Re-vamping a stool

On my last fleamarket visit I picked up this cool 1950s footstool with the hope of giving it a new life with a change of fabric.  I even managed to find the fabric at the same market - although when I bought the stool I had no idea what I was going to cover it with.  In amongst some sheets I found an old hessian mail bag from the former West German Postal Service.  I've never upholstered anything before and I confess it was a lot harder than I thought.  Several blood blisters and bruised fingers laters, I'm really pleased with how it's turned out.  A perfect place for my knitting to rest and an extra chair for when guests come round.  Plus, now we have a little bit of Berlin's history sitting in our living room - and all for less than 20 euro. 

I've got some exciting news planned for tomorrow to celebrate the beginning of my 365 challenge... can't wait to share it with everyone!


chasing raindrops

It's been a funny old week.  The weather has definitely turned to autumn.  Not sure if it's the weather or not, but I've felt unbelievably tired, a little bit frustrated at work (but after much discussion on Wednesday - after the "bad" Tuesday - I think this might be improving) and I've felt a little uninspired in terms of my blog and taking photographs.  Everythings been hit with a bit of malaise and apathy.  As often happens with these things, the world provided answers - or perhaps I already had the answers and just needed a little poking and proding in the form of some not so subtle clues.  

On a fairly miserable afternoon yesterday I picked up my camera and went out to the balcony and started snapping.  Pretty soon I was chasing raindrops and seeing how much detail I could capture with my macro lens.  And then when I sat down to read a few blogs, I saw that Madeline Bea is beginning a 365 challenge and creating a little community to support and encourage each other to make it through the year - that is, take one photo everyday for a year.  And I thought, why not?  So on September 1st, I'm beginning the challenge.  It'll be good.  It'll hopefully teach me things and make me a better photographer.  I'm a little be daunted by the scope of it all, but also excited.  If the idea takes your fancy even just a little bit then I invite you to join in the fun too.  September 1st, it's going to be great.


a poem on thursday : tea

The first cup caresses my dry lips and throat, 
The second shatters the walls of my lonely sadness,
The third searches the dry rivulets of my soul to find the stories of five thousand scrolls. 
With the fourth the pain of past injustice vanishes through my pores.
The fifth purifies my flesh and bone.
With the sixth I am in touch with the immortals.
The seventh gives such pleasure I can hardly bear. The fresh wind blows through my wings
As I make my way to Penglai.*
Lu Tong (A.D. 618-907) Tang Dynasty.
(*Penglai, a mountain in China, was the traditional home of the immortals.)

This week the theme from Madeline Bea was 'orient'.  My mum sent me this poem at the beginning of the year and I really wanted to use it this week.  A pot of good tea is medicine for the soul I think.


crisp mornings and yellow leaves

I had a bad day yesterday.  One of those days that should be relegated to the backwaters and forgotton about forever.  Nothing went right.  I left work frazzled and fried, contemplating how I was going to approach things differently so that I can keep turning up to work and not feel like I'm banging my head against a wall.  I dragged myself up stairs to our apartment feeling just a tad sorry for myself.  Then, in an effort to get myself out of a funk I turned on Al Green - incredibly cheesy I know, but if 'Sh-La-La' or 'Here I am Baby' can't get you wiggling your bum and smiling without seemingly overly forced then I don't know what can.  After Al Green has got your hips interested, you can turn on the pop and dance like a Diva.  Anyway, with Al Green in the background I made some Sushi and sat at my computer and fiddled with a few photos.
And within the hour the funk was over and my belly was full of delicious tuna and smoked salmon sushi rolls.  Yum!  

The photo above is from last autumn - yep, it's coming up to a year since I first moved my suitcases to Berlin and started searching for an apartment with Matthias.  I spotted the first signs of Autumn in the trees this week and the morning air is crisp and inviting.  Won't be long before everything is looking like this.  Good-bye Summer, Hello Autumn!


a little lesson

I've had a few people ask me how I blend my photos so I thought I'd put together a small tutorial for anyone who's interested.  I should qualify this by saying that I know very little about the technical names and so some of the names I use are bound to be wrong.  A lot of what I've learnt has come from trial and error and reading around the internet.  I also did a wonderful introductory e-course on Photoshop/Photoshop Elements called 'the skinny' by Kim Klassen.  This gave me the basics and the confidence to play around with Photoshop on my own - it's a wonderful course and I would recommend anyone wanting to learn how to find their way around these programs to take the class next time she is running it.  

And now onto the lesson:

Some general remarks: This little lesson is Photoshop specific, but I think it could probably be applied to photoshop elements as well.  It relies on you having a basic command of these programs to follow along.  If you have any questions, send me an email and I'll try to help out.

As a rule I think if you're going to blend photos you're better off starting with a fairly uncomplicated photo, with a chunk of foreground or background to play with.  Landscape photos or a simple still life are  good places to start.

Step One - Spruce up your photo: I'm going to leave this part up to you.  I generally copy my background image and adjust the 'levels' a bit until I'm happy.

Adding the first photo: The first thing you need to to is select the foreground with the Quick Selection Tool and create a new layer from this selection.  
- Open the image you want to blend into the foreground (I found a map on the internet).
- With your cursor button selected, drag the map onto your photo and adjust the size so that it extends over the foreground.
- Attach the map to your forground layer (you achieve this with the option key and the mouse hovering over between the two layers).
- Now is the fun bit...  Play around with the 'light' options (overlay, screen, soft light are good places to start) and the opacity until you are happy with the way the image looks.

Adding text: Create a new text layer and copy and paste (or type) some text of your liking.  
- Play around with the 'light' options and opacity until you like the way the text looks.  
- In this photo I also erased some of the text to get less severe look, but this is a personal preference

Ta-Da! Finished.  You can keep going and add more, introduce some texture, add a vintage effect - let the creative juices fly.  If I was going to keep going with this picture I'd probably end up decreasing either the writing or the map as I think it looks a bit busy at the moment and maybe bring the whole piece together with some kind of textured overlay.  

I hope this has been at least a little bit helpful to the people who emailed and asked.  If you have any other questions, just send me an email or post a comment


Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

I'm back from a long weekend in Brighton, UK.  I'd like to say it was purely a happy, weekend jaunt, but unfortunately most of the weekend I was stuck in a fairly run-down Hotel for a conference.  Nevermind, the weather wasn't particularly inviting outside anyway - english summer at it's best!  When I did manage to get out between the rain showers I was a little disappointed with what Brighton had on offer.  I'd heard such good things about it's fantastic 'vibe' and that it was the next 'up-and-coming' spot in England.  Well, it all seemed a little run down and shabby to me.  And quite dirty too.  And crowded. The best part was my friend Clare (a real friend, not an imaginary doppelganger) came down on Saturday afternoon from London.  We spent four hours talking and walking before she hopped back on the train again.  So busy talking I forgot to get the camera out after taking this photo of Brighton Station before she arrived.  


there is another sky

There is another sky 

There is another sky,
Ever serene and fair,
And there is another sunshine,
Though it be darkness there;
Never mind faded forests, Austin,
Never mind silent fields -
Here is a little forest,
Whose leaf is ever green;
Here is a brighter garden,
Where not a frost has been;
In its unfading flowers
I hear the bright bee hum:
Prithee, my brother,
Into my garden come!
by Emily Dickinson

This week over at Madeline Bea the prompt was "ethereal" - the picture is two photos blended together, both from the forest surrounding Vienna.  I like the way it looks as if you're looking from one world, into another - a brighter garden, where not a frost has been.


swaps and letters

Back in July I signed up to Tillie from 'she waits for whispers' photoswap.  The instructions were easy - send your partner 24 photos.  That's it.  An easy-peasy-Japanesy swap perfect for a photo lover like me. Last week I received these lovely photos from Allison - a collage student at James Madison University.  It was so much fun to look through her photos and learn a little about her life in Virginia and see some of the gorgeous countryside around her place.  Thanks Allison!
As well as receiving mail during the week, I also sent some letters using these envelopes designed by Stella of 'the goldern adventures of a very dark horse'.  Stella is based in New Zealand and designs for Frank and Dean, making calendars, cute to-do lists and cards.  I was lucky enough to pick up these envelopes for free when she was doing a bit of a test-run.  They're fantastic. Incredibly easy to assemble and fit a standard card or letter with ease.  Plus you get a chance to get your colouring pencils out and personalise it a little by colouring in the telephone, borders etc etc.  Great fun.


this is who I am : food

This week Christina from Diva's and Dreams has us thinking about food.  I love food, in fact there's not many foods that I don't like.   I love stone fruits, cherries and strawberries in the summer but as soon as autumn comes I'm lusting after figs and chestnuts.  In winter I love homemade soups and roasts and in spring it's asparagus and fresh greens. Anyway, it should come as no suprise that I struggled to come up with a single food that I love.  
In the end I chose chocolate because it's something I'm a little picky about.  I love chocolate, but I'm discerning.  I rather have gummy bears and jubes than a cheap chocolate lolly; for dessert I'll choose a lemon tart over an overly rich chocolate mousse - but a quality dark chocolate square - well that's something I can never turn down. 

Interested in joining in? Head over to Divas and Dreams and take a look.


blossoms between the pages

Thank you to all the well-wishes that were sent regarding my homesickness.  I am feeling much better now after a lovely weekend spent cooking delicious food, taking photographs and even doing a little bit of painting.  I took these photos on Friday night and wasn't really sure about them initially.  I ended up processing them to give them a retro feel and quite like how they turned out.  A bit of a dreamy start to the week.

Happy Monday!



Yesterday I was homesick.  It snuck up on my while I wasn't looking and completely suprised me.  Nearly bowled me over in a shower of tears at a meeting at work.  Not a great look really.  I had to excuse myself to the bathroom, stand in front of the mirror and talk myself out of bursting into tears.  I've never done that before (stand in front of a mirror and talk to myself.).  I felt like I was in a movie. Except I wasn't.

All of a sudden I was overwhelmed by a longing to be back in Australia.  I think it was a picture I saw on someone's blog - that, and an email from home.  I love winter in Australia.  It's almost my favourite time of the year.  The crisp mornings, the dampness under foot, the light that is gentle and kind with a faint glint of warmness.  I miss the colours of Australia - the silver greys, olive greens and muted browns.  When I first visited Europe I can remember thinking of the old european masters "that's why they painted everything so green".  Because it is over here. I miss my friends and my family.  I miss seeing my nephews grow from babies into little boys.  I miss weddings and births and birthday celebrations.  And mostly this doesn't bother me too much because I love Berlin and my life here is great.  But yesterday it did.

But thankfully these days don't last very long and today when I rode my bike to work I looked to my left and saw the TV tower and thought - wow, I'm in Berlin. How cool is that?

I still haven't really found a remedy for homesickness and I don't think talking to your reflection is necessarily the best answer.  I'm interested, what do you do when you miss home?


You Capture: everyday

There are lots of things that our house doesn't own.  Funny things that would normally be considered essential items for a house.  We don't own a TV for instance.  We don't have a microwave and for now, at least, we don't have a kettle.  This little sauce jug is my kettle.  I think I inherited it when I first moved out of home.  A long abandoned pot that had been relegated to the back corners of the 'pots and pans' cupboard, retrieved and placed in my tiny box of "kitchen items" for a new life away from home.  It's moved with me everywhere and I'm quite partial to it.  I love the slightly acid green enamel, the small chips from years of use and it's functionality.  It's the perfect size for boiling one cup of tea.  I'd like to say that every morning I boil my water in this jug, but that wouldn't be the exact truth.  You see, every morning Matthias boils water in this jug for my tea as I take a shower (yep, I'm spoilt).  My tea is waiting for me when I've finished getting dressed with this cute little jug sitting beside it. 

For other 'everyday' items, wander over to You Capture, here.

a poem on thursday : raw with love

This week Madeline Bea provided the prompt "raw".  I ended up using a poem by Charles Bukowski.  I've read quite a bit of his work during the year and I tend to find it a little, well, 'raw'.  He tackles some interesting themes in a pretty confronting manner.  But I decided to take a big breath and use his poem this week - the mixed-media picture used the poem as a springboard.  I played around alot with this picture trying to emphasise the eyes, give it a slightly haunting look and yet still keep it light, romantic and airy.  I'm not completely happy with the final product, but I think I'm getting better.

Raw with Love

little dark girl with
kind eyes
when it comes time to
use the knife
I won't flinch and
I won't blame
as I drive along the shore alone
as the palms wave,
the ugly heavy palms,
as the living does not arrive
as the dead do not leave,
I won't blame you,
I will remember the kisses
our lips raw with love
and how you gave me
everything you had
and how I
offered you what was left of
and I will remember your small room
the feel of you
the light in the window
your records
your books
our morning coffee
our noons our nights
our bodies spilled together
the tiny flowing currents
immediate and forever
your leg my leg
your arm my arm
your smile and the warmth
of you
who made me laugh
little dark girl with kind eyes
you have no
knife. the knife is
mine and I won't use it
- Charles Bukowski


conundrum of the knitting type

Edit: I'm in Brighton, UK for the next few days and I decided to be a bit sneaky and use a previous post for my 'Arts 'n Craft' entry over at Ramblings and Photos.  Oh, and I'm serious about needing the knitting pattern!
Back in January I promised Matthias a knitted vest.  He chose the pattern from Rowan Knitting for Him, a fairly poorly named book in my opinion, but it happens to have some lovely knitted jumpers and vests, one of them being a simple fair isle vest that I thought I'd be able to completely without a problem. On first inspection it did seem easy.  I wasn't even put off by a few faint whispers on Ravelry saying "so glad I've finished the back" and "on to the front - yippee!". I dived in. We chose the colours, ordered the wool and I got to work. 

It has been incredibly slow going. The back has a twisted rib pattern that takes ages to knit-up.  Interspersed with other knitting project it's taken me 6 months to knit up the back to the underarms.  But last week I made it to the "35cm from cast on edge" point and was ready to read the pattern again.  Now, six months on, do you think I can find the book?  At some point in the last year I have put "Knits for Men" down and now have no idea where it is.  I've looked everywhere, and it's not to be found.  It's gone and the chances of finding this book in a German public library are probably slim to none.

So... I have no idea how many knitters read this blog.  But, if there is anyone out there who happens to own this book, please, please, please, I would love a copy of the fair isle vest pattern so that I can finally say good-bye to the twisted rib and get stuck into the front.


on the road

This is one of my favourite pictures from my trip to Den Haag earlier this year.  A business man zipping up the small streets of Delft on his way to work.  I love the contrast between modern and medieval with the old guildhall in the background.

For more entries into 'on the road' check our ramblings and photos