Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Skypemas ...again!

'Tis the season ... to turn on your computer, go on Skype and visit your family! 

No words, can't describe the feelings. 

Just picture of my beautiful family who made this Christmas the best it could possibly have been, shy of flying home and actually being there with them in person. Again.

 Here's my mom and me singing Stille Nacht (Silent Night).

The best family in the whole wide world!

More branches of the best family in the whole wide world. All these lovely people came to visit my grandma and mom and aunt and uncle and cousins in Illmitz last night - and me in Trinidad!

Feeling blessed.

Feeling excited.

Can. Not. Contain. HAPPINESS!!!

And (also thanks to Skype and this grand age of technology we live in) I got to spend over twenty minutes talking to my dad and my grandpa on the phone! More beautiful people! More love!! Heart came close to bursting a few times yesterday. 

I won't exaggerate and tell you something like "it was the best Christmas ever" because it wasn't, it couldn't have been. I missed these people even while I was talking to them. And there are people we all missed together, sorely, because they're not with us anymore. But given the circumstances, it was the best it could possibly be. 

Now I have one more day off - going to the beach today (if the rain stops?) - and then tomorrow it's back to being a good and busy postgrad. 

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas at the Real Austrian Embassy

It is December 24th and what does that mean? It's Christmas! Unfortunately, I'm not going home for Christmas this year, even though I would have loved to. It's different from last year, where I also stayed in Trinidad for the Holidays, but it wasn't a problem. I wouldn't call it a problem this year, but it's definitely not as easy as last year. 

I'll be on Skype with my family again in a little under an hour, then it'll really be Christmas, and I can't wait to see them all and chat with them and hear their voices and sing together and see what everybody got from the Christkind and all of those magical things that make Christmas Christmas. 

But I'm not on Skype 24/7, so I did my best to make the Embassy as homely and as Christmassy as possible for all that time that my family is not with me via the computer screen: 

 There's a big snowflake on the door that leads from my bedroom to the balcony (which is decorated with lights).

 I made myself a pair of Jingle Bell earrings for the various office parties and other events.

 I sent out a bunch of handmade Christmas cards to friends and family.

 I made and hand-wrapped small gifts for some of the people who accompany me here in Trinidad.

 I made tons more snowflakes, as presents for friends and as decorations for home.

 I bought nuts, even though I don't even have a nutcracker, but they're just so christmassy!

 When you descend the stairs you're greeted at the bottom by a glittery tree with a handmade star ornament on it.

And as you walk up and down, poinsettia flowers and spheres and more snowflakes accompany you.


 Even I got presents from friends: cards and a candle and origami paper! So exciting and wonderful!

And here's the most important of all my decorations: my very own Christmas tree. 

We don't get real Christmas trees here in Trinidad, because of the climate. I refuse to buy a plastic one, because it just goes against everything I was brought up with and believe in. It's just not right, for me. So, in the spirit of living green, which I discovered big time this year, I made my own Christmas tree from an empty printing paper box that I got in our GIS lab at the department of Geography at university. 

I cut out the tree and painted it green. I cut out candles and painted them white. I cut out ornaments and painted them in different shades of purple, then further decorated some of them with white and black glitter. I cut out a star, painted it grey and decorated it with white glitter to make it silver and shimmery. Then I glued everything onto my tree. Today, as it is now officially Christmas, I glued the little flames I had prepared (from an empty Mac'n'Cheese box with yellow paint and glitter glue) onto the tops of the candles, which are now "lit" and ready. 

Here's my tree, not quite like at home, but as close as it can possibly get being as far away as I am. 


Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go get dressed up and put on some make-up so I'll look pretty for when I meet my family for our celebration.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Crafts in Company

The Real Austrian Embassy had its first actual event, meaning that more than one person was invited and it was a planned thing, not a spontaneous I'll-swing-by-on-the-way-home or I'm-bored-I'll-come-hang-out-with-you thing. 

December 12th, 2013, was the Real Austrian Embassy's Advent Lime! 

An event was created on Facebook to let "fans" of the Embassy and my own friends know the when and the where and the how and in the end we had a neat little get-together of ten people, which is actually pretty much exactly what I'd hoped for. Not too many people, and not too few. Attendants of the Embassy's first official event: Kara, Alana, Hamish, Jason, Josimar, Khadine, Serg, Shakira and Thais (in the order they showed up in). 

Unfortunately, Thais is not in this collage, because she hadn't yet arrived when these pictures were taken.

And yours truly, in my "crafts teacher" getup.

Because of the continuing lack of seating in the Embassy, everybody brought a cushion or a blanket or something else to sit on and we created a picnick-like atmosphere on the floor; something else I found was very enjoyable. 

Advent Lime means that we had Christmas foods and Christmas drinks (like Punch and sorrel and peardrax), listened to Christmas music and did some Christmas crafts projects - I taught everybody how to make paper snowflakes. Aside from that there was obviously a lot of joking and laughing. How would there not be, wich such cool people! 

 Baked pastelle, Christmas lemon cupcakes, brownies, bread with goat cheese and tomatoes and cucumber and a balsamic vinaigrette, and vegan and gluten-free cookies. 

 This is what I mean when I say "fun and joking".

 Glue people! The Scottish-Austrian crossdresser and the Caribbean beach girl.

Our creations!!! And our feet.

I really hope to be able to host more events like this one in the future. More crafts, more fun, more good food with nice people. Also non-crafts things. Anything, really, once it's with friends. And with some luck, next time I'll even have a couch for everyone to sit on!!

Again a big THANK YOU to everyone who showed up, you're great. 

Until the next time!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Unbreakable drinking cups!

I'm super clumsy and have already broken a glass since I moved to the Real Austrian Embassy. I haven't broken another one since that incident, but I am always very nervous when I am using one, thinking I might break it at any moment and find myself in a field of shards of glass - again. 

But klutz no more! 

Five years ago when I was traveling through Venezuela, my good friend Rafael Venexpedition and his family taught me this really cool trick that I remembered a few days ago:

How to make cups from cans. 

All you need is a metal file and an empty, rinsed can. Any one will do, whether it's a beer can or a soda can or a juice can. File around the top rim of the can and the top will come right off. Lightly file around the new edge to round it off so you won't cut your face and/or hands, wash off the "sawdust" and voilà your new unbreakable drinking cup. Or storage cup. Or little desktop vase. Whatever you want, really. 

These are also great for picnics or beach days or anything where you can't bring heavy and fragile glasses. Even for parties they're cool! Yes, you could get paper or plastic cups. But this way your drinking utensils will look way more stylish whether you paint them or leave them as they are. And you'll be repurposing cans you'd otherwise just throw away and we all know how bad aluminium is... and one-way cups are also really bad... So, yeah, make these.

Hope you like 'em!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Have yourself a merry little Christmas...

I just told you about all the crafts and DIY projects I'm currently embarking on and I promised you more. Here it is. It's December now and that means that Christmas is coming up. And that's something very important to me. Last year I got to spend Christmas with my family via Skype and I hope I'll have the same opportunity this year. Because I'm staying here again, even though this time I wish I could fly home and be with my folks for real. But it's okay, I can love them from afar. 

And as per the Christmas celebration which - in my own subjective and obviously very biased opinion - is a million times better in Austria than here in Trinidad, I'm making one for myself. That means that I'm making little trees and paper snowflakes, stars and wreaths. And next Thursday there will be a little Adventfeier right here at the Real Austrian Embassy: Punsch, tea, cookies, Christmas music and lots of crafts with friends. 

I don't yet have pictures of all the things I'm making, but I'd like to share what I have ready so far: 

 I discovered the joy of origami and now I'm making (and selling) little paper Christmas trees in white, with green glitter, or with tiny Christmas decorations.

 Upcycling the pages of an old book a friend was going to throw away into beautiful paper snowflakes of all sizes.

Paper rolls turned winter star. Nice. 

Have yourself a merry little Christmas... and if you can't have it then MAKE IT!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Dee Ay Why?

I'm a pretty busy person lately, more than I used to be. You might have noticed the silence on the blog over the last weeks - or months? No excuses, don't worry, just explanations. 

I have a lot of work. 

University is fun, I honestly love it. But trying to get a PhD is a whole new level of brain-xercise that I had no way of anticipating from when I was writing my previous thesis for my what-you'd-call-a-Masters. Seriously! 

And then there's the little odd jobs: picking a friend's kid up from pre-school every day, visiting all of Trinidad with German tourists and translating "AAAAAAALL THE INFORMATION" for them, being a TA and working on research projects for my supervisor, etc. All that is fun, too, like studying itself. But, well, it doesn't leave much time for telling you fun stories - or having the kind of fun you'd want to hear about! 


A counterbalance to all the work has been found in the form of crafts. Sure, that's nothing new, you've known for a while that I like making stuff because I've been making stuff for a while and telling you about it. But now, in the Real Austrian Embassy, my dearest love DIY and I have taken the next big step in our relationship. We're official!

Before you think I'm weird(er), let me explain what I'm talking about. 

I have organized myself as a crafts and DIY fan. Recent infrastructural and societal updates within the Embassy have resulted in my having my own room and, believe you me, I'm making good use of it. I'll show you the whole thing another time, now is the moment to talk about the number one feature of my chambers: my crafts and DIY closet! 

Because I have a wall covering closet on one side of my room, I am able to dedicate half of it to my clothes and the other half to everything I need for my projects, from A like acrylic paint to Z like the zippers I use when I sew bags and purses. It is heaven! 

A shoe organizer for my paints, glues, brushes, scissors, knives, screwdrivers, hooks, glue sticks and all many more things. A self made little hanging shelf for my little containers full of glitter, confetti, decorations for Christmas and the secret ingredient for my next earring project that's coming out soon. Flower garlands, my glue gun, all kinds of tape hanging from the top bar. More self made shelves at the bottom for my paper, paints, cutting board, hammer, pliers, and so on and so forth... and all the awesome toys! 

Whenever I'm not reading/writing/studying or working on one of my jobs, there's usually three possibilities of what I might be doing: reading, watching "Home Improvement" (Who would've guessed?) or crafting/working on the place. 

Some of my projects: 

Note holders, handpainted. 

 Dressertop shelf for all those little things that would otherwise be tumbling around all over the place.

Decorative calabash bowl for the balcony. 

 Paper organizer from cereal boxes for my recipes, printed articles and the mail.

 A print of a piece by one of my favourite artists transferred onto a black canvas. 

A candle which looks a lot better with flowers painted on than all white and boring!

I know there's no picture of any of my DIY projects here, but I really don't know how to best take a picture of my shower that allows you to see the new silicone sealing around the doorframe. And as for the Embassy's new curtains, I just haven't taken a picture of those yet... Oops. 
And next up, all sorts of crafts projects specifically for Christmas! 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Trini Burning Man!!!

You know the Burning Man festival in the United States, somewhere in the desert. We all know that one. But did you know there's a Burning Man festival right here in Trinidad every single year? And not just one. Tons of them! 

I didn't know about that until I had to read about it for my Dynamics of Caribbean Culture class. And it was with that same class that I got to go to three different venues to experience the festival: Princes Town, Dow Village and Felicity.

The festival I refer to as the "Trini Burning Man" is really called Ramdilla or Ramleela and is a Hindu festival that celebrates the victory of Ram and his friends (including Hanuman, so that's pretty cool) over the evil Ravan. I could go on for a long time with history and festival theory and whatnot, but I think that it'll be much more interesting for you to appreciate the whole thing in a series of pictures.

So here we go. 

The Ramleela grounds in Dow Village have seen 130 festivals already, this is the most famous Ramleela ground in Trinidad.

It's usually mainly children who perform and it's a big honour for them and their families. The costumes are extremely elaborate and feature all kinds of colours and materials, including glitter and feathers.

The evil Ravan has ten heads and represents everything that's bad in the world, like our vices, for example. Sometimes, those are built side by side, at other times, you find nine small ones around one main one, like in this case in Felicity.

The mighty Hanuman fighting one of King Ravan's warriors. Colour in action.

Burning Man.

Burning Man!

Ravan has been defeated by the good guys, the Man has been Burned, now the people will go home.

And then, about a year from now, we start all over again. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Save it, baby.

Here's what. Saving is good. It's good to have a savings account where you can set aside some money for upcoming projects or for the infamous rainy days, having it generate more money through interest by just sitting there, etc. All of that is sensible and smart. I recommend it to everyone. Save so you'll have a safety cushion and you don't have to worry about your finances if times should get rough. At least not as much as without any savings. 

But, let's not forget about the peanuts! 

It's also nice to save on the small scale. 

If you put aside your change every time you go to the supermarket, then after a while you'll have enough for a special treat. Or if you're a smoker and want to quit, every time you'd usually buy a new pack you can instead put that money aside and then get something really nice that you've been wanting for a while but that was always just a little out of reach, financially. Or if you're like me and you just hate walking with coins - in a country where coins signify small money, that is. I'm not talking about one and two euro coins. Or Colombian pesos in general, where every coin buys you something. If that applies to you, then I recommend getting a piggy bank.

But here's the thing. We want to save, so why would we spend money on a piggy bank? Doesn't make sense, does it? 


So, Kwesi had this brilliant idea recently that I decided to use for myself and then tell you about. Make your own piggy bank. And I'm not even talking about a big effort, crafts or anything like that. Had a soda recently? Had some ice tea? Then you're set. 

Rinse out the can when you're done drinking your beverage and the let it dry out completely. Then, if you want, take off the opener thingie on top and, if you want, bend the broken seal further back. And now: TADAAA you have a piggy bank. 

Here's mine:

Cherry Cola - gross, but the can is pretty.

Whenever the can fills up, take it to the bank and, depending on the options the coin counting maching gives you and what you want, put the money on your account or exchange for notes. And, voilà, that dinner at the nice restaurant is yours. Or that cute pair of earrings. Or that awesome new album your favourite band just released on iTunes. Or something even bigger. Trust me, a lot can go into these cans! 

I'm looking forward to the 83 piece tool set I'm going to get with this money that otherwise would just be clinking around at the bottom of my handbag, because that's where it goes whenever I get a handful of coins for change, which I don't understand, because it's not like you can even buy anything with any coin that small here in Trinidad, which makes it such a waste, why are they still minting these itty bitty good for nothing bits of metal?... </rant>

So yeah, Cherry Cola Piggy Bank. 

What will yours be? 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Be your own fashion designer!

A while ago (a very, very long while ago...) I posted about upcycling, a few times, actually. One of the posts was about how to make a DIY racerback tank top. Making that top from a t-shirt inspired me to remodel part of my wardrobe and make more DIY tops. 

I lovelovelove and have bought a lot of shirts from them over time, for myself and as gifts for others. Even my only jacket (not really a jacket, but kind of) is from there. They have awesome and incredibly creative designs and their clothes are of high quality. Really, I mean it, nobody is paying me for this. 

There is only one problem. They sell t-shirts. How is that a problem? Let me explain. 
Here in Trinidad, the climate is hot. Very hot. Hothothot, to be exact. Therefore, I can’t really wear things that cover too much of me. I mean, I could, but I’m never very happy when I wear anything that covers even my shoulders, let’s not even think about covering my whole arms. That’s why most of the tops I own are tanks or spaghetti straps or some other flimsy concoction that covers as much as possible while allowing the breeze to go everywhere to cool me down. See the problem now? T-shirts cover a lot of the wearer’s torso. Can’t be done. Impossible. No. 

So, because I love my shirts but I couldn’t possibly wear them as they were, I got a big pair of scissors, had my mom explain how to use her sewing machine and got to work. Seamstress for a few weeks! Not, like Terry Pratchett’s seamstresses, mind you. I’m talking needles and threads. 

Here are my results: 

Whereas the first top was inspired by a tutorial found online, I didn’t follow any instructions (because I didn’t look for any) for the tops you see in the above pictures. They all just happened, if that makes any sense. I also didn’t take pictures of the process. But it’s really easy to make them. You just take a t-shirt and cut off the parts you don’t need and then you sew what remains into the shape you want it to be. 

Good enough explanation? I’ll assume so. If not, if you want to know how to make one of these shirts or part of one, just let me know and I’ll explain in detail. I can even draw the how-to for you. 

And when you start sewing yourself, share pictures with me!