Monday, 28 May 2012

Craft Fairs and Berlin!

Hello again!

I must apologise for the absence, I was busy getting ready for a craft fair on Sat 19th, and then I jetted off to Berlin for a mid week break with Chris.

The Craft Fair was... disappointing to say the least. I only sold 1 item, a bunny keyring to a little girl. There was plenty of very talented designers, making a variety of metal jewellery, to crocheted shawls and handmade cards, along with a vast array of vintage sellers, which consisted of clothes, jewellery and accessories, furniture, and china! Every stall had some beautiful, quirky, or funky items all loving made or discovered. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, there was a lack of the general public. The organiser had sent me, (and several other stall holders) fliers to put up to advertise the event, it was on several websites, and I saw fliers around that others had displayed, but there was very little custom. Anyway, I was pleased with how my stall looked despite the lack of sales, and I did get several encouraging compliments, which anyone who designs and makes crafts will appreciate. While it was a disheartening day, it has encouraged me to redirect my energy at selling my jewellery through shops. It wasn't too bad though, I had Berlin to distract me from the disappointment.

Berlin was HOT. But lovely. We didn't arrive until Monday afternoon, which gave us enough time to negotiate the S bahn from the airport to Alexanderplatz, and then up to the Ferienapartments Lackner, (we stayed at 'Bravo'). I negotiated a simple number coded box for the key, and then we were in! The apartment was small, clean and tidy, and perfect for us. After a quick wash change and unpacking session, we headed out for our first German beer of the stay. I had weissbier mit schloss (rot) which is wheat beer with syrup, (you can get either red or green, we both preferred it with red), while Chris had a dunkel (dark) beer. it was the perfect way to relax into our city break.

We had dinner by the river, and I sampled my favourite beer then, at the Jungbrau pub. it was refreshing, hoppy but not bitter, a little sweet and fruity and basically, exactly what I like drinking! We finished off our night with, yep, you guessed it, a couple more beers - I generally stuck to Pils or Weis while Chris favoured Dunkel, before wondering our way back to the apartment and sleep.

Tuesday dawned bright and sunny and hot. We decided to go for a wander around Berlin, to take in the sights. We began by strolling along one of the wide, tree lined streets that took towards Alexanderplatz with it's TV tower complete with revolving restaurant. (we tried to go up at sunset on the last day, but were a bit late getting there, then discovered we had to pay to go up, and there was a queue, so we headed to a pub instead!). From Alexanderplatz we headed to the river Spree, and then west towards the Brandenburg Gate, constructed between 1778 and 1791. Suitable impressed with the restored architecture, we continued our walking tour past the Reichstag and to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station). A huge glass building loomed above the lowest platform, with more on the second level. Lined with a variety of shops and cafes, the spiderweb of glass created a light bright and airy contemporary setting for Berlin's main station.

After some much needed water we continued towards the Siegessaule, the column that overlooks the Tiergarten. A golden figure, Goldeslse, depicting victory topped the column. We took the opportunity to climb the column for the magnificent views from the top, allowing us a moment to catch our breath. A low first level had beautiful mosaics which must have taken a talented artist a fair while to complete. Having see it from above, we then decided to explore the Tiergarten on foot. It was once used as a hunting reserve. It has since been landscaped, much of it remains shaded under a welcome canopy of trees, although little copses and small grassy clearing were plentiful for sunbathers seeking solice. The Tiergarten was very pretty, especially as we wound our way slowly along the lazy river, bordered by flowering Rhododendrons. It was a very peaceful and relaxing way to spend a couple of hours.

The tour finished at Potsdamer Platz for refreshment in the form of beer, where we absorbed the contemporary square with it's busy yet relaxing atmosphere. After the refreshment, we decided to head back to the apartment to freshen up before going out for dinner (heat and lots of walking makes for two hot and sweaty people! Our route back took us via the holocaust memorial, a vast area containing 2711 concrete slabs. It is a good place to play hide and seek, and many people were doing so, but that doesn't detract
from the significance of the memorial.

Our wanderings took us alongside the river, and as we felt hungry, we stopped for food and refreshment on the way back. And then a little more refreshment. Once showered it was starting to get dark, so we decided to explore the streets locally, and were surprised to discover a vast array of restaurants. It wasn't long before we found the 'Resturation' on a street corner, overlooking the small park near our apartment.

It was a perfect opportunity to sample some more weissbier mit schloss and a plate of delicious French cheeses. (Note the size of my glass! - don't worry tho mum and dad, it's only 30cl, and 3%.) Following food and in anticipation of cheese dreams later, we found ourselves in the 'Wine celler' which, was essentially what it says. It was very interesting, and completely different to canopied restaurants and cafes that line the seats. There was no seating outside unfortunately, so we found ourselves heading downstairs to find a seat. It was small, and cosy, and seemed pretty funky. I highly recommend it. The German wine I had was delicious, Chris missed out by being boring and sticking to beer. However it was the surroundings that grabbed our attention, with the wooden bar, large windows and wall paintings. I would have liked to stay longer, but as we had a big day planned we left after our only drink.

On Wednesday we decided to take a day trip to Potsdam to visit Park Sanssouci, at 70km the biggest in Brandenburg, and a trip I definitely recommend taking. Schloss Sancoussi was the Royal Palace, last inhabited by the widow of Frederick Wilhelm IV, and has been open to the public since 1927. An audio tour guides you through each room, explaining not only the use of the room, but about many of the features of the room, such as the inlaid wood panels in one of the bed chambers. However, that was not all park Sanssouci had to offer. The extensive grounds (and our ticket) also included a windmill, an orangerie converted into guest apartments, and actual orangery, Lustgarten, Chinese tea house and Roman baths, amongst others. There was also the New Palace, which we didn't look round as we were hot and bothered and had looked round quite a bit already. Instead we sat in the shade of some of the many trees and admired the impressive baroque structure.

Following some further wandering we headed into Potsdam, Chris had hoped to look around it more, but we were tired and ready to head back. He is often over-ambitious about seeing things, and as we'd seen plenty in the last couple of days I don't think he was too disappointed.

After scrubbing up at the apartment we headed out down the local streets and soon were chopping our way through some delicious pizza, served by a waiter who had chose exactly the right career. He was polite, friendly, a bit jokey, and even took a couple of photo's of us - unfortunately we proved to be not very good models. My only excuse is that we were more focused on the food.

Before long we headed to Alexanderplatz, and went to a Brew pub under the S bahn arches. From the beer garden we could see the trains go past while slurping pils contentedly. Another worthwhile visit.

Thursday was our last day in Berlin, as our flight back was Friday morning. However, after the busy couple of days we were ready for a more relaxed pace. besides, it was still hot.

We decided to head to Checkpoint Charlie,  the symbol of the Cold War. It was one of the checkpoints along the Berlin Wall where visitors from the West could cross to the East. However, those in the soviet West were not allowed through. When in use, the east side of Checkpoint Charlie was developed to include several permanent buildings, such as the wall, tower, and even a shed where cars could be checked. The West side however, consisted solely of a wooden shed, which was then replaced by a larger metal structure in the 1980s.  and part of the Berlin Wall that was still standing.

Having seen the Checkpoint Charlie, we headed a little way further to one of the best examples of the Berlin Wall still standing.  The wall was built to prevent the mass migration from the soviet East side to the West side of Germany. It was built pretty much overnight in August 1961. The wall since underwent several reconstructions, until it eventually consisted of 2 walls with approx 300ft of dead mans land between, which was overseen by soldiers in towers. During its history, over 100 people were shot while trying to escape to West Berlin. It is estimated that about 5000 made it. It is in a semi pretty setting, with the river meandering along on one side, and construction sites underway on the other. The section was fairly long, and we wandered along slowly, taking in all the various artwork along the wall, some of which were copies from original artwork on the wall, others which were commemorative pieces to celebrate 20 years since the wall was torn down last year.

 A hot stroll along the wall and back encouraged us to go in search of Hops and Barley, a brew pub strongly recommended to Chris. Once we got there (and had a drink in a cafe while we waited for it to open) we both declared it worth the wait. Delicious beer was served in a tiled room, completely different again to previous places. It had a bit of on 'old man' feel about it, but there was a much younger crowd outside as Chris pointed out. I think it's  the good sort of 'old man' pub, that welcomes and encourages younger people who appreciate good beer. The service was excellent, and Chris tried all 4 of their brews.

In search of food we headed back towards Alexanderplatz, but there was slim pickings unfortunately. we eventually settled for a fairly busy Greek restaurant, the beer was fine and the food tasty, there just wasn't enough of it. A little disappointed we headed off to try and go up the TV tower, but were put off by having to pay and queue. It was twilight and we would have liked to have seen the sunset. Thwarted, we instead headed to Hofbrau Munchen, a big German beer hall complete with live band, and some tankard swinging and singing. There was a good buzz and lively atmosphere. We both enjoyed the last beer of the trip.

With hearts wishing to continue our adventures, but the reality of returning back to Sheffield and work, we left Berlin, tired, poorer, and happier for the experience. Now we just got to save for more adventures...

Monday, 14 May 2012

Craft Fair Preview!


I have been busily stitching away not only for a bulk order, but also for a vintage and craft fair this Saturday, at the workstation, paternoster Row in Sheffield. However, I managed to take a little time out to take some photos to give you a preview of the jewellery I will have available for sale on the day!

Here's some of my earrings  and rings available on the day. What do you think?

All of these (except the sequined designs which are all one off) can be made in custom colours of your choosing. You can order them via the contact page of my website, or via facebook, or by dropping me an email at

Anyway, I'd best get back to preparing for the craft fair. I need to work on my pendant display tonight as this is the first time they will be available at a fair, (which is why there's no pictures). Wish me luck and I'll look forward to seeing you there!

Happy craft shopping!

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Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Spring, Cambridge and Punting!

I had hoped that the rains had gone, but the grey sky isn't very convincing. Even Cambridge, away from the hills of the Peak District, nestled amongst flat fields and fens couldn't escape a downpour.

I was in cambridge visiting my oldest friend, Rhian, (we've know each other since we were 11) so it was lovely to visit her and have a catch up! She even bought some of my earrings! After a good catch up over dinner and drinks on Friday, and shopping (there's a fantastic stall at the market selling a huge range of tas and coffee's, a must visit every time I go) followed by a pub crawl, we managed to fit in some time for a picnic and punting, albeit in the rain.

When the punts are on the river (they're stored off the water over winter) the 'Cam' is never free of punts. Tourists can be found having a tour in extra wide tourist punts, propelled  along by experts - you have to take a test to get a job doing so apparently - or hire the standard sized punts for some river play!

Rhian and me overlooking the Cam
Students can be found with picnincs, pimms and lemonade, and some lucky ones can punt for free if their college has a punt. Rhian is one such student, as a member of Clare college while studying for a pHD in Chemistry, she can book the college punt, so we always take advantage when I visit.

First up punting was her boyfriend, Julian, who with his Rugby player muscles had no trouble taking us to Jesus Green, perfect for a picnic. Easily avoiding most other punts, and stearing uder the many bridges it was a relaxing ride, perfect pre-picnic. After a feast of baguette, various cheeses, meats, and olives, all washed down with shloer, Rhian took her turn at the back.

By this time it was raining, and she was punting against the current, but she still managed to avoid most other punts, and make our way beneath the bridges on our return journey. We made slow progress, (at one point we nearly stopped!) but then punting is hard work, as I was about to find out.

I have punted before, but at Oxford not cambridge, and there is a difference. The punts are slightly different shapes, it's essentialy the other way around, the river is quiter in Oxford (as the punt houses are more spread out) and it's shallower.

Anyway, I took the pole from Rhian, and braced myself for stepping onto the back of the punt. (There are no sides on the punting platform as it's level with the top of them). A little bit of a wobble, but thankfully no splash! Then it was down to the business of pushing the pole to the river bed and the punt along with it. I must admit I missed the river bed a couple of times, it was fairly deep, but got us moving in generally the right direction. I zig-zagged my way along, reqularly bumping the bank before steering away and then repeating the pattern (I definately punted to the right). We had a brush with some trees. twice. There are weeping willows along the bank and it's very easy to end up under them for novices like me. (It's quite fun watching people get caught under them!)  Eventually, after quite a bicep work out we had reached the side stream where the punts were kept, and managed to steer quite smoothly in, along with a little assistance. It was lucky the stream was to the right, that was definatley the way I keot trying to go!

After all the rain and work, we went back to Rhian's for a very welcome cup of tea, but all of that punting gave me inspiration for this keyring. What do you think?