How hard can it be to find a date?

Very is the answer to the question above  judging by the trouble I’ve been having doing just that. I was going to have my charity teaparty on the first Saturday in July, except it turns out a seminar  we’re having for work is being held on that day. This weekend I have visitors who I’ve promised to show round Karlsruhe and the following Saturday there’s a live music performance in my local Irish pub that I really want to see. It starts at 8pm and I’m planning on holding the tea party from 5pm (the five o’clock tea stereotype, remember?) which rules that date out. A tea party that has to end after three hours isn’t a real tea party! So it’s looking like I’m going to have to postpone things til further into July… but not too far in as towards the end things get busy again with Das Fest (Karlsruhe’s big music festival) on the weekend of 24th July followed by another trip to England the weekend after that for the next wedding. I’m not sure where I would fit in time to bake in among all that, never mind hosting the actual party! So another date shall have to be sought. In the meantime, I’m still collecting ideas for stereotypically British tea party food. All suggestions welcome! Recipes too, if you have them…

Busy, but happy

If you’d told me a couple of years ago that one day I’d be rushing home each night excited to try out my latest idea for a handmade greeting card I would probably have laughed at you. I was never the artistic one in my family – that role being reserved for my sister, who was well on her way to an excellent grade for A-Level art until she decided to drop out of sixth form. I, on the other hand, dropped art as soon as I was allowed – much to the relief of my long-suffering teacher. Stick men are the extent of my drawing skills! So it’s somewhat surprising to me that not only do I enjoying making my own greeting cards but, actually, I’m not all that bad it. At least I’ve had no complete disasters so far, and I’ve even managed one or two that I’m actually proud of.  Who could ever have imagined that this crafting business might actually be fun? I’ve even started branching out into jewellery! Not that I’ve done much with that yet.  So far I’ve only managed to make a couple of pairs of earrings and I’m currently waiting for more equipment to arrive, but once it does I shall get down to the jewellery making in earnest! I could seriously imagine dedicating a large part of my life to this making stuff for charity lark! The only problem is, I am now physically incapable of passing the stationary shops without popping in to look at the pretty paper. And of course I can never resist taking a couple of sheets with me. Then there’s the shop that sells the beads. And, of course, DaWanda, which is pretty much the German version of Etsy. Lots of materials there for both card making and jewellery making. And I can pay via PayPal, which is quite frankly dangerous! I really must start restraining myself, otherwise I’ll be finding myself completely broke before even one bill has been paid from my wages each month. Ooops!

We’re off to England for a long weekend tomorrow (my cousin is getting married), so my creativity shall have to be put on hold for a couple of days, but once I return I’ll be getting straight back into it. In between arranging my FSID tea party of course. So much to do! But when it’s all stuff I enjoy I really don’t mind not having a spare moment (my poor flat might disagree though, if it could talk! If my grandma could see my kitchen floor she’d have a fit!)

Let’s all eat cake…

My amazingly wonderful blogging friend Katy is on a quest. A quest to raise money for a very good cause.
In January, Katy’s friend Michelle lost her baby boy, Keelan, to what was diagnosed as sudden infant death syndrome. Instead of dissolving into a little pool of grief (which is probably what I would done), Michelle chose to remember Keelan by raising money in aid of FSID – The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID). The original plan was to take part in Mile in Memory, walking a mile in memory of Keelan, which Michelle and Katy duly did. The day of the walk ended up expanding into a whole event, with a raffle, cakes for sale, a bouncy castle and general fun for all the family. Bteween them, they managed to raise an amazing £6000 for FSID! I think you’ll agree that’s quite an achievement.

Originally, the fundraising was to have ended there. Then they learned that the FSID has come up with a new fundraising plan. The charity is turning 40 this year and they are asking people to celebrate their anniversary (and raise money) by having tea parties. How could anyone resist the idea of having a good natter of a cuppa and a piece of cake and not even having to feel guilty about it because, of course, it’s all for charity! So of course, after not much debate, the two of them put their fundraising caps back on.
And that’s where I (and you) come in.

Michelle and Katy are going to be arranging tea parties in memory of Keelan, of course. But that’s not the big plan. The big plan is as follows: have other people host tea parties as well, in memory of Keelan and in aid of FSID. The more tea parties the better. They can be small tea parties or large tea parties. Virtual tea partiesm birthday tea parties, teddy bears’ picnics… anything goes. As long as the hosts believe it’s a tea party it will be accepted.

Naturally, I want to help too. I am, after all, in a perfect position on put the “international” into the events. And that’s where I need your help.

The Germans (and quite possibly all continental Europeans) have the idea of 5 o’clock tea firmly fixed in their heads. I don’t know why, but they’re utterly convinced that every British person drops whatever their doing at precisely 5pm every single day and goes off to have a cup of tea and a snack. No matter how often I inform them that I have never in my life gone out of my way to have a cup of tea and 5pm and can’t think of even one friend or acquaintence who has they remain utterly convinced that this stereotype is true. I’ve managed to get them to admit that it doesn’t always rain in the UK and I’m slowly convincing them that English food can actually be quite good, but the five-o’clock tea myth persists. No matter that nobody in the English-speaking world seems to have heard of it – they’ve always heard about it, therefore it must be true. So I’ve decided to embrace the stereotype. Why not? At least it’s a nice stereotype. So, I shall be offering my friends afternoon tea proper British style in memory of Keelan. Starting at 5pm, obviously.

And this is where I need your help! I want you to tell me what foods instantly spring to mind when I say the words “Afternoon tea”. The more traditionally English/British the better. I already have scones (both cheese and plain) on my list, and I even know of a source for clotted cream here in Germany! I’m also thinkin Cheddar cheese sandwiches – cut into little triangles for maximum posh Englishness – shortbread and Yorkshire Parkin (the latter shall be made using my Grandma’s recipe. What could be more English). But I need more! Hungry mouths to feed and all that. All contributions welcome, especially from those readers out there who are not British. What do you think is an absolute must at an English tea party? In this particular case stereotypes are welcome! (But only good ones, please. That’s what we’re trying to reinforce here).

By the way, you too can host a tea party in memory of Keelan. Check out The Dormouse’s Last Stand to find out how…

Getting crafty in memory of Ellie

Some of you may remember my post a few months ago about my friends little girl, Ellie, who sadly passed away from the genetic disease ARPKD (those who don’t know or remember what I’m on about can view the post here).
Ellie’s amazing mummy, my friend Naomi, has been raising money for the Tiny Lives charity, based at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, where Ellie spent her short life. Now Naomi has opened an online shop “My Star Ellie” where she is selling handmade stuff to raise even more money for Tiny Lives. Various people are getting involved with the project, including me! Yes, very soon you will be able to marvel at greeting cards and bookmarks made by my very own hand!

I (and Naomi) would really appreciate it if you could take a look at the My Star Ellie shop, pass it on to your friends, blog about it, tweet about it and anything else you can think of to get the word out. And keep checking back! More stuff will be coming in. Not just greeting cards, but also gift tags, book marks, jewellery and anything else people decide to make and donate.

Here is the link:
www.artfire.com/users/mystarellie

Thank you all muchly for your help!

Finally Friday

It’s been a log, long week, despite the fact that I had Monday off work (we went to visit Jan’s dad) and I’m unbelievably glad it’s over. For some reason I just couldn’t concentrate. Everything seemed to take three times as long as it should have, then we had a customer complain and spent 2 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday sorting that out. Yep, that’s one week I’m pleased to see the back off.

Baby Ellie’s funeral was yesterday. I wish so much that I could have been there to support her parents – well, her mum mostly, I’ve only met her dad once – but for obvious reasons that wasn’t possible. One of the disdvantages of living in Germany. I know they had lots of friends and family there for them though, and I hear she had a good send off.  Quite a bit of money was put in the donation tin as well, and Ellie’s memorial page on Just Giving has already raised more than 1,500 pounds for the Tiny Lives charity! Not bad considering it was only created a little over a week ago. You can see the page here: http://www.justgiving.com/Naomi-Warburton Please pass the link on, even if you don’t feel you can donate to total strangers. They are trying to get the message out to as many people as possible and every little helps.

I must go and finish cooking tea now – we’re having fish and chips the healthy way (home-made and oven-cooked) and I really don’t think the potatoes are going to peel themselves!

For Ellie, with love (an appeal)

On 5th February 2011 my friend Naomi gave birth to a baby girl at 35 weeks gestation.

Baby Ellie was suffering from a reare genetic disease, ARPKD – the recessive form of Polycystic Kidney Disease (ARPKD = autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease). Despite the staff at the RVI (Royal Victoria Infirmary) doing everything they could, Ellie fell asleep in her mum’s arms on 7th February 2011.

Now Ellie’s mum and dad, and their friends and family, are determined to give something back to the hospital that gave so much to Ellie during her short time on Earth, while at the same time raising awareness of ARPKD. Naomi has set up a fund for Ellie on JustGiving, and people are spreading awareness through Twitter. They’ve even managed to get a few celebrities involved in tweeting (I believe that’s the technical term…). And a local newspaper has also got wind of Ellie’s cause and now want to write an article about her and the various charity events. What a little star! And now, along with everyone else who would have liked to get to know Ellie, I want to do my bit to get people involved. That’s where you come in!

Please could those of you who have Twitter “tweet” the following link: http://www.justgiving.com/Naomi-Warburton
Obviously none of you know the family, and if we all gave money to every cause out there we’d be broke within minutes, but even so if you think you could perhaps donate a little something that would be amazing! Even if it’s just a pound or two, every penny that the RVI tiny lives charity gets could make a huge difference to a premature or sick baby’s life. (If you do decide to donate, maybe mention that you came from my blog, just so Ellie’s family can keep some kind of overview of where the donations are coming from). The point of this post is really to raise awareness though, not to ask you for money. Which is why all I really want is for the tweeters (twitterers?) among you to at least pass on the link. I know Ellie’s mum will be beyond grateful! I’m not on twitter myself so I thought my blog was the best chance I had to pass on the message. Thank you all!

For a good cause…

I wanted to show you some of the results of the project I was telling you about in my last post, but the computer is refusing to upload photos from my camera so I shall just have to tell you instead…

After getting a few cross stitch designs onto paper, I decided it was about time to start getting a few of them onto fabric to find out whether what I’d been imagining could even work. There’s a world of difference between a few symbols on squared paper and an actual cross-stitched product! So I got some of the leftover Aida from a previous project, dug out some of the threads I no longer needed and gave it a whirl. And… success! I managed to produce a toadstool that actually looked like a toadstool! A few days before that an online friend had mentioned that she was running an auction in aid of the Shaken Baby Syndrome SUpport Network and was looking for people who made things and would be wiling to donate something for the auction. I decided this was an excellent first step on the road to my long-term goal (more on that later) and started stitching like crazy, managing to produce a bookmark, a birthday card and three gift tags, all in just over a week. Not bad for someone who works full time! The auction is on next Tuesday, so I guess then I’ll find out whether anyone is actually willing to buy my creations and whether it’s worth persuing my other idea. Which brings me back to long-term goals…

Back when I started toying with the idea of maybe designing my own cross stitch patterns, the vague idea of possibly selling them at some point also crossed my mind. At the time I dismissed it, but once I had actually started putting the designs on paper, the idea returned. What if, I thought, I created a shop on DaWanda (the German version of Etsy, for those who are wondering), sold some self-designed and hand-made cross stitched products and gave all the money to charity? Finally a hobby that might actually lead to something meaningful! Sounds good, no? Currently, though, I’m not actually sure whether I will ever be able to put my idea into practice. German law says that if I make things with the intention of selling them I am running a business, and have to register myself as such. What nobody seems to know is whether this is still the case if I don’t even want the money I’ll be earning from selling my stuff. My plan is to give every single penny to charity. No earning back the costs of material then giving the rest to charity. 100% of the selling price would go to whichever organisation I wanted to help at the time (the plan also involves switching charities once in a while to help as many people as possible). So for now I’m still researching and reading and asking questions and, of course, waiting to find out whether anyone even wants the items I’ve donated for the aforementioned auction. And in the meantime I shall continue to draw (badly) and design and stitch, so that if my shop ever does come into being I will actually have something to sell in it. Stay tuned…

Oh, and the auction that I have possible donated my creations to (if they actually manage to arrive on time) has a Facebook page here which you all need to go and look at and bid on stuff. It’s for a good cause you know…

Fun at Das Fest

It’s the weekend of Das Fest here in Karlsruhe, as I’ve mentioned.. ooh, I don’t know how many times over the last few days. For those who don’t know (and actually care), Das Fest is the biggest free open air music festival in Europe (I believe). Not the biggest festival, obviously, but the biggest one that costs absolutely nothing to get in. Occasionally they have big name bands/singers there, mostly before they become big names but there are some that play Das Fest even after they’ve become famous (the first band I ever saw at Das Fest was Jethro Tull by the way… back in 2004). Apart from the music there are various other things going on, including activities and entertainment for kids, a beach volleyball tournament and a freestyle frisbee show (where people do things like throw frisbees up in the air and roll them down their arms).

So last night we went along to Das Fest to see German band Sportfreunde Stiller play. I quite like Sportfreunde Stiller, despite the fact that they don’t actually sing that well. They’re fun though and, as mentioned yesterday, brilliant for people learning the language. They were the first German band whose lyrics I could actually understand without looking them up. They put on a good show last night, made people laugh, had the crowd dancing and I was very pleased that I could sing along with almost all the songs they played. YAY. Personally I thought they were much better than the band who played before them, Revolverhead. Revolverhead released a song for this year’s European Cup which was quite frankly terrible!

This morning we met up with some other people from my student residence (and some who used to live here) for breakfast at Cae Emaille. The food at Emaille isn’t brilliant, but it’s a student friendly place where everything’s cheap (and it at least tastes better than the so-called “Mensa” (canteen) at the university). After breakfast Jan and I went to buy some rubber ducks. No, not real ones!
Tomorrow at Das Fest there’s a rubber duck race along the Alb, the little river that runs through the park. The  money raised goes to SMA Deutschland e.V, a charity that helps children with muscular atrophy. So even if you don’t win it’s worth taking part. And for those who do win there are some pretty good prizes, including a hot air balloon trip for two, a Canon printer and a football signed by KSC, the local football team (who are actually quite good and have made it into the top division).

Tomorrow it’s off to Das Fest again for the classic breakfast (bring your own breakfast and have a picnic in front of the main stage while an orchestra plays classical music) and the duck race. We decided not to go this evening because it started chucking it down and neither of us is particularly interested in Fettes Brot or KT Tunstall (who I’ve just discovered spells herself KT… and I’ve been calling her Katy all week. I’m sure if she ever discovers my blog I’ll be devastated!)

And now I shall leave you. I think I’ve rambled on for long enough!