Dienstag, 4. Dezember 2012

Winter's Delight: Chai Syrup

In Greek and generally in medieval medicine man is said to be in the centre of two opposites: hot and cold, wet and dry. As long as the these elements are well balaced in our body we are healthy. An excess in any of the directions creates diseases. And of course we depend on our environment, that means, that in winter we are strongly exposed to cold and wet influences which affect our bodies. To prevent "colds" (as contemporary physicians state the common "cold" we catch has nothing to do with the temperature of the environment, but is a result of contagion) people used to eat food that was said to be "hot", such as certain spices, dried fruits and nuts. And it is not by chance these ingrediences are part of the traditional Christmas dishes in Central Europe. Especially the spices like cinnamon, clove, cardamom and pepper (all considered hot and dry) as well as ginger (considered hot and wet) that we get at every grocery store around the corner used to be more precious than gold and were carried with caravans and ships from Southeast Asia to Europe. 
You can read the most amazing stories in the wonderful book by Jack Turner!             Yesterday I prepared a wonderfully tasty Chai Syrup that concentrates the taste and the properties of all the above cited spieces. It is so easy and much more tasty than the commercial syrups which are also extremely pricey. It also makes a lovely christmas gift! Syrup consists of the same amount of sugar and water. Simmer it with the spices of your choice. Also the proportions depend onyour preferences; I made the syrup really spicy and hot; if you want to avoid this, reduce the amount of black pepper and ginger.
For 1 kg of sugar I used:
about 1 tablespoon of ground black pepper, cinnamon and cardamom
1/2 tablespoon of ground clove
2-3 tablespoons of whole aniseed
1 cup of fresh ginger, cut into small cubes.

Filter and pour into small bottles. This step is messy! but it's worth it.

Use it to flavour your coffee, tea, hot milk or whatever!

Freitag, 30. November 2012

Tutorial: Chinese Inspired Headpiece

 The last dance I created was a chinese inspired ribbon dance -  I made it for a dance show of my dear friend and colleague Claudina; she just launched her fabulous veil dance instuctional DVD (view the trailer here!) and so I decided to do something that could match the program.
So the dance and the costume were more or less ready, and I wanted to add some more 'bling' to the quite simple dress. I did some research how to make the base for the headpiece; it has to look somehow like this:

So cut out the plastic base and bond it together with masking tape. Sometimes you can even use a tennis cap turned upside down. As you will cover it with fabric later it doesn't matter if the masking tape is visible.
After that cut the fabric generously in the shape of the base and glue it on the surface. Then fold the fabric along the edges and glue the overlap on the back side. Keep the fabric in place with pins and let dry.
Now the most tricky part is done and you just have to glue or stitch the decoration on the base. The pieces dangeling from the temples are made of earrings with some red tassels. The golden lace balls are a part of christmas decoration. I made Kanzashi flowers with fabric scarps from the costume and added also some fabric orchids and severy jewellery pieces. I can only recommend the Kanzashi flower makers from Clover. They are cheap and so easy to use, you can't go wrong! Fabric yoyos are also very easy to make and look gorgeous in the ensemble.
A broad elastic strap holds the crown on the head. If you do backbends make sure that you secure it additionally with bobby pins.

Donnerstag, 29. November 2012

Qawwali caps in action :-)

I am so proud!
They look fabulous, huh?
Check the tutorial in my last post if you'd like to create a similar cap for yourself.
Backstage from the Show "From Madhubala to Madhuri" with Srijan Bollywood Company.

Picture Credit: Jaqueline Frick

Mittwoch, 7. November 2012

Dreams of Orange and Purple: Orange-Black Currant-Ginger Jam

 In August the garden is full of fruits and vegetables, besides there are so many other things to to, so when it is possible I just freeze a part of the crop and leave the preserves for later.
With this grey and foggy november weather I yearn for some colours and tried a new combination: black currant, orange and fresh ginger preserve.
You need:
1 kg black currant
1 kg Orange slices
1 kg 1:1 gelling sugar
5 cm of fresh ginger root

Mix fruits and sugar. Add raped ginger. Boil. Fill into jars.
This preserve is not very sweet and goes wonderfully with cheese or meat.

Dienstag, 6. November 2012

Tutorial: Qawwali Cap

Ready to go - here are the six Qawwali Dance Caps for my dear friends from the Indo-German Dance Duo Srijan. It was not easy to create those caps from the scratch, so I will show you now the most important steps so that you can avoid the mistakes I made on the way!
First we had to choose a model for the cap.
The Qawwali cap for women is modelled on the shape of the taqiyah cap for men - a traditional (prayer) cap worn by observant muslims. There are different shapes with different names all over the muslim world, but they are variations of the small short rounded prototype.
We chose a model with an oval base and two points, with an ostrich feather.  

So the most tricky thing was to find the exact basic shap. Since the center is oval i cannot give you any directions how to calculate the exact pattern. And probably it is more simple if you measure the circumference of your head ar the point you want to wear the capwith a paper strip and then to try to draw an oval shape that has the circumference of the same length like the strip.

I had to throw away the first set of ovals because I just drew them from my imagination and the caps were then way to small!
The second batch worked quite well.
Now you have the base.
You can line it and glue some other fabric remnant on the wrong side. Or you just leave it unlined, that depends on the fabric and on how stiff you want the cap to be (you can stiffen it later, too).

Then comes the most funny part: decorating!!
Grasp everything shiny and glittering you find in your stash or in the dollar store.
Earrings, feathers, ribbons. Exspecially around christmas you can find great metallic ribbons for almost no money.
Add hotfix stones (not in the picture) and GLUE!

 I couldn't glue the metallic trim, so I had to sew it, but glueing will save you a lot of time.
Then the feathers: Unite a youple of them to a bunch and fix it with maskin tape. Make now a small pocket of the same tape, but inverse in order to insert the featers here. Hide the pocket behind a "jewel". You can also glue the feathers here right away, but I wanted them to be detachable. You never know how you will transport your cap, and after a performance maybe you just want to toss it into your suitcase. 

 Now add all the other decorations you want. Nip off superfluous rings from the metal pieces.
And glue!
For the final shape of the cap use some cheap, sticky hair spray. Spray abundantly on the inside of the cap  and while wet, mould it into the right shape.
Finally add a thin elstic strap to secure the cap on your head, eventually use also some bobby pins.

Sonntag, 16. September 2012


 I confess: my latest addiction is spinning. Be it traditionally with wool or with fabric leftovers. Fabric stripes and a whatsoever cone yarn make an absolutely gorgeous designer yarn. Good to upcycle some worn out clothes!

Spinning with wool is much more challenging, but I still like my first handspun yarn. So much that I crocheted it into a cap with ... uhm, a certain character... ;-)

Welcome Fall!

My garden is blessing me with oodles of fresh veggies ... what a bliss! That means a lot of colours, fun and a lot of time in the kitchen.See below (clockwise):
Apple sauce and pickled zucchini - vegetable casserole with potatoes, tomatoes and green beans - soup with cauliflower, pumpkin, potatoes and zucchini - very chocolatey cake.

Montag, 3. September 2012

Crafting Space Makover!!

Yes, it was time... This used to be the darkest spot of our home and I felt so ashamed when vistors lurked through the curtains. So after two years of feeling too worn out and tired to do anything to make this space usable a sunny saturday gave me the force to begin what was a herculean task. This is actually not the realy "before" picture, because piles of books and mags have already been taken out, plus a sewing machine and a huge spinning wheel!
So I cleared the space completely and wiped the winter garden from floor to top. It took me hours.

Then I finally took care of this small dresser, which was standing abandoned on the street. It had be sitting in the basement for years waiting to be loved again. Initially I thought of spraypaintng it. But it turned out very ugly, probably because I had no idea for what size of surface the tin would be sufficient for. Luckily I found a leftover of white acrylic paint that had to do the job (it was sunday, all shops closed). So next time, insted of wasting a tin of spraypaint I should invest on new acrylic paint. But finally I like the outcome, with distressed edges for some shabby chic.
But after hours of wiping and polishing I am really happy. And even the spinning wheel found its place :-)
 The beads and supplies are all neatly organized in screw top jars or translucent boxes. The shelves used to carry the ever-growing piles of books in my student appartement - now they have a new life.
 A reading corner with books and dictionaries for my PhD thesis...

 What a fatigue! But it was worth it...  Now I have a new sacred space for creativity and ... only myself (oh, yes, my daughter got a small share of it. A little box with mixed beads that she can play with whenever she likes :-))
How did you (re-)arrange your creativity space? I'd love to see it!

Freitag, 17. August 2012

Kalbelia Costume I: Needs a lot of Patience...

For an upcoming workshop of Kalbelia dance I threw myself into sewing a costume.
The skirt is the central piece as the dance is full of whirling and spinning (see the first picture).

With a readymade dance skirt from Hongkong purchased from here, lots of ribbons from my stock and some fabric to recycle the adveture began:


  The diamonds are cut out from the fabric and basted. A narrow white ribbon will cover the edges later.

Many many hours later: lots of greens and blues. Red, yellow and white will follow....

Freitag, 6. Juli 2012

Zucchette sott'olio: Pickled Courgettes South Italian Type

Hey, the harvesting season in the garden has already begun and the first courgettes (zucchini) are ready to be picked!
(The pics from the following recipe are from last year and I never managed to post them)
 When I studied in Padova, Italy, my house mate from Bari in Southern Italy used to bring the most delicious pickled vegetables from her trips home. Since then I have been dreaming of the yummy taste of olive oil, herbs, garlic and vinegar. Now that I tried it it turned out to be quite easy and a good alternative to freeze the vegetables when you harvest a lot of them every day. You can even use those that have grown too much and tend to have a rather stiff peel.
1l vinegar
spices as you please (pepper, chili, bay leaves, and garlic are the base. You can add whatever you like)
olive oil
sealable jars

1. Peel the zucchini and cut them into thin slices. Salt hem abundantly and leave them for 2-3 hrs in a colander. They will loose a lot of water.
2. Mix water and vinegar half and half. You can add bay leaves and some aceto balsamico for taste. When the mixture is boiling, add the zucchini and cook for 2-5 min. They should not be completely cooked.
3. Let the zucchini dry on a towel, then fill layers of zucchini and spices alternately into a sealable jar. Add olive oil until it covers the last layer of zucchini. This is absolutely important, otherwise the vegetables will rot. Leave it for 3 weeks before consumption.

The pickled zucchini last several months without any problem. Just make sure they are always covered with oil.

Donnerstag, 28. Juni 2012

Tutorial: Kabyle Wool Belt

 The process of learning a new folklore dance is not completed for me without making an authentic costume for myself. This usually includes a lot of costume research, fabric and jewellery purchases from the originating country via internet or in persona, and often the making of a whole costume with all of its regalia.
Fortunately I share this passions with my lovely dancing colleagues Lenajaan and Melanie and our newest treasure is a dance from the Kabyle (Berber) region of Bedjaia, Algeria.
I brought the costumes from our last visit at our in laws, but then I felt that somehow something was missing.
Flipping through pictures of other dance groups I frequently saw woolen belt with pompons and tassels and finally I also found a specimen I thought I could imitate (picture credit: here)

So here comes the process; not particularly difficult but quite time consuming.

I collected wool from my stash in the typical colours white, black, red, yellow and turquoise. Make a couple of tassels and pompons.
Measure the length of the belt generously. Calculate that you will like to have the tassels dangling in front of you and / or sidewise.
Cut 20 sections of yarn of the desired length of the belt.

Start decorating the belt with wool straps securing them with a knot at the desired place and winding it around the belt creating contrasting sections.
You can also braid  some sections using contrasting yarns. Then add tassels and pompons.

Here are the belts for the three of us:
And here we are "in action": :-D
(its me on the left)