Blog Break #2

I'm nesting at the moment.  Cleaning and writing lists and spending insane amounts of time surfing around the internet looking for "things".  Half the time I'm not even sure what I'm looking for, but it's an interesting process trying to work out what one 'needs' and what one 'wants' when welcoming a little person into your world for the first time.
One of my biggest wants was been an wall mural for the Bean's room.  We're planning on turning our currently (small) guest room into Bean's room, but are keeping the guest bed  in there so that we can still have people stay for the weekend. While the Bean is still small I figure s/he won't mind where s/he sleeps and giving up the room up for an aunty, grandparent or dear friend for a night or two won't be too much of a bother. Whether said guest will want to stay in a small apartment with a newborn is another question entirely. But I digress. The wall mural. You'd think finding a gender neutral, not too kitch and bilingual friendly wall mural wouldn't be too hard.  Ha! Guessed wrong. This task has kept me busy for far longer than I'll choose to admit and even had me thinking about designing my own English-German friendly alphabet mural myself.   That was until I stumbled across Rebecca Peragine's shop on Etsy and her website Children Inspire Design.

Rebecca creates all of her artwork from recycled magazines and prints her Number Wall Cards and Alphabet Poster in eleven languages - most of the European languages plus Chinese and Hebrew. I almost did a happy dance when I stumbled on her sight.
Her pictures are simple and cute but not too twee, I like the neutral colours and love the nature theme.  Now I just need to decide whether I should get the Alphabet in English and the Numbers in German, visa versa, the numbers in both languages... oh the possibilities are endless and will keep me nesting unproductively for a little while yet.  

If numbers, language and the alphabet aren't really your thing - Children Inspire Design also create some very cute nature and doll prints too!


Blog Break #1

While I'm on holidays I thought I'd do a few posts show-casing some of the wonderful Etsy photography and mixed-media/print sellers that are around the place.  First off, Anne Duflos from  the Etsy shop AnneSolfud. 

I'm a little bit smitten with Anne Duflos's work at the moment - she sells under the name of AnneSolfud on etsy and I love the way she plays with the line between painting and photography. 

Beautiful dreamy work to feed your Spring-time dreams this Monday!
All pictures are copyright of Anne Duflos.



Morning shadows
At this time of the year the sun is positioned just-so that it streams through our balcony windows in the morning casting the prettiest glow and shadows on our blinds. I'm smitten. It makes me what to linger over my cup of tea and drink in the light. SJ left a comment the other day talking about how much she loved the optimism of Northern Europe in the Spring. I think I agree. And I'm happy to report it's infectious. 

Wishing you all a wonderful Friday. As of today I'm officially on holidays - yippee! We're off to the ski fields near Salzburg where I'm planning on reading, sun-baking, walking and generally pampering myself while the more active and less-pregnant members of Matthias' family whoosh down the slopes. See you all next week.


Emmit Gowin

Emmit Gowin was born in 1941 in Virginia, USA.  He established himself as a prominent American photographer in the 1970s with his strong, intimate portraits of his wife, Edith, and their family. You can view some of those images here if you are interested.  

Of all of his images I've seen over the past few days, the ones that really caught my eye were these full image circle photos taken using a 4x5 lens with an 8x10 (large format) camera. There's something very appealing about the heavy vignetteing which draws your eye in. They remind me a bit of the current crop of TTV photos you see around the web.

These pictures were found on the Pace/MacGill Gallery website where you can also view some of Gowin's other work.



I'm not much of a green thumb.  Our attempts at a little vegie garden on our balcony last year wasn't that successful. Part of the problem was a very short summer; August was cold and rainy which meant that the tomatoes didn't really ever stand a chance and I had always thought that Olives and Figs were a big ask for a northern european balcony! 

I'm keen to try again this year though - hopefully with a little more success. One of the biggest issues that I'm facing though is understanding the "planting seasons" - all those old-wives tales that I learnt growing up don't really hold here. How, for example, do you translate Plant tomatoes after Cup Day to Berlin?  Instead of doing anything clever like reading a book or consulting the internet I'm going to use the florists as a barometer.  Right now pansies and rosemary are out on display so I reckon these might be a good place to start. Now I just have to decide on the colour...


Spring Sun

Early Spring
Beers in the sun
Berlin has definitely decided that it's Spring.  The bikes are out, the outdoor chairs and tables are on the footpaths and everyone who is anyone has their heads firmly facing the sun absorbing the rays.

The Australian in me still feels that to be sitting outside when it's 10 degrees it a little silly, but there is a small part of me which is feeling quite European - "what a lovely day!" I hear myself thinking. "Not too cold, perhaps we could even sit outside?" Really it's still a little bit too chilly and after 30 minutes it was time to warm-up again inside with another (!) hot chocolate*. But it was bliss while it lasted. Spring and some warmer weather is definitely close!

*hot chocolate makes me smile and the Bean gets very excited too - which I've decided is a reason to indulge at least once a day.



Day 49 : Winter Sunrise

I think sunrise is one of my favourite times of the day.  I don't often see it, but when I do, I relish it.  The fresh air and that special quiet "between-time" as the world seems to breath in before beginning again. There's a sense of possibility in a sunrise that I find humbling and incredibly beauitful. 

I took these pictures when I was down in Mainz a few weeks ago and I've been thinking about them a lot this week. The news from Japan, which only seem to go from bad to worse has been playing on my mind. Another afterschock, another tsunami, two - no three - nuclear reactors tinkering on the brink of meltdown. I am torn between wanting to know everything, to stay informed, and yet feel that there must be some invisible line between knowledge and voyeurism which I am at risk of dancing across.
Day 51: Sunrise over the vineyard
And so I have decided to read the headlines and then turn off.  Instead of becoming engrossed in the suffering, I have decided to revel in the now and in the possibilities that another day brings. People have an amazing capacity for resilience.  I am heading into the weekend wishing that tomorrow brings some better news for those working tirelessly in Japan, grateful for everything that I have right now and confident that as certain as the sun coming up in the morning, this too shall pass.


Sally Mann

Sally Mann's photography popped up on my radar this week.  I think I like her work. I say, think, because there is something slightly unsettling about her photographs, an element of seduction which is slightly unnerving.  But perhaps this is why I also like her photographs - they draw you in and make you pause and think.

Born in 1951 in the US, Mann's first job as a photographer was at Washington and Lee University.  She produced several collections in the 1980s and 90s, but her most well-known and celebrated was her third, Immediate Family. The 65 black and white photographs, all of her children playing at their summer cabin explore typical summer themes - dressing-up, board games, skinny dipping - but always with a slight bent (in my opinion) toward sedition. Not surprisingly Immediate Family stirred up quite a bit of public debate about photography and the portrayal of children in fine art.  Ultimately the critics deemed her work "good" and in 2001 Time magazine named her "Best American Photographer" of the year.

What do you think?


Felted Slippers

I've been holding onto this finished crafty project for a few weeks as it was winging it's way to Australia for my Mum's Birthday. She opened the package last weekend so I can now happily show it to you here.  These are the first pair of French Press Felted Slippers that I've made and my first attempt felting. They are warm and comfy and in my opinion almost the perfect slipper - so much so that they very nearly didn't make it out of the house. As soon as I have time I'm planning on making a pair for myself.  

One of the best parts is that they are really very easy to make.  Don't be daunted by the idea of felting either - also incredibly easy, as I found out.  I chose to felt by hand, a time-consuming process., but I was a little chicken to use our front-end loader for my first felting attempt.  Next time I might be a little braver.  This would actually make a wonderful first-knitting project, I think.  You would need a crafty friend (or youtube) to explain the basic knit, purl, increase and decrease stitches - but small mistakes and holes don't matter too much as they disappear after felting.  A perfect project for keeping your feet toasty and warm around the house. And pretty cute too.


Spring Light

Spring arrives in my lounge room
Day 56
By candle light we read...

I had such big plans for this weekend - some Spring gardening on the balcony, walks in the park, shopping and lots of photography.  Instead, I spent most of the weekend in bed, in the bathroom or mopping on the couch having eaten something a little 'iffy' on Friday. Blah!  But come Sunday afternoon I'm feeling much better and eating my favourite recovery food - dry biscuits and vegemite.   

Being sick has had one up-side in that I've had a chance to go through my photos and catch up on my 365 project.  The last two weeks or so I've begun to develop a bit of a love of capturing light and shadows.  Spring light in my living room, shadows on my baby blanket and the gentle light from a candle.  Hopefully with some longer daylight hours and a bit more sun there'll be some more in this series to come.


the face of tomorrow

Ever wondered what people will look like in 50 years time? How will migration affect the look and feel of cities like London, Sydney and New York? Mike Mike, a photographer based in Istanbul, is exploring this topic and attempting to answer these questions by taking photographs of people and merging them into a composite image.  It's an interesting idea with some curious results.
Sydney, Australia

Firstly what is immediately noticable is how beautiful all the composite images are - hardly surprising when you discover that what we often perceive as beautiful is a flawless and symmetrical face. Superimposing 100 faces on top of each other will tend to blend out the unique things that makes us "us" transforming 'the face of tomorrow' into a beautiful, if not slightly Bladerunner-esque beauty.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

 I also love the facial expressions - look how happy the two from the Netherlands are! Mike Mike has been collecting these photographs since 2004 and is currently inviting people to add their cities to the growing compliation on his website.  Pop over and check out some of the other faces from Hong Kong, Damascus and London.



Cologne Dom at Karnevale
So... Cologne and Carnival huh? Oh, the anticipation had been so great.  Turns out that Carnival isn't quite what the tourist site would have you believe. Granted we didn't really coordinate our trip particularly well - we turned up for the weekend not realising that the biggest parades happen on Thursday and Monday. Still I was expecting a bit more of a celebratory atmosphere and a little less "keg party". 

On Friday night it was pretty clear that the name of the game was to drink as much beer as possible, as quickly as possible and hopefully along the way meet a lucky lady or fella, who might also have drunk as much as you, and be happy to walk you home. Needless to say we opted for a delicious tapas meal at a local Spanish pub instead.  Saturday night was much the same, although we did manage to find a cute Brauhaus where we ate some hearty sausages served with potato and cabbage (what else?!?) and Matthias sampled some of the local beer, Kolsch.  The Beer Hall also provided ample people-watching opportunities and I managed to take this shaky, but "of the moment" video on my phone.  You get the idea - lots of singing, music, drinking and general mayhem. Edit: no video folks - I can't work out how to get it from my phone to the computer. sorry.
Finally on Sunday, on our way back to the train station, I began to get a taste of the excitment.  There were literally thousands of people streaming out of the station and up the Cathedral stairs in anticipation of the Schools' Parade.  That 80% of the crowd were drinking heavily at 10am in the morning really seemed a bit of a moot point.  It almost seemed a shame to be leaving just as the crowd was begining to swell.  Almost.  Wooden boards covering most of the shop windows in the inner-city did make me pause and reflect that maybe, just maybe, this drunken crowd was an accident waiting to happen.  
Koln Karnevale
young and old
Clowns come out to play
The Cathedral was also closed.  We snuck in on Sunday when the Mass was on to quickly have a look at the beautiful stainglass windows and the towering ceilings, but even the Church is wary of Cologne's crowds during Faschingferien and closes it's doors and bolts it's gates until the revellers go home on Wednesday.


Ladies Day

The preamble to this post is that I took these photos last night while Matthias was working (check him out in the background).  They're for an e-course I'm doing with Vivienne McMaster called You are your own Muse.  To be honest, I've found "getting into" this course difficult - initially there was a lot of talk about 'dialoguing' about our feelings which instantly got under my skin. Is dialoguing even a word?!? And then I took these photos and I had a lot of fun - which I've decided is really what this course is about.  And I posted them on the course's Flickr group and everyone was very supportive.  So now I like the course again. There might be a few more of these photos in the coming weeks, but for now enjoy my little political diatribe for International Women's Day.

I don't often get too political around this space but there is one day every year that I like to celebrate and throw my political hat into the ring. It's International Women's Day - and it's today.  Did you realise?  Did you even know?
beginning to play
This year, even more so that last, I feel extremely lucky to be where I am.  Through luck more than anything else I will deliver my first baby in a country that has some of the most progressive maternity laws in the world.  As soon as I announced my pregnancy in February my job was protected and my ability to come and go as my health dictated assured. At 34 weeks I will begin maternity leave, which will continue up until the Bean's birth and then for 8 weeks postnatally at full-pay. During this time I will have access to a personal midwife, prenatal classes and a return-to-health exercise program all paid for by my state (public) health insurance.  I will deliver in a hospital, free of charge, with access to doctors, nurses, medication and surgery.  After maternity leave I will probably switch over to what is descriptively called "parent money" and me or my partner (or both!) can stay at home and care for the Bean for up to 14 months with part of our salary paid by the state. When I want to return to work, childcare is an affordable and socially acceptable option and my job will be waiting, even if that happens to be 18 months after the Bean is born.  Yes, I am very happy to be living in a country that supports my choice to have both a family and a career.
21 weeks
As much as I love Australia, had I been living there I would be entitled to the "Baby Bonus" of roughly $5000 and payment at the minimum wage for 18 weeks. Following that I would be entitled to up to 52 weeks unpaid maternity leave. Childcare is sufficiently expensive in Australia that if I wanted to return to work I would need to sit down and consider whether it was financially a realistic option. In the US I would have to cross my fingers that I had paid my health insurance and then hope I was living in a state that legislated for paid maternity cover, otherwise I'd be entitled to 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave, if my workplace was covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act.  Alternatively I might be able to apply for "Short Term Disability" Insurance that might cover me for six weeks at 60% pay.  That pregnancy is even considered eligible for short term disability insurance says a lot about how a country's legislators view pregnancy and motherhood.
things to come...
Of course, it is conceivable that once baby-Bean is born I may never wish to leave his/her side again and will be happy to create, play and learn along side him or her.  As someone who enjoys an academic career alongside my other hobbies I think that this is unlikely, but then again, three years ago so was living in Berlin. However, what I do know and believe is that ultimately equality is about choice and in this instance the opportunity to choose not just between my career OR motherhood, but also to realistically choose the option of a career AND motherhood.  In looking at Australia and the US's current maternity policies I realise that if I was living in either country Matthias and I would have to sit down and have some serious chats about whether a) having a baby was an affordable option b) whether I wanted to continue working post-baby c) the cost of childcare and finally, we would have to weigh-up my desire to continue my academic career with the costs of childcare and the consequences of going back to work full-time, part-time or on a casual  basis to our joint income. Essentially I would be forced to choose between my career and motherhood and Matthias would most likely be forced to take an industry job, rather than a government job which whilst lower paying he finds more enjoyable.  As someone who has had equality and the importance of education and independence drummed into me from a young age I find even the thought of having to make this choice makes me incredibly angry. It also makes me wonder how much of what is being legislated is really about choice, freedom and liberal laissez-faire policies and how much of it is about morality and societal thoughts on the role of women as nurturers and child-rearers.  
I would love very much to provide you with some answers or evidence or something of that note on this topic, but these are merely the musings of my feminist brain today. Happy International Women's Day - hopefully I've sparked some fire in those brain cells of yours and whatever the discussion ,we can come away a step closer to true equality (which is really what today is all about).
I'll be back again with a less political agenda tomorrow!


Koepenik Photography Exhibition

I had a bit of an exciting night lastnight.  One of my photos is in an Art Exhibition and it was the opening night.  Woo-hoo!!  The exhibition is a rather small affair for a photography club that I've joined in Berlin, but it was still rather exciting to tottle along to the opening and see my picture hanging at the Kopenik City Hall.  Nevermind that it's hanging behind a door and not likely to be seen by too many people.  I believe it's final resting place has something to do with the fact that I allowed someone else from my photoclub to hang it.  I imagine the conversation when something like this:
"Who's picture is that?"
"The Australian girl"
"The Who?"
"You know, the one who comes with Herr Hellmut"
"Oh yeah, right.  Well, do you think it'd be alright if we hang it here?"
"Guess so.  Someone's photo has to do there and it fits with the others around it"

I was surprised how excited I was to see it hanging on the wall.  I kept wanting to touch it and tell people it was mine.  Ah yes, such a professional!  Think it'll be a little while before the fun starts to fade.  In the meantime I'm off to Cologne this weekend to join in the Carnival celebrations.  Have a great weekend!
Pushing Cans


Ripple Blanket

This is one of the things that has been distracting me lately.  I mentioned last week that I've been stalking baby-blogs and happily creating "lists" of things to make and create for my little July-Bean.  After seeing these beautiful ripple blankets here, here and here I decided that I would make one too.  Actually I think I imagined a beautiful scene with a finished blanket and a happy baby playing on it with the sun shining down on us, perhaps in a park somewhere with a picnic and a Mr Darcy-esque figure in the background riding on his Pony.  Umm, yes, I may have got ahead of myself... and it remains to be seen whether finishing this blanket will instantly transport me into the zen Pride and Prejudice life that I imagine for myself, but Pride and Prejudice or not I am determined to finish it.  

It's probably worth pointing out that while I may knit, I don't really crochet and I re-started this four times before finally working out the pattern.  Currently I'm finishing a row every few nights - yep, it's very slow going but it's keeping me amused and away from the internet's Pregnancy-forums.  I accidentally discovered the forums last week and they are a place you only want to go if you feel like committing pregnancy-suicide and dooming yourself to a week of stress, nausea and panic that your baby-bean will be delivered with two heads, five feet and a purple nose because you ate "x", "y" or "z" by mistake!  It took me 20 weeks to find these forums and now that I've been there I have no intention of going back.