsybasket" ... I'd be glad for any advice...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Of Unsung Heroes...

Sorry for not being around much lately! It's the time of year when all of us can hardly get a breather. Who has the time to write and read blogs anyways? Between making and shipping last orders for my doll shop, I had to run my daughter to The Nutcracker dress rehearsals and performances.

I am exhausted. The late nights have taken a toll on the whole family. We are all kind of grumpy around here... Well, we did it again: We survived another Nutcracker! By "we" I mean us moms. We are kind of the unsung heroes of that show. I'm not certain how many hours of woman power go into driving the kids around, waiting for them at practice, shopping for beauty supplies and those pesky pink tights that always appear to get holes at the most inconvenient time, braiding hair, doing the job of a professional make-up artists, providing drinks, snacks, and wholesome meals on the run, keeping the little divas entertained and in line while waiting to go on stage...

Each year the questions pertains: How and why do we do this?


Because it's so amazing when we get to see our kids' happy glowing faces before they go on stage each night. Because we love to soak in the sparkling beauty of the over 100 dancers from our community in their bright colored costumes. Because we feel that maybe part of that applause we can hear, back behind the scenes, is meant for us. Because, despite the unseasonable warm weather and the missing snow, we feel like Christmas is finally here!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Impressions from the 36th German Songfest At Our Savior's Lutheran Church

Christmas is all about tradition. Germans in the Old and New World love traditions. So today I am sharing with you some impressions from the the 36th German Songfest hosted by our church family each year in early December. Our family has attended Our Savior's Lutheran Church for 8 years. In fact, it was this celebration, in part, that brought me to this church. Over a 100 people of German heritage come from far and near each year to eat German Kuchen, listen to German music, and sing Christmas carols in the German language.

Going to the songfest is a bittersweet event for me. It's encouraging to me, as a modern day German immigrant, to find that even after living here for many generations, people still celebrate and cherish their German roots.

Yet being there, makes me miss Germany as intensely as ever. It's almost as if this little taste of what used to be, makes me yearn for the real thing: The German Christkindl'markets, Lebkuchen, the language, and of course, most of all my family, and the people I have not seen in 5 years. It's hard to believe, but it's been over 5 years since I last went back to Germany.

The cakes made by the old church ladies are as sweet and as good as any German grandma's. But I've never had the heart to tell people at my church that Germans serve Christmas cookies and Christstollen around this time of year...

The little band made up of two accordions and a dulcimer was awesome. What seems missing is the children singing, doing solos on recorders, and reciting poetry, and the standard visit of Saint Nikolaus at such Christmas celebrations in Germany...While the songfest went on, most of the kids had Sunday school. Only a few stragglers, including my kids and the youth group, serving the cake, attended the German fest. Is it mostly a party for old people? A party for the nostalgic? The oldest person was 95.

This year our church had a speaker who came dressed up as Martin Luther. Quoting from Luther sermons, he warned us about the dangers of gluttony - eating and drinking too much around this time of year. Ah, some lessons though hundreds of years past - never get old!

Don't get me wrong! I love my little family, and I really appreciate my American church family. I find the rituals comforting and soothing to the soul. But with each year that passes, I also realize the things I have lost. Is that how this tradition got started maybe? As a way to remember things lost.

Such is the plight of the German immigrant old and new. So I keep saving my pennies in the hope that maybe next year I'll be able to celebrate Christmas in Germany once more.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Black Friday Frenzy

It's Friday morning somewhere in the US. Little conspirational groups are assembling in cold dark places in the wee morning hours. Despite the fact that their toes are freezing off, and they forgot to bring a hat, scarf, or mittens they huddle together. Some are not brave enough to face the elements. There are lurkers in cars that are kept running, spewing fumes on the innocent herd of people gathering - where? In front of JoAnn' s Fabrics & Crafts.

Is this really me standing there waiting excitedly with them? I never believed I would participate in this craziness. I assure you there is nothing like it in Germany. Not like Germans don't enjoy a good sale. But this? Nope, don't have it. Only in America...

What a curious thing to behold. This year is actually my third year. I am becoming a bit of veteran here. Part of the acculturation process, I suppose. The last two years I arrived right around 6 am, just when the store opened. Too late, deary! You will not get a shopping cart that way. Must have shopping cart to lug around all those bolts of fabric and tons of other stuff that wasn't really on sale...So here I stand with my camera. Asking people for permission to take a picture for my blog. You know, to document and collect evidence of this phenomenon. Permission granted, I take a picture of the first 5 hardy shoppers.

I made it at 5.30 AM. They came even earlier. I am so proud of myself. Skipping breakfast really helps. One fellow shopper tells me how she has already hit three other stores. The worst being Best Buy, where police was called to hold over 500 shoppers at bay. Maybe next year I'll go there to see for myself. But I am kind of a scaredy cat. And I really don't like crowds very much - unless I am in Germany and enjoying the benefits of public transportation. I don't mind rubbing shoulders if it involves getting places. But shopping. Nope.

So there it goes. The door finally opens. The run for the shopping carts is on! Got one! But OH NO! I was too slow again. Someone grabbed that cute flannel fabric that I really wanted. Will she buy the whole bolt? I am simply not tough enough for this event. Besides warm clothes, the task requires speed and agility. I mostly stand back and watch the scene unfold around me, tentatively putting a couple of bolts in my cart.

There are quite a few gentlemen around who have come to support their wives in their mission this morning. No way I would ever get my husband to come here. Quickly, I snap a picture of a dude with a cowboy hat. He gives me a bored look. I suppose he won't mind having his picture on my blog, would he?

I remember the first year I attended this event. There was a husband wife team. She shopped while he was instructed to wait in the check-out line. Then came the nervous breakdown. He made it to the front of the register too early and paid for the stuff. It was quite the scene, since she had to wait in line again plus lost her 20% off coupon on the rest of her haul. Wow! I couldn't help but smile. But really it was mostly sad. The guy got yelled at after he had endured and shopped so valiantly for hours with her. How is that fair?

Well, I got my share of the loot this this year. I humbly put only 8 bolts in my cart and bought two yards each. There was no funny/sad scene like the one I witnessed my first year. Everybody was really nice and friendly. The sales staff even offered to let me do a repeat shot of them in action. My neighbor in line was really awesome. We talked about sewing machines and what we intend to make. I got some really good tips, and she even offered me a few cuts of yardage from some bolts she had stacked on her cart! :). Seamstresses and crafts people are really peaceful and kind folks. All the early bird shoppers were happy as a lark!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pumpkin Rolls / Kuerbisbroetchen

In my desperate search to find more recipes to use up our organically grown Zucca Barucca squashes, I found a recipe for rolls in one of my German bread baking books. Have you ever heard of pumpkin rolls? They sell them in German bakeries this time of year. The perfect side to go with your Thanksgiving dinner! It's not too late! You can still whip some up!

I changed up the German recipe slightly since I did not like that it used all white flour.

  • 300 grams of pumpkin puree
  • 250 grams of whole wheat flour
  • 250 grams of regular flour
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • touch of nutmeg
  • 200 ml of milk
  • 3 tsp. of dry yeast
  1. Sift flour, add the salt and nutmeg.Put milk in microwave for one and a half minutes and warm up to a little warmer than room temperature. Add yeast to milk and stir until it is blended in with the milk.
  2. Add the milk yeast mixture to flour. Add pumpkin puree. Knead together until it stick together. You want a nice dough that is not too sticky. Add more flour if needed.
  3. Place dough in bowl and place towel over it. Let rise in a warm spot. I like to put mine on the radiators. Works great this time of year...
  4. Once the dough has about doubled in size knead again. Shape into 15 little rolls and place on greased cookie sheet. While the oven is warming to 400 degrees let the buns rest and rise once more.
  5. When the oven has reached temperature put buns in and bake for about 20-25 minutes. They are ready when they are turning brown and sound hollow when you tap on the bottom of the bun!
Delicious! I got to run and whip up another load for the feast since the kids have been chewing them up already...You need lots of buns for Thanksgiving. But they can be enjoyed throughout the season! It also helps keep the house warm...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Warm Thoughts

Wenn Dir kalt ist, mach Dir warme Gedanken!If you are feeling cold, think warm thoughts!

Or something like that in translation...All of a sudden it got really cold Colorado. Looks like Winter is finally here. We even had some snow last week. I am having a tough time getting up in the mornings. Since we live in a drafty old house, I fear getting out from under my warm covers each morning. I really must tape those cracks around the windows today. It's like sleeping with an open window when it's 5 degrees outside.

Steh' auf Du altes Murmeltier, bevor ich die Geduld verlier! Get up you old marmot, before I lose patience! I sing that little song to the kids when they don't want to get up for school. Now I have to hum it to myself.

Must get up and finish those custom orders. There is also this pesky pile of packages sitting on my shelf that needs address labels. Do I really have to go venture out today and take them to the Post Office? Oh well, there is that shipment to Canada. Internationally shipping is more trouble than you think.

Good thing we have that wood stove and hubby got up and made me a fire. I love watching the fire. Kind of mesmerizing. Check out that cool volcano shape! The log had a hole from a branch, and fire is spewing out like lava. Stop! Got to go make more dollies...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Who Will Do the Wash?

Seriously. The complaints are getting bad around here. Every time Christmas rolls around I get tons of orders. Why can't people order in the summer? How can you tell it's Christmas at GermanDolls? Not just by the amount of little sticky notes by my sewing table. The wall is getting covered. It's that darn laundry piling up. And the constant nagging by the family:" Mom, where are my socks? I am out of shirts and undies." Oh dear! How will I ever catch up? Not to mention the dust bunnies under the beds? The German Hausfrau is cringing at the sheer thought of them...

But I am making some really cute dolls. And my studio is spotless, right? =)

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Baby to Care for...

I couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about why boys need dolls. I recently received a letter by a customer which confirmed my belief. I am convinced that all boys should have a doll to play with in their early childhood years.

Here is an excerpt from the letter I received:

"...If I could adequately express how much BOTH dolls were appreciated, not just by my son, but by my husband and I, I would. The first doll, who we ordered before we were expecting any children with the intention of giving her to our first child, ended up serving a very special purpose. Our first pregnancy, sadly, ended in a miscarriage. When we returned from the hospital, we put away all the baby things but kept your doll out. Having her near helped me to heal and keep a positive outlook during this hard time.

So not only have your dolls been wonderful for children, but at least two adults- my husband and I- have also found them to be a great comfort. Your work is immensely meaningful.

Our son has just come back from buying bread with his Daddy- and of course, Baby went with them. He woke up this morning and kissed her before making her pretend to kiss me. She is bringing out his kind, gentle nature. I think more little boys should be given dolls to love at such an early age. "

Receiving this letter made me cry. Yes, all boys need dolls. Maybe even the grown-up ones - at times... I love making dolls but the there is no better reward than receiving such a letter with cute pictures attached like the ones above...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I did it: 1000 Etsy Sales and What it Means...

I did it! I reached my goal and made it to 1000 items sold in my Etsy shop yesterday! And it's not even Thanksgiving yet. But it's time to the say Thank You! Thank you so much, to Amanda from JustHatched, who purchased that 1000th item and took me to the finish line! Thank you also to Mary, Sheila, Jenny, Nancy, and all my other great customers whose names I can't recall at this very moment. I am so excited. Kind of like an actor that just won the academy awards.

But in the excitement lets not forget that it took me over 3 years - 3 years of hard work, countless hours of cutting, sewing, crocheting, embroidering, taking pictures, writing, listing, and calloused fingers to rack up that many sales.

I guess I really need to thank Etsy too, since having Etsy as a sales venue really helped me get my work out there! So, I thank you Etsy! Though I often gripe about you and your wonky ways of doing business, I love you dearly, and I wouldn't have sold a thing without you.

Am I rich and famous now? Let's not kid ourselves. I am barely making enough to help with some of the bills of our little household. Sometimes I wake up at night and fret thinking I should get a real job. Reality check: I don't make enough with my dolls to support the family. Will I ever? Is it even possible to make a living working in a cottage industry in this world?

Well, today I am going to celebrate. I got a good reason. Plus I got the sweetest letter from a customer who says her little boy is inseperable from his new baby. I may not be rich with money, but there are other more important riches in life! Don't you forget that a minute, you starving artists out there! Think of all the smiles we put on kids' faces with our toys and beautiful creations! Money is a necessary evil in this world. It pays the bills but it does not feed the soul...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Big Sis'

Big Sis' didn't quite make it out of the door yesterday. She waved Good Bye to Little Sister. Now she is sitting patiently in a chair waiting to go on the big trip...She had to wait a tad longer because she needed a slightly bigger wardrobe. You know, formal teas require extra special clothing. You can't eat cucumber sandwiches or enjoy a scone wearing rags...LOL

Big Sister loves the outdoors. Here she is saying Good Bye to the big oaktree in front of my studio windows. No worries though. There are lots of big old trees in Merry Old England, right!

It took me a while to make these cute little Acorn Booties to match big sisters green Acorn Dress. But I think they look fabulous and will be a hit in the London fashion scene...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bye Bye Baby

I have been working on two dolls at the same time. One custom order was a sort of emergency call by a person who had bought a doll long time ago. The dolls I created are very similar in looks. Both have brown eyes and brown hair. Only one of them has long hair - the other short hair. So I called them Big and Little Sis'! For sure, they must be related!

As they came to life in my little studio, they became rather good friends - chatting, hanging out together, pondering their new lives in different places.

Today their suitcases are packed, and they will leave town and go on a long trip. Little Sis' appeared very worried. What will life on the East Coast be like? I told her that a little boy named Alfredo will be so happy to meet her. He lost another doll I made for his family. Hopefully little Sis' will be able to fill the big hole that was left when his first baby was lost in the streets of Philadelphia. I wonder who took in this baby? Why wasn't it returned by the finder. Hopefully she is safe!

Big Sister is moving to a foreign country. She is quite excited about her new adventures living near London, Great Britain. I told her how pretty and green it is there in the summers. I know, because I lived there for a year when I was a teenager. But that's another story I must tell you later.

Maybe Big Sister will even get to see the Queen of England! I hear she just joined Facebook, my friends! Long Live the Queen!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Employees Only!

It's been three weeks since I fell down the stairs in our house and hurt my bottoms. It still hurts a lot. Strangely enough sitting is not a problem these days. So I have been sewing up a storm trying to catch up on my custom orders. It's mostly when I am trying to sleep that I am being reminded of the my strange predicament. I don't understand this at all.

The children felt really bad for causing the fall by leaving the blanket on the stairs. They understand that I am really grumpy these days for lack of sleep. So they made me cookies a few times already. Today I found this strange sign on the door to our kitchen. What the heck? At first I thought it was a comment about us parents...

I walked closer and had a good laugh. Must have been a sign my daughter saw at the restaurant...How cute is that?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Last Harvest

Our community garden patch looks a bit sad now that Winter is approaching fast. Time for the final clean-up!

The dads went and harvested the last of our squashes this past weekend. We are happy to report a total of about 20 Zucca Baruccas. We have yet to make the famous ravioli recipe from Marcella's Cookbook.

Why? Because we cannot find Amaretto cookies in this town nor anywhere near here. Stan must have visited every grocery store, natural and unnatural, in a 100 mile radius. No luck! DH says we are silly. Why be such slaves to following a recipe to the t.

So for now all that is being served is Pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin gnocchi. They must put those cookies on the shelf for Christmas soon? Or will we break down and cheat on the recipe?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Last minute preparations...
A witch of sorts and a ranger from the North...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Team Spirit

Check out all the awesome Etsy stores from the NaturalKids Etsy team featured in this poster! Please visit us here:

I love this new poster created by the NaturalKids Team leader, Beccijo.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Empty Chair

I had never attended a family funeral in the United States until this past Saturday. I was really really afraid. I did not know what to expect. Would it be different?

I was mainly afraid of the funeral service and the eulogy in particular. What is a eulogy anyways? I thought it translated into Grabrede in German, but my dictionary tells me it's simply "Lobrede", a speech of praise, in German.

Webster's definitions are:

1: a a commendatory oration or writing esp. in honor of one deceased

2: high praise

I guess I used to think of it as an attempt to sum up a person's life. I listened to two such summaries at each of my parents' funerals. Both speeches were prepared by church officiaries who did not know my parents from atom. My parents were raised in different faiths. My mother was raised Catholic. My father Protestant. Neither one of them attended church in the last years of their lives. But they never quit church officially. So once they died, a minister/priest appeared at the door to help bury them.

I wasn't in Germany when this happened. I was sitting on an airplane trying to make it to the funeral on time. While I was traveling my parents lives were discussed.

People, who had never met them, wrote a eulogy, based on the words and stories that my sisters told them. The outcome of each oration stunned me. As I sat in the little funeral chapel, listening to my mother's eulogy by a perfect stranger, I couldn't help but feel anger. It was all wrong! This was not the person I knew.

Strangely enough with my dad it was just the opposite. The female minister hit the nail on the head in everything she said about my dad. She really understood the complexities of my dad's life and managed to relate them to this odd gathering of people. How could this be?

Life is complicated. So is death. I am not sure how one makes a speech properly? Hard enough to just attend the funeral. How can you make sense of a life that is so complex? Who are these speeches for anyways? What is their true purpose? Are they really meant for the departed, to praise and honor them? Or are they more for those left behind, to comfort and let them know that they did okay, no matter how things played out in the end...

On Saturday I listened to Uncle Erasmo's eulogy. It was very different from either one of my parents' eulogies. This one came directly from the family and was read in a frail voice by a person who regularly attended church with uncle Razzy. Was it more true?

In the end, I don't think the speeches matter. They may comfort or upset the people attending at the time. What matters is that we pick up the pieces of our lives after people depart and honor them in what we do. Who was uncle Razzy?

He was a different person to all of us. How could anybody possibly know the sum of him? We can only talk about the pieces of the puzzle and remember what the whole may have looked like. Who sat in the empty chair?

A former: son, boyscout, son, veteran, postal worker, collector of beautiful things, believer, father, brother, husband, lover, friend, uncle - a good person who will be missed by many.