My foreign language learning tips

By Anna

Hi all, I am branching out a bit (a lot?) today. Ever been curious why a German who did not grow up bilingual blogs in English? Languages are my passion!

When I look at my passions three things stand out: creating, travelling and learning foreign languages. In primary school I started making clothes out of plastic bags, armed with scissors and tape I would get to work. Needless to say none of these “garments” ever made it out of the house not to metntion to school. The travelling part started to show when I was about 12 years old. My school had an exchange programm with a french school and so I went to Arras, France for a week. I was so nervous and excited about it all. What I can hardly imagine is, how nervous my parents must have been, sending their 12-year-old to a foreign country into a host family for a week. Well, it paid off. My french did not improve much – after all it was only one single week – but my Wanderlust had sparked.

I began studying English as my second foreign language in 7th grade. It came easy to me and it was fun because it went so much faster then French. And it opened up a whole new world to me: suddenly I began to understand what people on the radio sang! It was the coolest thing!

So when a classmate asked me how I managed to pick the language up so quickly, I said something like: I translate the music that I listen to. Bam. I don’t know if she understood what I was saying or if she was as interested as I was in understanding what her favorite bands were singing or if she just felt that I was a poor loner for spending time with a CD booklet and a dictionary… Anyway, that’s my top tip for learning another language:

1) Find music you like in the language you want to learn and start translating it. If it’s English, it’s real easy because such a big part of the music industry sings English anyways, right? Yet, it works the same way with French and Italian and you name it. If you love the Music it motivates you even more!

2) Ever looked at the bottle of your washing up liquid and read “liquide vaiselle” or “Spülmittel”? Well, you just learned what washing up liquid is in French and German. Even though you may not know how to correctly pronounce the foreign words, you will remember them if you are ever standing in front of that particular aisle in a German store. Or you can write the word down at the reception desk of your french camping ground, when you are out of the stuff. That’s already something. (The idea for this post actually found me when I was looking at the bottle of washing up liquid at work.) Check other household items and google the words to find out what language they are, if you cannot guess.
3) Watch tv or movies and series in the language you want to learn. I mentioned once or twice that I love Downton Abbey. But I adore it in English (in Germany anything and everything is dubbed). I admit I have a somewhat hard time with British English due to having lived and been “socialised” with the language in Texas, but any movie like the series is so much better with original voices and in its original language. Talk about jokes and names and sometimes voices? What matters if you want to learn how to speak in a way that people actually do, is to chose a film that sets in our present time. I never understand everything whether it is French or English, but I always pick up a lot while watching and listening, like getting used to the speed of speaking and memorizing often used common expressions, echt jetzt? Genau. Maybe you won’t even have to look them up because they are self-explanatory in the situation.

4) Now is the time to say: go find a penpal, a Sprachtandem or whatever. Except that I never did because that just isn’t my method. So I say: find a blog you love written in the language you want to learn. It’s best if there are pictures involved… If you are not into blogs ( well, hello, you are reading one right now!) try a forum, online magazine or print one. Picture/Text ratio is key here, the more explanatory pictures the better. You could totally start with childrens books, too! Why not read Winnie Pooh or Le Petit Prince in their original languages?

5) Go to the country. Live and speak with the locals. My ultimate goal to learn a language is to be able to communicate. Be it for a job, during the holidays or for an exchange programme, gap year or work and travel or your personal reason x. Like love. I have never been one to communicate well orally, I am quiet, shy, an introvert through and through. I communicate better written. Nevertheless I think I have always communicated what I needed to in my foreign languages. Yes, there have been confusion and embarrassing moments but those are memories now and they make the stories I will tell my kids and grand-children. You don’t need to be able to discuss philosophy to speak a language well on a real life base. Discussing actual objects “Ich hätte gern fünf Äpfel” is ok and enough for holidays or the start of your gap year abroad.

So I say travel and speak. Just say it. If you want that pain au chocolat say it even though you do not know how to pronounce it, say it anyway. In my experience people were always happy to help when I tried. I had the hardest time initialy to say “scissors”. I tried every way of pronouncing it that I could think of and still got a confused look. So I made a cutting gesture. Worked.

I am far from perfection in English but I am very much at ease with my mistakes. I have been learning so many new words since I started blogging in English, made some funny and some embarrassing mistakes and just practised a lot. If this helps only one person who is struggling with their foreign language, I will be very happy I wrote this! Now, let’s go make some mistakes and learn and grow!

Plum streusel cake with spelt flower

by Anna
streusel cake crumble
Hi there, fall! You are only following my very favorite season, but since there is christmas at the end of fall, we get along, too, don’t we? And then there are new apples, there is indian summer and these reasons to look forward to autumn.

Plums are part of the fall fun as well and while I am not ready yet to part with summer, I still bought a batch of the first plums. Plums and streusel sounded good to me. Only have I to confess that I feel a little ashamed, being a baker since around the age of 10, that I made my first streusel cake about a month ago. And now I am into the business of streusel making! I relied on my mums trusted recipe collection for inspiration. What I found was an easy, quick recipe for streusel that I adapted slightly. This can be ready to go into the oven in under ten minutes and that’s always a good argument, right?
plums pflaumen streuselkuchen
In my version I swapped plain flour for spelt flour and white sugar for raw cane sugar and with this the amount of vanilla and cinnamon went up. As I said last week I made this with redcurrant and plums already. Today I show you plum streusel made in a quiche dish. Redcurrant was made in a regular springform, so I used less berries there.
slice of streuselkuchen
Plum streusel cake
500g spelt flour
200g raw cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
5 level teaspoons baking powder

500g plums

2 medium eggs
250g butter at room temperature

Mix the dry ingredients. Add the eggs and cube the butter and knead with the hand mixer shortly. Eveything should be blended together but not overly kneaded.

Put 2/3 of the dough into a cake tin. Wash and pit the plums and cut them in quarters lengthwise. Cover the batter with plums and lay them out evenly. The art of baking, no? (You might not need all the plums.)

With your hands crumble the remaining dough onto the plums. Bake at 200°C for an hour if using a shallow dish like my quiche tin. In a spring form this might take longer to bake through. With the smaller redcurrant the cake took and hour as well in the spring form. And I admit the plum streusel only looks so tanned because I thought it was supposed to bake longer, ooops.
plums streusel cake
Anyway, hello fall, hello plums and hello weekend!

Stock taking II

by Anna

sewing a jersey beanie
mending my sore throat
ripping apart what I wanted to be a balloon paperbag skirt
knitting uh, right, the yarn store is moving: SALE!
drafting a simple skirt from that missoni style fabric

crafting little red dwarf hats
gathering ideas for lanterns
preparing for fall
painting with sharpies on jam jars
loving the crisp morning air

cooking zucchini-spring-onion-polenta with halloumi cheese
baking savory still a dream, but what do you think about a quiche involving pink pepper?
baking sweet crumble: redcurrant, plum, …
mixing apple juice and water
eating not as healthy as I would like
drinking apple-vanilla-rooibos-tea

writing papers for work
reading “La vie en mieux” by Anna Gavalda in French (only the second time I read for fun in French, let me tell you: it’s hard even though it’s my favourite author)
listening to my favorite childhood tunes by Rolf und seine Freunde
planning to soon find a new space (cross your fingers for me, PLEASE!)
going to Zucker für die Seele Designmarkt on September, 7

Melon infused: Home made melon liqueur

by Anna
dreierlei melonen aufgesetzter
When I made that salad with five kinds of melons I had plenty of melon leftovers. And I had them on purpose. Ever since Hetty send me the link to this delish rhubarb liqueur recipe, we have been experimenting with fruit and vodka infusions.
homemade melon liqueur
For years my Dad has been infusing blackcurrant in korn schnapps with a vanilla pod and rock sugar. The most appreciated hostess gift from my experience… While blackcurrant is tart, it works wonderfully with vanilla and its own weight added in sugar. Melon is more or less sweet itself, we won’t need as much sugar here.
melon infused drink
In the meantime cut up some melon: I used a quarter of water melon, a quarter of honeydew melon and also a quarter of sugar melon (Galia). I peeled them and chopped them in pieces that would fit in the bottle that I would let it sit in. I added half of the weight of the melons in brown rock sugar and added a bottle (75cl) of korn schnapps. This schnapps makes the smoothes liqueur. Vodka or gin work too, yet, they have different and for the gin very distinctive taste.
melonen likör
Let this mixture sit in a closed bottle in a warm and sunlit spot for six weeks. Strain and enjoy. I find that the liqueur mildly chilled, like straight from a cold basement, tastes best.

Put into a pretty vintage bottle and gift to your favorite people! Happy weekend!

Strawberry-Goat cheese-Salad

by Anna
strawberry cheese salad fraises fromage salade
Man, those last strawberries are so deep red, bursting flavour and oozing juice. They are just perfect! When my mum got out the hand-me-down recipe for strawberry salad that my grandma already used to make I got excited to change it up a bit. A bit. Because A: there are only a handful ingredients, B: only to omit dairy cream and C: it is perfection as is. If I may say so myself.

I had bought a basket of two kilos (yes, as in 2000g) of those delicious strawberries. I actually drive a bit to get the best ones – I am a bit of a strawberry snob – and I bought the ones that were picked the day before (talking ’bout snob?) because they get squished in a salad anyway. And they were the deeper red. You don’t need that many straberries. Unless you want to feed a crowd. Or eat the salad, like me, four days in a row…
erdbeer käse salat
Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad
500g strawberries
250g piece goat cheese (the original recipe says gouda, so that works, too)
green lettuce

oat cream (or any cream)
lemon juice
lots of pepper

Clean the starberries and divide in halves or quarters or leave them whole depending on their size. Remove the rind of the goat cheese (if necessary) and cube. Wash and dry the lettuce and chop it. Let these ingredients mingle in a bowl.

Mix about 100ml of cream with lemon juice to taste and some salt and a lot of pepper. Serve the salad either with seasoning on top or toss the fruit and vegetables in the dressing before serving.

I like to serve the cream-lemon-seasoned sauce extra to keep the salad fresh in case I need to store it. Also, people can help themselves to the amount of seasoning they like. That’s it. Happy weekend!

The Dress – Retro Butterick ’60 B5748

by Anna
annas butterick retro b5748
Can I just let the pictures do the talking?
kleid nähen butterick schnitt
My friend Hülya took these photos last sunday during the blue hour (thanks ever so much!), so I could finally show the dress that Hetty doesn’t want me to wear to someone’s (really anyone’s) wedding. I had sewn it with no occasion in mind, but when I finished I felt like this was something to wear to a marriage. Now, that I see it in photos I totally get Hettys point. While in real life the blue of the flowers outweighs the white, in pictures it looks much lighter and then there definitely is too much white for another girls wedding. With that said let’s talk about this pattern!
butterick retro B5748
I love this dress and I love the pattern. It was my first Butterick and I am so pleased with the fit. First of all, I had never made a pattern where seam allowance was included – it’s the raddest thing! Then it fits ME like a glove, like really truly. Maybe I have a 1960s figure?!? I made no size alterations whatsoever and this is so rare. You have me cursing on many a pattern because there is always something concerning the waist, the darts or the bust. Here – nada.
diy dress easy
(Ok, being German I have to find the one tiny fault: Next time I would make the straps closer together i.e. make the upper front slightly narrower. Details, folks, details.)
dress twirls
I stuck with view A of the pattern, just omitting the front bow and the slits in the neckline. Which basically makes it a view B with a bow in the back. Whatever. Cutting was basic, sewing was easy. There are long darts but they posed no problem. I went with a medium weight cotton mix fabric with woven white stripes and printed blue flowers. It’s the same fabric Hetty used for this dress, just blue instead of her red.
Retro Butterick '60 dress
Fun fact: My fabric resembles the drawing on the pattern envelope a lot: Also blue flowers on white background. This is why I chose that fabric (from my stash) to make this exact dress. Even though I did not have quite enough cloth which makes the skirt shorter in some areas. Oh well. Would you have known? And since I am one who is more interested in the result than the process I have sewn in one session. Outcome: I am very happy with both the process and the result.
vintage pattern dress
This is a Misses’ / Misses’ Petite Dress. Considering I am 180 cm (almost 6 feet) tall and since I made this in a size 14 it is pretty impressive that it fits like this. The darts that come up from the midriff seam really work in my favor. Mental note to self: Make more clothes with darts like those. This is my first piece of clothing with darts from the midriff up. Was that a 60s thing? (Do not mention to anyone that I went to fashion school. I should know that kind of thing, no?)
rückansicht butterick schnitt retro
In case you are in Europe (like me) and pondering buying the pattern: I totally recommend you do. Wait for a sale. I got the pattern when lots of them were for 2.99$.
vintage schnitt kleid
I am wearing the retro Butterick pattern dress with a vintage petticoat, fleamarket bag and Mary-Jane-type skyblue leather kicks from a few seasons ago. Fun (well, not so fun) fact: I forgot the bag at one of the doorhandles on location. And then I forgot about forgetting it allover again. Will go tomorrow to check if it’s still there. If not, at least I have picture-perfect memories of it now. On the other hand, we photographed in the court of a prison that is not used anymore. What do you think my chances are of getting the bag back? – Ok. Enough. Happy weekend ~Anna~

I want to remember: My kitchen

by Anna
wooden kitchen counter
I had to have a wooden counter top. I considered sealing it at one point but is too darn pretty all natural… Also: recently thrifted tins and my Cookin’ Cowgirl oven mitt, a gift from Mimi about ten years ago
I have never shared more of my apartment than the gallery wall above my sewing machine in the hallway. Now that I am going to move, I realized that it will never be finished, neat enough (nor tidy enough), neither perfectly lit nor super well decorated to be photographed. I am not a neat freak and my ideas of how I want things to look change so quickly that I decided now is the time to capture my kitchen in pictures in the state it is right now. This is my kitchen today, August, 1st 2014. This is how I want to remember it.

And then there are thousands of food photos from the past 21 months plus all those memories of happy times spent here that are etched in my heart…
lavendar kitchen faucet
I love that faucet. I hunted high and low for this one and I am glad I did! I will sell the kitchen but this faucet will stay with me.
2014 is the year of change for me. Today I started my new job. Next up is the move out of this – my – place. When I look back at the past months there was something new happening almost every month. While there certainly is one more thing I would like to experience this year, I can hardly wait for life to slow down a bit and settle in a new routine. A general life routine is good to be creative. The best ideas are born from boredom – or from necessity.
lavendar kitchen table
This table came with my parents house that was built in 1928. It’s an old childrens desk and judging my its style and craftmanship I guess it dates back to the early years of the house. Since its too low for me to eat at, there is an Ikea table base underneath. A floating table…
lavender kitchen cabinet
Is the color I painted the cabinets with lavender or lilac? It doesn’t really matter. All I care about it how well it looks with the gold (nail) polished knobs… And the note how much burgundy lace ribbon to buy for Hetty.
kitchen window sill
I was spoilt with natural light in this apartment. Even in the kitchen! And there totally is one of the rare photos of Hetty and me togehter.

Happy weekend!

Turnbeutel crazy

by Anna
turnbeutel selbstmachen
A couple of weeks ago, two friends and I went to the Netherlands to visit friends of us. While I did not take a single picture (my phone battery died and I could not be bothered to take the big camera), some pretty interesting things happened. First, we welcomed a hitchhiker on board: Roar, Danish, like the Katy Perry Song. Then we did what I absolutely did not want to do, we spent Saturday at the designer’s outlet. No need to say it was super crowded. Sunday was wonderfully relaxed. And I finally noticed my friend Hülyas turnbeutel. So fun, so easy to wear and so simple to make!
turnbeutel drawstring bag
I think, she preferred to call hers a sportbeutel, but this kind of drawstring bag just makes me think of elementary school physical education class. When it always was a turnbeutel for me. Anyhow, this one’s too cute for smelly shoes, so today I am carrying my purse, sunglasses and tissues in my new bag.
drawstring bag diy
There are lots of tutorials on the internet for this kind of backpack, but alas I decided to go my own way. I will be sharing what I learned when I started just making it without a big plan. There are some minor changes I would make for the next one, yet I am happy I took the most important step: The first step. Sometimes starting is the hardest, no?

How would you call a bag like this? Happy weekend! ~Anna~

Melon feta summer salad

by Anna
salade pasteque melon feta
What’s your favorite summer salad? Grilling cantaloupe melon with seasoned salt got me thinking and now I can add a new favorite to my list: melon feta salad. This works with one kind of melon, it’s delicious with three kinds and yet the more varieties of melon you add the more colorful (and tasty) your salad will be.
melonen salat schafskäse
Unless you are feeding a crowd it’s a great option to buy melons in halves or quarters. That’s what I did and still have leftovers. I made this first with three kinds of melon and feta plain, without any seasoning. We loved it. This time around I decided to spice things up and make a lemony coriander (cilantro) salad dressing. Ready to dig in?
fresh feta melon summer salad
Melon feta salad

1/4 water melon
1/4 honeydew melon
1/4 galia melon (a type of sugar melon)
1/2 cantaloupe
1/3 sugar melon

1 pack of feta

juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tbs dried cilantro/coriander
1 teaspoon dried nettle
2 tbs balsamic vinegar (I used white)

First things first: I had trouble finding exact translations for some of the melon names. In your case I would not worry about buying the exact same ones, just a variety of different kids of melons. That being said, scoop put the seeds, peel and chop the melons in bite-sized cubes. I did not worry about the water melon seeds.
sommersalat melone feta
Mix the juice of half a lemon with the herbs and the vinegar. Wouldn’t fresh coriander be so much fun here?
Cube the feta and add it to the dressing.

Add the melon cubes and toss is gently in the dressing. There you go: 5-kinds-of-melon salad with greek cheese!
melon feta salad
Did you notice, melon and lemon have the same letters in different order? A couple of times I wanted to write the name of the other fruit. But now it’s all in order… Enjoy your melon lemon salad..!

Baltic Sea – Usedom

by Anna
Möwe Mario
I thought I was back on track with blogging… But life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. Nevertheless I managed to spend almost three days at the coast.
Usedom strandaufgang
Zinnowitz, island Usedom
Smooth sand
Endless pier
Small patches of fir forest
Always a breeze
Breathtaking sunsets
Stunning mansions
Walking everywhere

Those paths from the promenade through the fir trees – or hedges, as seen above – to the beach – this is where I leave all my worries behind!
Baltic Sea Beach