Wednesday, May 23, 2018

One Sentence per Picture

Summer Nights starting in Düsseldorf

Victorian Lace for Marlon's sister, due in early June

Trip to the Netherlands with Dominik and Linda

Cheeky Marlon

Bonnet for Marlon's sister

Bergpark Wilhemshöhe in Kassel

Wonderful Appetizers at "Arabesque" in Düsseldorf

Picture from my visit at Thyssen Krupp Steel, pretty amazing!

Being a good godmother and taking him to the playground

We got tickets to the rapidly sold-out Seeed-Tour! Yay!

Trip to the Northern and Baltic Sea

We have already had a couple of great trips in 2018 and I am so happy that we are using our campervan so often. When  we got it, three years ago, I was afraid it would be like so many things we have been doing, bouldering, bouncing, you name it, that we would pick up, be excited about and then would forget about it.

Apparently, there are more campervans registered in Germany than at any other time in history and it is true: more and more people we know have their own van.  Some friends are buying transporters and transforming them into the home on wheels they dream of. Others, like my aunt and uncle, rather follow our example and buy an old van that they can take off with instantly.

A few weeks ago a friend, Dominik, invited us to the surprise birthday party of Linda, his girlfriend. (Last year we spent a wonderful week on Fehmarn together. Check it out here.) As there was a holiday during the week anyway, we decided to take the whole week off and then slowly drive to Lübeck, where they are living. I was pretty excited as I always love to be at the Sea, even in Germany, where the Northern Sea often is rough and not very pretty and also, I have always wanted to go to the Alte Land, an area near Hamburg, famous for its many apple and cherry trees. In the beginning of May the apple trees were in full bloom, which made the trip extra special.

We started our journey with a stay in the beautiful little town of Greetsiel, a harbor town, famous for its to grand windmills, a red and a green one. My parents used to take me here on holidays, which is why the stay there was a walk down memory lane for me. Everything seemed so familiar, but being older I felt how touristic the whole town is and how small the center is. The weather was pretty typical of the region during those first days, it was rainy and windy- and the night held a big surprise for us: one of the fiercest thunderstorms I have ever experienced in my life. They are supposed to be more powerful on the shore and yes, the night was lit by all the lightning in the sky.

Greetsiel harbour area
Schnapps you can have with fish, apparently
I loved that the signs were in German and the regional dialect
The next day we had a date with relatives of mine, where I had spent many holidays as a kid. They live on a farm, so I always had a lot of dogs and cats to play with, plus I remember running into the henhouse every hour or so, just to check whether there were any new eggs. I also always used to help my cousin out with her children while they were still little. She has got four of them and it had always been a great joy for me to help her out, while she was preparing at least four meals a day for all the hungry farm-helpers. We had always had a special bond somehow and I immediately felt the connection again, once we spotted each other. The kids are all grown-up now and I felt pretty old, remembering how I put diapers on all of them. We sat down for dinner and after all of the kids went out for a party night it was just us old people. You could tell that both of them, my cousin and her husband, were so happy having guests to chat and – drink – with. We drank a lot of Schnapps and beer, but surprisingly, still felt great the other day and after a wonderful breakfast, we headed off to Bremerhaven. Wilhelm had suggested we took the ferry instead of the newly built tunnel, as it was the only ferry of the kind and he insisted on us having a cup of coffee and a wurst on the ferry. 

Sounded odd, but of course we obliged. Insider-tipps often are the best! Sure enough, the ferry, which only takes a few minutes to cross the Weser, has a little kiosk on it, where a cute old man sells coffee and wurst. He proudly told me that the wurst is made especially for the ferry kiosk and sure enough, the can said so. I had very little time to get back into the car; we were already landing on the other bank. Sitting in a parking lot, we enjoyed our delicious coffee and the Wurst with mustard. So good!

Guten Appetit!

Bremerhaven is full of docks, ships and gulls. The camping-spot is right near the sea and the harbor. Sitting at breakfast, you can sometimes see huge ships go by, which feels really bizarre. The second day in Bremerhaven the sun came out and the city suddenly seemed like a different place. It won’t ever be my favourite I guess, but the docks and the architecture there are pretty impressive.

Docks in Bremerhaven
Our camper site at the Elbe

Foodtruck Corner
Alte Land

After our stop in Bremerhaven, we finally wanted to go to the Alte Land and wander around apple trees. Having a problem with vibrations in our tires we stopped at a garage and the owner, a camper himself, recommended a camper site right next to the river Elbe, even in front of the dike. Again, following a recommendation didn’t fail us: the site was gorgeous. The little villages called Steinkirchen and Hollern-Twielenfleth were adorable and right next to the site, there was a food-truck corner with benches and lots of friendly folks having a good time, while the sun went down over the river. I loved it so much that we were thinking about staying for a second night, which we rarely ever do. The weather was perfect, sunny, but not too hot, so we took a lot of walks through the neighborhood. The walking path even in the middle of the village, is on the dike, so that you can see all the beautiful old farmhouses and walk through the blossoms of all the fruit trees on the way. There are sheep, lighthouses and everything that is so typical about the Northern part of our country and I love every single bit of it! (Ok, the weather could sometimes be better, but we were pretty lucky for the rest of the week). After another day in the Alte Land we decided to have one last stop before arriving in Lübeck, also to avoid rush hour Friday in Hamburg.

Typcial Alte Land Architecture
Lisek being a good boy in between all the apple trees
Outside a little cafe in the pretty town of Stade
Very nice food truck in the Alte Land

Ratzeburg has a pretty little old town, situated on an island in a big lake. The camper site there offers a beautiful view of the lakes and is in walking distance of the most beautiful old town buildings. All the water makes the town very beautiful, but when we were searching for a bar or a pub we were disappointed- Apparently the whole old town is like a home for the elderly and they don’t have that much need for evening entertainment.
Our Camper site in Ratzeburg
We took a sundown stroll when we arrived
So pretty
part of the Ratzeburg Cathedral

The next day we conspired with Dominik to meet them in a beach bar in beautiful Scharbeutz and surprise Linda who was already sitting there with two other friends. The Baltic Sea looks so different to the Northern Sea, it is astounding. The weather was so good that some very brave people even took a swim. I cannot blame them, the water sparkled blue and turquoise just like in the Carribean.
When we came to Lübeck, more friends of Linda, from Düsseldorf, had already arrived and we had a little party, before more and more people arrived. The morning started with an awesome breakfast. Before we had to leave to walk into the old town of Lübeck, to go on a boat tour, which was just a perfect way to discover the city and enjoy the wonderful weather. After the trip, Linda had to pay some old customs due and as an unmarried 30-year-old had to prove her skills as a good Hausfrau and clean door handles on the market square, which all of us made it as hard on her as possible. It is custom that the unmarried woman has to do that until a virgin frees her with a kiss. (The men have to sweep the market square until they also are freed by a kiss.) It was pretty hot and – as you can imagine – we were all very drunk after a whole day of partying. But – the day was not over yet – a barbecue with a beautiful garden party followed and it truly was one of the best birthday parties I had ever been to. Everything was just so perfect, the company, the weather, it was really nice. And with another breakfast we said our goodbyes to the North and went back home again with many memories in our heads and already looking forward to our next trip, around Whitsun, in only two weeks.

Off to a party in Lübeck

As you can tell, the boat trip was great fun

Cleaning handles

A great end to a great trip

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


A few years now I have been a moderator of the LeanIn Circle Düsseldorf, I have had the honour of meeting Sheryl on her last visit to Europe and I also very much liked her new book she wrote with psychologist Adam Grant. It’s called “Plan B” and deals with crises and how to a) get through them and b) help others get through them. It opened my eyes for many mistakes I had made in the past, by avoiding friends who were living through a crisis, simply by not knowing what to say and gave me  good advice on how to help people who are going through tough times.

There have been quite a few existential crises in the lives of my friends and family. Burn Out, Break-Ups, severe illnesses, Unfaithfulness, you name it. I am quite surprised how much goes wrong in everyone’s life. I feel like I have been lucky so far, no major break-downs or strikes of destiny in my life has made me to think about what Option B would look like to me. The atmosphere in my first real job was really toxic and nearly made me sick. (If I were going through the same mobbing today, I would treat it with much more self-respect and determination, I am sure) But I somehow found the energy to power through until I had found something else.
Recently though, due to changes at my workplace and also a fight with a friend, where I felt I had let him down, I have been dealing with low self-esteem, feeling like I can’t do anything right. Like I have learned nothing useful from life and self-doubts and negative thoughts have been crippling the joy every day could have given me. Funnily enough the resources of what I learned about coaching and mediation and in my happiness-class in Berkeley helped me to not sliding into total crisis mode. There were times I cried, and more times when I just felt paralysed, but my resources have helped me go through that. And while I am not totally back on track I would like to share those insights with you, as I hope they can help you, too.

One evening after work, when I felt especially useless and small, I sat down, determined and made a list. Of all my achievements at school, at university, what I had learned apart from those, how I went through the troubles I faced in my first job, how my volunteer work helps others, how my customers always give me great feedback and assure me how my work has helped them evolve.

I also made a gratefulness-list. I was grateful for my boyfriend, who goes with me through thick and thin and I know would always be there for me, even in times of illness, unemployment or whatever comes our way. I have the unconditional love of our dog Lisek, who makes me smile and helps me forget about my troubles in the most charming way. I am grateful for my friends who simply are the best people in the world and who will always be there for me. My family also, will always be there if I fall and this is so good to know. Last, but not least I am grateful for who I am, for what I have learned and for what I have experienced so far, even the hard times.
Getting away from everything is also a good idea to clear your head for a while. Take a trip, leave your ordinary life for a few days. We are lucky, we can just take the campervan and go hiking in the surrounding areas every weekend. And this is what we did. It felt great to be exploring and being outside, even if I had very little energy all in all. That’s another point of this crisis I am going through, my energy levels are so low, I could basically fall asleep all day, every day.

Meeting with a good friend always helps boosting my mood and it was one of those great meetings that motivated me to write this blogpost. I described how down I was lately, due to tough changes at work, not really knowing what I was worth, what to do with my life and doubting my abilities. She responded “But look at you, you have a great university degree, you write a blog, you moderate a Lean In Circle, you read with a refugee kid, you are writing your PhD and you are such an active, outgoing person. If you cannot be proud of yourself who can be?” BAM! Yes, why wasn’t I more proud of myself? Where did those nagging doubts suddenly come from? Where was the self-confident young woman I was while giving a presentation in front of my whole class of 2004 in the first year at university? Always speaking up and feeling ambitious? Taking responsibility and standing up for myself and others?

Where was this woman and what had changed?
I have not found all the answers yet and I am certainly not my old self again, but something has already changed. My trust has come back, and I believe now that whatever may come my way, I will be able to master it. Also, I want to find out how I can be more of the woman I used to be when I was so strong-willed and it felt like the world was my oyster.
I hope that by reading this you might have gotten some ideas what to do in the face of crisis and how to empower yourself by using your own resources.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Beatnik- Sweater

My favourite kind of delivery!

Hey folks, how have you been?

Life has been pretty busy in our neck of the woods. My work life is crazy right now, so I am happy when I have some knitting in my hands by the end of the day and can see what I can accomplish there.
In the middle of February I finished a project I was looking forward to for some time and it was so much fun to knit, I will definitely do it again. It's the Beatnik-Sweater, a free pattern on Ravelry by Norah Gaugan.
There is so much about the pattern that appealed to me: the aran-style cables, the short sleeves, the neck, the 60s feel about it. And what can I say? The pattern is totally easy to follow, even the cable pattern gets easy after a little while and after all this fair-isle sock-knitting it was feeling like a break to knit in only one colour.

Don't you just love cables?

The sweater is knit in parts, back, front, sleeves are all knit apart from each other and then sown together. The only part you knit onto the whole thing is the neck.

My skin is super sensitive with wool, so I was a bit afraid that the Drops Nepal I used would be a bit too itchy. On instagram I read about washing wool with a bit of conditioner, which makes sense, after all, it's hair, too. And it worked. The yarn wasn't scratchy at all and the sweater fits better than any other piece of clothing I ever knit. I am really happy with the end result. Due to its material and the several layers the cables form, it is pretty warm, but as there still is very cold evenings I am sure I will be able to wear it a few times in spring as well.

Dita likes the Beatnik too

The Back is done!
Soaking in the Bath

Proud and wearing it for the first time!

I made a mistake in the front part which will haunt me till the end of my life I guess. But it's only one cable that is turning the wrong way. Admist all those other cables you don't really see if, if you are not looking for it. So I am ok with it, I am no perfectionist anyway.

Wearing it in the Scottie, looking fat, but happy. 

Fits perfectly!

While I took a friend who just started to knit yarn-shopping ( I am such a self-less friend, don't you think?) I happened to find some pretty well-priced bright red and dark grey yarn, which I already had an idea for. Mr. Schön had managed to get me two Norwegian knitting-books. "Kofteboken I and II" which sport a lot of beautiful Norwegian patterns of those traditional cardigans, called Kofte, that are knit in the round and later cut open. I have written about my first Kofte before.
This time I just want to knit a sweater however (a genser in Norwegian) and the pattern looks so different in grey and red, compared to the black and white in the book, but I love how it is turning out. Apart from the knitting chart, I don't understand that much from the book, as everything is in Norwegian. But I am thinking of knitting it just like the Beatnik-pattern as it fit me so well. I hope it will work out, as of course the beatnik wasn't knit in the round...

It's amazing, how different colours work

Love the pattern!

Do you remember Opus the Octopus and his brother? My cousin has seen my Opuses online and asked me, whether I would knit one for their kids as well. So of course I started immediately, very happy to have found the perfect project for blue and green yarn a friend had given to me as a present years ago. It looks perfect as an octopus. I will show you the finished project soon.

TGIF, work really is a hazard at the moment and this afternoon we will take the van out for another adventure. Have a great weekend, everybody!

A cabled hat I made in between

Friday, January 26, 2018

Jacinda Ardern inspires women and knitters

I bet you have heard, as it was all over the news: New Zealand’s new Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is pregnant. The media is making a big deal out of it, as I think she will be the first head of state giving birth while in office (well, apart from monarchs that is) and it kind of is. It should be normal for a woman in power to also have children, but to this day, it is not. Therefore Jacinda Ardern is sending out an important message to all the women of the world: You can have a great job and still take time to give birth to your child. 

The world won’t stop to turn when you take maternity leave and take care of yourself and your offspring. I kind of love her for that! It is going to work out and make becoming pregnant in your job a much more normal thing. In Germany, young mothers get a lot of protection from the state, I think you can stay absent and still have the guarantee to get back to your old job after three years. This is a big burden for employers of course and it means that a lot of young female professionals don’t get more responsibilities as there is always the risk of them dropping out. This is unfair both to the women who want to be moms as well as to the women who don’t plan / are not able to have a family. We are all still seen as potential breeders.

This is why the pregnancy of the Prime Minister is such a big deal, to show everybody that it can work out and I hope she will inspire a lot of young women to take the opportunity to step up the ladder, while planning a family or even if they are already pregnant. 

Ardern's pregnancy has sparked an adorable movement in her country. The hashtag #knitforjacinda sparked a knitting movement of donations to families who are less well-off and might make good use of handknit baby clothes. The press covered this charity-knit extensively and maybe it can inspire people from all over the world to use their crafts for the less-fortunate. Handmade baby shoes or hats are such adorable and at the same time useful gifts and it doesn't only make the new parents happy, but giving also shows great health and happiness benefits for the giver. So, swing your needles, peeps and do it for a good cause nearby. (There are e.g. a lot of hospitals accepting hats and socks for preemies.)
Let's celebrate Jacinda's great example for women worldwide and give something back. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Girl's weekend and lots of sockknitting

Everybody has to have those special girlfriends that you can talk through the night with, about everything. And when I mean everything, it means everything. No matter if it's bad dates, deepest fears or something like you favourite sex position. I am lucky enough to have some of the finest friends somebody could wish for. 
At least once a year we try to meet for a weekend of just us, as meeting up spontaneously has become increasingly difficult with two of them living far away, one having a family and all the other stuff everybody has been doing. 

Our first trip was to Dublin two years ago and last year we just met up for a wellness-weekend in a town nearby. This time we decided to take it low-key as well, having a cozy winter-weekend with a sauna and a fireplace. We were pretty lucky to find a beautiful holiday home in an area with not much going on and therefore also very cheap. It was all we wanted for the weekend, we went running, sat in the sauna, sat in front of the fireplace and just talked a lot. In fact, we were pretty lazy. 

I imagined our holiday with snow around us, which was not the case, but as I enjoyed sockknitting so much, I promised all of them to knit a warm pair of socks for them. (My ravelry page features a lot of sock patterns now) After finally deciding on the pattern and being finished with my "christmas-gift-knitting", I really had to throw in a lot of knitting time to finish in time. (Which I still didn't manage to do. Pauline's socks were only finished after the weekend. I wil give them to her the next time we see each other.)

The first pattern I knit was intended for toe-up knitting, which I have never done, so I figured, just knit top-down and it will work. It didn't though, the lizard in the pattern was much longer than the foot, so their heads are a bit anomalic, but the pattern in general is really cool. The next time I am going to make them I will give the other way a try. 

The second one I found on a request of my good friend Dani's who likes green and purple. The pattern features a lot more colours, but I loved it too much not to choose it. They took me some time, especially since the footsize was so big, but it was well worth it. 

Fairytale Socks

I had never knit anything in black and white and I love the effect those clearcut colours have in a pattern. The regularity of the pattern creates a very nice structure that keeps the feet nice and warm and I definitely recommend it.

For the last pair I chose the blue and green colour which I thought would make a nice addition to the pattern I chose. It is nice, but the two socks are very different from each other, plus the color gradient creates a sharp contrast in the one full round that is knit when knitting the heel. Also, the original pattern has a pretty cool application with buttons in it. For time reasons I left it out, but the next time I knit this pattern I will include it. 

For now, not having anything I "have" to knit, I decided to tackle one of the bigger projects I chose for myself. Only a few days ago I started with my long planned Beatnik-Sweater in Marine Drops yarn. At first I was a little intimidated by all the different acbles of the pattern, but what can I say? I love it! And it is not nearly as hard as I imagined it to be. I made good progress and am already looking forward to wearing it. (Also I am glad to knit with only one colour for a change.)
I got this little helper to better knit with two colours

A new book I bought myself and the beginning of my Beatnik-Sweater