Tuesday 29 December 2015

December Gifted Gorgeousness & WIPocalypse

After all these holiday posts in the last few weeks, I finally have an actual crafty post to share with you - I know I didn't update my regular stuff for a while now. This was partly due to stress and bussiness - getting stuff done in time for christmas, but also life happening with other oblogations, some good stuff, some less good stuff, the usual, but everything put together I'm fairly happy with the place I am in now :) The other half was because just about everything I worked on was a present for someone that might or might not cheak this blog from time to time, so there wasn't much I could show anyway - but now I can, and that also makes this post perfect fo my December checkin with Gifted Gorgeousness, since everything shown here was a gift for someone!

So the first thing I want to show you is My Day Off - a gift for Felix' mum. Last time I showed her, I was done with the cross stitch and went on to the backstitching. In the mean time, I got her done, washed and framed, and we gave her to his mother just a month late for her birthday ;) Of course I found a small region I forgot to backstitch right after giving her away, but I'm confident noone else will notice :D

Next thing I got to send of was my newest baby suprise jacket - for Steph, a friend from the Stitching Pirates dA group, or rather her little son. She received the package soon after christmas, and already shared pictures of her little boy wearing it, which made me really happy!

And my latest finish is a wedding sampler for two coworkers of mine - Karina sits in the same room as I do and always admires what ever crafty project I bring along, so I just had to do something for her; and Ralf was my direct supervisor on my master thesis and we're still working together now. It's a kit by Bothy Threads called Wedding Celebrations - I really like their kits, the material is great and they stitch up so fast as well! I still was in quite a rush to get this finished and just got it done in the last minute; Felix did the framing for me, and I think he did a really great job!

There is still one more finish that I need to get washed and framed and sent off, so I won't be sharing it now - so look forward to one more suprise really soon!

Now, this is also the last WIPocalypse checkin of the year, and the subject was: Recap your accomplishments for the year! (Your finishes, your final before/after photos, etc). I just updated my Finished tab if you are curious, and I won't be spamming you with a lot more pictures now, so let me just talk for a bit here.
When I started of this year, I actually made a nice big list of all the things I want to do, have to do, and that would be nice to do. I did fairly well keeping to this list for a few month, but eventually I realized that I'm not good working with lists. I love making them, I love crossing things off of them, but I don't enjoy being bound by them. In my world of crafting, stuff keeps popping up, freebies I want to try, gifts I want to make, SALs I wanted to join...I just wanted to stay flexible. So I threw my lists over board and enjoyed myself...until I decided to start way to many deadlined presents. So this is something I really need to work on - not doing ALL the deadlined things at once. And while I'm pretty content with a total of 18 finished today, I hope to do way better next year - shortterm goals is the keyword!

I'm still finalizing my plans on SALs and blogging for next year; I'll let you all know soonish. I don't want to join too many, since all the scheduled posts can get pretty tiresome as well, but there will be some, I'm pretty sure :)

Strange German Holidays #12 - St Nicholas Day

With the majority of the holiday stress safely behind me, I'm going to try and catch up on what feels like a million things! I know I can do it!

There are several 'holidays' and traditions during advent - there is, for example, Barbara da on December 4th. It is said that if you cut a branch of a cherry tree (or another tree, depending on the region you are in) on that day, and put it into a glass of water in a warm room, it will be in bloom by Christmas Day - in memory of the holy Barbara, who was beheaded and, on her way to the prison, accidently broke a branch, that bloomed in her prison on the day of her execution.

By far the most important of those holydays, however, is December 6th - St Nicholas Day. Nikolaos of Myra was a bishop who lived in the 4th centuary, in Myra, which lies in todays Turkey.There are several legends about his good deeds and miracle works, and most of them are about either secret gift giving (it is said that he liked to leave coints in boots that were left outside the door - sound familiar?) and helping children, whose patron he is as well.

So on the evening before his name day, on the 5th his name day, children will leave their boots or stockings out and find them filled on the next day - oranges, nuts, sweets and sometimes small toys for good children, a birch for bad children. Bad children used to actually get beaten with that birch, but nowadays they usually just get one instead of the sweets, as a reminder to behave better the next year. And sometimes there will even be sweets ON that birch (I got one of these once as a child!), so it's a really mild reminder too! Doesn't St Nicholas sound like the original Santa Claus? :D

Now, there are several variantions in these tradition, of course. For example, where I live, the stockings aren't filled over night for most children, but the bell will suddenly ring on the evening of the 5th and the will already find their presents then.Sometimes, St Nicholas will even visit himself instead of just filling the stockings: Many schools and kindergardens have one coming by. And there are differences as well: While some will depict him like a modern day Santa Claus, in red and white, the original St Nicholas is actually dressed like the bishop he was, with a bishop's cap and crooked staff. When St Nicholas appears in person, children will often have to recite poems to him in exchange for their presents.

Also depending on the region, St Nicholas might have different companions. Those companions are usually seen as his 'bad' counterpart - while St Nicholas is sent from heaven to reward the good children, his companions are inpersonations of the devil, that come to scare bad children and also took care of the birching when that was still custom.
In Germany, or at least where I live, Nikolaus is usually accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht, an old, bearded guy clad in a brown or black robe, who carries both the birches and the presents in a basket on his back (unless he and Nikolaus have a donkey to do the carrying for them). He's not necessarily evil, more like a loyal companion to do the less pleasurable parts of the job. As far as I understand, the same can be said for Zwarte Piet (black Peter), that accompanies the Sinterclaas in the Netherlands and Belgium. In Austria and some of the Eastern European countries, how ever, the Nikolaus is accompanied by the Krampus - a demon like creature, barely tamed by the good bishop and put in chains, that he rattles to scare the bad children. Stuff for nightmares right there!

Sunday 13 December 2015

Strange German Holidays #11 - Advent

Only three more posts to go after this one!

Advent isn't a holiday per se - rather, it indicates the time before christmas. The term stems from the latin 'adventus', which means arrival, and, of course, refers to the birth of Jesus on christmas itself.

In general, Advent is when you start decorating your house, baking christmas cookies and eating all the yummy sweets that go with it - like dominoes, gingerbread, christmas-flavoured chocolate, and so on (although they start selling these about mid-october nowadays...). The christmas tree itself is traditionally not set up until christmas eve, but some people put their nativity up early (Felix' grandma for example - hers is really stunning and impressive and takes up several tables, I'll try to take a picture for you guys later).

Now, there are two distinct ways to count down the time to christmas, and for each there is a tradition to go with it. You probably all now of the first one: The Adventskalender (advent calendar), counting the days from December 1st to the 24th. Those are really popular in German, you can get some with pictures or poems, books with 24 little stories (or one story with 24 chapters - I still have ma favourite from when I was a kid, it was the story of the clumsy little angel Plotsch, who came into heaven [one German Christmas tradition is that the angels in heaven make all the gifts for Christmas], trying to help but making a mess everywhere he went, until he finally found something he was good at), and of course all kinds with sweets and chocolates - almost every sweets manufacturer also produces an advent calender. And then there are some with toys, like Playmobil or Lego, and for adults they have advent calendars with tea, cosmetics, juwelry or even with 24 differnt brands of beer. Of course there are also some with 24 boxes or little sacks you can fill yourself, my grandma always used to do that for me when I was a child. I still love them, and we have actually four this year: One with pictures and poems my grandma got me, one with M&Ms I got from Felix, I made and filled one for him and we also have one from Ikea (with chocolate and two gift cards) that we share.

The other way of counting is counting the sundays before christmas - you start four sundays before christmas eve and call it the First Advent - depending on what day of the week christmas falls on, this can already be in November. So today is actually the Third Advent, next sunday will be the Fourth. There are special services at church these four Advent Sundays, and at home, many people will have an Adventskranz (Advent Wreath). It's traditionally a wreath,but can take a number of different shapes: We used to decorate a flat bowl with moss and fir branches and stuff like that, and the one we bought this year is actually in a cake tin. What they all have in common, though, is four candles, and each sunday, you lit one more. You can light them on the other days of the week as well as you want, but you only add more on the sundays, so that all four are lit on the Fourth Advent. There are many songs and poems that go with this tradition, but this one is probably best known:

Advent, Advent, 
ein Lichtlein brennt
Erst eins, dann zwei, dann drei, dann vier
Dann steht Weihnachten vor der Tür!

Advent, Advent
A light is lit
First one, then two, then three, then four
Then christmas's knocking at the door!

And kids like to add:
Und wenn das fünfte Lichtlein brennt
Dann hast du Weihnachten verpennt.

Which means: If you light a fifth light, you have missed Christmas...boo!

Part of our setup, with two of our Advent calendars
and the Advent-caketin

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Advent Calendar Blog Hop 2015

This blog hop is once again hosted by the wonderful Jo from Serendipitous Stitching, and it's my turn today! So make yourself comfortable, grap some hot cocoa with Peter Polar Bear here

and listen to me telling you how christmas eve is celebrated in my family. [short note: Christmas Eve or 'Heiligabend' is when actual christmas is happening in Germany - tree, presents, and all]

Since Felix and I only moved in together last year, traditions are only starting to from now, but I'll just tell you what we are planning to do this year. So, thankfully, we have Christmas Eve off from work, so we get to sleep in. Then, there will probably be some last minute present preparation (mostly wrapping, maybe some framing when stitchy presents are involved). We're having a quiet morning and a small lunch, then we head over to my grandparents in the afternoon.
I like to go to church on Christmas Eve - our church does a family service at 5pm, there is lots of singing, a nativity play by the kindergardeners, and candles lit with a light that came all the way from Bethlehem. When everyone is singing 'Oh how joyfully' in the end and the bells start ringing after that, then going out with the candle and walking home (preferably through the snow, although it's bin a while since we had a white Christmas), that's when Christmas really starts for me.
When we get home we have dinner - we traditionally used to have ham and potato salad for dinner, but in recent years we tried a few new things as well - then we put on some nice-but-comfy clothes and head for the living room with the tree and presents. We unwrap them, are happy (hopefully ;)) and spend all evening, talking and eating cookies and other christmas sweets, listening to our old christmas CDs (some of them we already had when I was a kid), sometimes watching a movie if someone got a good new one, maybe trying out or playing with what ever else we got, just spending some nice quality time together. It's a very nice way to get out of the stress and into the quiet time of between-the-years (in Germany, we have to holidays right after christmas, and Felix and I are off from work until the new year, so we really have some time to relax afterwards). I'm really looking forward to it now that I'm talking about it :)

I'll probably do one of my 'Strange German Holiday' posts around Christmas too, if you are interested in a few more traditions we used to have, or stuff from before and after Christmas Eve as well, so please come back later if you'd like to know more :)

Monday 7 December 2015

The Alphabet Club: Letter D

This is an other format I didn't want to drop out of, busy or not, since I really like the idea - you kinda lost me at C, but there really aren't terribly many words starting with C in the German language. In fact, all I could think of are some words starting with 'ch', and those are mostly the same as in English, like China or Chemie (chemistry) or Chor (choir). Not very interesting. D is different though, I'm sure I can think of something interesting with D!

But first, for stitching with 'D' - here is Davy Jones:

Today's D-Word is going to be 'Dorf' - Village. There are quite a few Dörfer in Germany, especially in the mountain regions, like the Schwarzwald or the Spessart. Now the interesting part is (and I don't know how other countries handle this), in Germany, there is no set size when a village automatically becomes a town - 'town' or German 'Stadt' is a title that gets granted to a settlement, although I'm not sure about the exact conditions. So in theory, there could be a Dorf with a million people, or a Stadt with only 100.

Yes, that's kind of a short fun fact for today...I'm sure there are many more things one could say about villages and living in them, but I never have lived there so I don't have first hand knowledge. And everytime I start talking about it, Felix (who was born and raised in a village) throws my evil glances, so I think my idea of Dorfleben is probably not to realistic, so let's keep it at that ;)