Nutcrackers and other wooden toys from Germany

handmade nutcrackers

The nutcracker (nussknacker) is one of the most popular German souvenirs to bring back…but where can you buy an original German made nutcracker with all the cheap China made products flooding the market? I did a bit of research about this and came out with two locations in Frankfurt am Main.

nutcracker germany

Germany has a long history of making quality wooden toys and the nutcracker was originally made in the rural areas of Germany. It’s usually shaped as a soldier and has a large mouth which can be opened with a wooden lever at the back of the doll. You can insert a nut inside the mouth and push down, cracking the nut – although the figurines are mostly used for decorative purposes now.

german made nutcrackers

Steinbach is the most premium manufacturer and all their nutcracker dolls are hand carved. These would run in the hundreds of Euros for just a small figurine. It’s not about the size (haha, no really) but the quality! There are huge 1 foot nutcrackers for 20 Euros but those are mass produced China made dolls.

seiffener volkskunst

I couldn’t afford a Steinbach but I still wanted a German made nutcracker so I went with Seiffener Volkskunst instead. These nutcrackers are not only handmade, but also hand painted in Germany! That’s why every nutcracker looks a little different – the paint on every single one isn’t the same. Their wooden toys are all individually made and painted!

handwerkskunst ulrike scheit

I got a 1 foot nutcracker for my dear as a souvenir for 48 Euros. The nutcracker dolls can run from 50 Euros – 200+ Euros, depending on the size and detail. There are two shops in Frankfurt which is reputable – the big Handwerkskunst am Romer and the smaller, more cottage industry-like Handwerkskunst Ulrike Scheit.

wooden nutcrackers

The prices are same in both – avoid the tourist traps that sells souvenirs, these are dedicated stores which sells wooden toys and only handmade wooden toys. I went *twice* (running up a 30 Euro taxi bill each way) so I could get another nutcracker doll for my dad. Old German folklore says the nutcracker dolls are keepsakes to bring good luck to your family and protect your home by guarding your family from evil spirits and danger.

german wooden toys

Don’t be afraid, my beard is long, my head is large, my look is grim but that matters not. I won’t bite you. In spite of my big mouth and grim appearance, I look with my heart for your happiness.

Posted: 6:13 pm Frankfurt time (GMT +2) on the 14th April – we’re still one day behind and it’s our last day in Germany!

Updates on our 10 day vacation through Germany and France:
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https://www.facebook.com/SixthSealcom

Jisan and Kwan Yeow’s themed wedding

Chariot of Fire

wedding banquet

That is the first dish that came out, complete with a rather dramatic presentation. It’s visually appealing and delicious to boot. You just can’t argue with lobster…and scallops…and abalone…well, you get the idea. Heh.

wedding reception

Anyway, I was at Jisan and Kwan Yeow’s wedding which occupied a couple of ballrooms at the 15th floor of Sunway Resort Hotel. I’ve been there for the second time in as many weeks. The cocktail reception was at 6 pm but I only managed to get there slightly past 7 pm – and even then, I had to rush from church.

bride groom table

I didn’t realize that my face was sunburnt and peeling too – been swimming a lot lately but it’s always at night so how I got that is a mystery…but it’s not my wedding so here’s one of the best themed weddings I had the pleasure to attend this year.

jisan wedding

The wedding invitation came in an old school record (as LPs – the CDs before cassettes). Dress code is Retro Glam but I decided to wear the bespoke suit (new word from Shah) that I got in Phuket, during the Club Med Phuket trip that Jisan took us on.

beer wine

The cocktail reception area had wine, beer and a variety of sodas. I haven’t had much to eat so I went with the latter.

candy floss

There’s also a cotton candy stand (that really works!) and a woman twisting balloons for kids (and kids at heart). It’s a precursor to what lies inside.

directions

When the doors to the ballroom opened I don’t think anyone went straight to their seats – there’s just too much to absorb at once!

writing wishes

There’s a place for you to write well wishes to the bride and groom on a record (the very same one that came in the wedding invite but with different words) and clip it using a tiny red wooden peg.

wedding wishes

Next to it is a kiosk called Pop Drinks which had mini soda bottles as well as Tora and Ding Dang!

tora ding dang

I heard a lot of entranced mutterings – these are the toy boxes we played with as kids! I was heartened when someone told me to help myself and I got a box. Heh.

pop drinks stand

I guess everything changes over time – Tora is now filled with individually wrapped candy instead of the chocolate balls that all 80′s babies remember (I barely scrape by – born in 1981). There’s also the stuff that you can blow into balloons – exactly the same brand as the ones I played with during primary school.

ding dang

Sweet nostalgia.

marshmellows

There’s also marshmallows (which were fluffy and delicious – ruined a bit of my appetite, this jar), rock candy and lollipops which you can indulge in at Candy Bites while waiting for the photo booth.

photo booth

Now, this photo wall is something that’s worth a bit of your time lining up for. There’s plenty of vintage items like scooters and props for you to fluff up before taking a shot.

props

Each item has a story behind it. This luggage bag is exactly the same one Jisan’s mom used when she studied in Australia way back in the days.

jisan mom luggage

It even has Qantas tags still on it!

group picture

We took a group photo here – there’s two photo booths actually.

retro props

You can also opt for their photographer to take a photo of you, which gets printed out instantly to the side. There’s a copy for you to take back and even an envelope to keep it in.

wedding photo

It’s little touches like this that elevates a standard wedding into something really quite memorable!

wedding photos

I like how the theme is consistent too – it’s always been a theatre production starring Jisan and Kwan Yeow – the movies of the ROM (Registration of Marriage) and the hilarious slides with speech bubbles of their childhood to adult photos inter-spaced throughout the banquet dishes makes it into a cohesive theme.

cake cutting

(BTW, her name is actually spelled Ji San, I just concatenate the two words into one coz that’s how I was introduced when we met each other years ago while working at different agencies in the same building on the same account – long story, I digress)

wedding hall

Back to the banquet, it must seem like a copywriter wrote the names of the dishes coz it was really fanciful and we were trying to work out what the dishes actually were. Heh.

One side has the beverages list and says:
Wine + Hard Liquor + Beer + Soft Drinks + Chinese Tea

…which was easy enough to decipher. No mystery there – I kept to my 3 drink limit (of whisky) which Aza had a hard time believing (most of the people I know here knew me when I was very much the raging alcoholic). The food menu is where it gets interesting.

Chariot of Fire

chariot of fire

This is a wonderful dish which actually deserves its name – there’s even a complicated rein made of links of carrots that’s a work of art in its own right. There’s also a dragon fruit that’s hollowed out and inserted with a candle precariously balanced on the tip. The traditional first dish at a Chinese banquet, this one is full of premium items – lobster chunks, juicy scallops, slices of abalone and a fruit salad with sunflower seeds.

Combination of Love and Blessings

combination of love and blessings

Dried scallops, shiitake mushrooms, kampong (free range) chicken, ginseng and fish maw double boiled into a wonderful clear soup. It seems to be the trend to go this route instead of the traditional shark’s fin soup which gets some PETA/Greenpeace types all worked up and I think it’s a good thing. It tastes even better and it’s good to have a nice double boiled Cantonese clear soup for a change.

Ocean of Love and Passion

ocean of love and passion

This is an entire fish and my favorite dish in wedding banquets. I just love fish cooked in this way – simple, with soy sauce and lots of spring onions on top. It’s delicious, usually my favorite dish but Jisan’s first dish just takes the cake – it blew everything else away. I refer to everything as Jisan coz you know how there’s always a “groom’s side” and a “bride’s side”? I only know the bride and was introduced to the groom today. :)

Hearts United in Love

hearts united in love

Medallions of tender de-boned chicken served with a sweet and spicy sauce and a side of crackers folded like warm bread. The crackers are warm and meant to be eaten with the chicken medallions like so:

chicken medallions crackers

It tastes good but I was really full at this point so I really can’t comment. I was stuffed silly by the good food.

Romance and Bloom

romance and bloom

A dish of flavorful Shiitake mushrooms pregnant with juices that practically bursts in your mouth combined with fu chok (a soy bean byproduct). You know how I feel about soy products but the mushrooms were awesome! I had several with the broccoli even though I was so full at this point I had to loosen my belt.

The carved dragon is made of flour. Our table had got into the discussion of what it was made of and I took the head up – it’s really heavy – and tried to get a piece off (salty).

Unity and Commitment

glutinous rice

This is a package of glutinous rice mixed with spring onions, salted egg, lap cheong (waxed sausage) and various other goodies in a wrapped leaf. I found myself eating more and more of it despite being full several dishes back. It’s really good and the presentation of every dish is impeccable – either with nice plating or individually served like this one…

unity and commitment

…with a thoughtful orchid by the side of the plate.

cheesecake

The menu also had an aside that went: Stay tuned for the Celebration of Love “The Sweetness of Marriage”

the sweetness of marriage

It is a veritable buffet of desserts!

chocolate mousse

A smorgasbord of delights sure to please anyone with a sweet tooth.

desserts

Again, I found myself overeating but I couldn’t resist the strawberry mousse and the creamy chocolates.

yum seng

I really liked how they did the traditional yum seng (toast to the couple) in one half of the ballroom. The wedding reception has tables on one side and the other side can be made into anything, depending on the occasion.

table

Jisan and Kwan Yeow got everyone to wear the sunglasses provided as a wedding favor on each table and get to the side to toast the bride and groom. See what I mean by a consistent theme from the movie style invites to the sunnies?

chan wedding

I really enjoyed myself at the wedding – it was a lot of fun I met a lot of old friends too.

jisan kwan yeow

My warmest regards to the newly-weds Chan Ji San and Teh Kwan Yeow!

hb jisan

I managed to get a photo with Jisan, the new Mrs Teh, too!

wedding pavilion

It was a great evening and I wish you both matrimonial bliss and happy endings! Congratulations Mr and Mrs Teh! :)

McDonald’s SEGA 3 video games – BILLY’S GIANT EGG

billy giant egg

McDonald’s just came out with BILLY’S GIANT EGG
this Thursday and I just got one of the few remaining units. The
packaging has a typo on it and only says BILLY’ GIANT EGG.

billy giant egg game

BILLY’S GIANT EGG is the second last electronic game in the Sega 3
series and I got a Cheeseburger Happy Meal but didn’t eat it (told the
McDonald’s server that I only wanted the game, but I took the drink). ;)

billy giant egg man

The manual is printed like the previous iterations of the McDonald’s
/ SEGA collaboration – it’s a single sheet of paper with instructions
on how to play the game – in this case BILLY’S GIANT EGG, another Sonic
franchise character.

billy giant egg clamshell

BILLY’S GIANT EGG also comes in a clamshell design and has two
directional buttons in the shape of eggs. The premise of the game is to
get Billy to collect fruits while the egg gets bigger and bigger (three
sizes) while avoiding hazards.

billy giant egg play

Here is a screenshot of the action – BILLY’S GIANT EGG was way too
easy for me. I finished the game on the first try and consistently
managed to get through all three levels and hatch the egg. It was a
total contrast to the previous unit’s hard gameplay.

Collect 20 fruits to advance a level and hatch the egg!

McDonald’s SEGA 3 video games – TAILS SKY ADVENTURE

tails sky adventure

McDonald’s came out with the 3rd iteration of their McDonald’s / SEGA video game franchise partnership and this time it’s free with every purchase of a Happy Meal. I collected the first McDonald’s / SEGA collaboration [sixthseal.com] as well as SEGA 2 [sixthseal.com and I wasn’t about to miss the third.

tails sky adventure game

TAILS SKY ADVENTURE is the first electronic game in the Sega 3
series and David was kind enough to get it for me while I was in the
hospital (it was the very last set). It came with a Cheeseburger and
Corn Happy Meal if that interests you, which I don’t think it does. ;)

tails sky adventure man

The manual is printed like the previous iterations of the McDonald’s
/ SEGA collaboration – it’s a single sheet of paper with instructions
on how to play the game – in this case TAILS SKY ADVENTURE, a Sonic
franchise character.

tails sky adventure clamshell

TAILS SKY ADVENTURE opens up like a clamshell phone to reveal the
game which has two directional buttons and an action button. The
premise of the game is to shoot down rogue squadrons by moving left and
right and pressing the button while navigating TAILS to victory.

tails sky adventure screen

Here is a screenshot of the action – it’s a little harder than the
previous games, or perhaps I’ve just lost a lot of my hand eye
coordination from the benzos and antipsychotics I’m taking coz I
couldn’t even finish it after the sixth attempt!

Bring down the enemy ships! Good luck!

RC Car review – Turbo Tumbler

Turbo Tumbler is a Remote Control (RC) car that has
been making the rounds via the popular “free delivery to offices” paper
run marketing. Our office got the paper brochure for the Remote Control Turbo Tumbler and I ordered one of them while my CTO got another one for his son. RC Turbo Tumbler retails for RM 35 each.

rc turbo tumbler box

Remote Control Turbo Tumbler is basically an RC car that can do
“stunts” like flips and rolls due to the six degree freedom of movement
controller and 360 degree front axel on the RC car design. It comes in
27 Mhz (Orange) and 49 Mhz (Black) for two-person “racing” although I
doubt the RC car is designed for that with it’s bulky SUV (4WD) looks.

rc turbo tumbler car

RC Turbo Tumbler comes in a package which contains the fully
assembled car and the remote control module with antenna (batteries not
included, of course). The car has a “Special Edition” sticker on top
(am tempted to write racing stripes but that would be a gross misnomer)
and several light fixtures which comes on when the RC Car is powered
up. The instruction sheet is basic but it doesn’t require a Phd in
Rocket Science (or Nuclear Physics for that matter) to operate an RC
Car. ;)

rc turbo tumbler remote

This is what the 27 Mhz controller for the RC Turbo Tumbler car looks like – this one does
come with a 9 volt battery, bless their souls, coz that funny shaped
battery is hard to find in the office. It is simple to integrate, with
just the battery cover going into the controller and the snap in
antenna (retractable) to boost the signal strength.

rc turbo tumbler batt cart

The RC car itself requires 4 x AA batteries (which thankfully is in
amply supply inside the office) loaded into a peculiar cartridge
loading system which slots back into the undercarriage of the car.

rc turbo tumbler batt slot

Here’s a shot of how the battery array loading system looks like -
the RC car has large grip types as you can see, which makes it more of
a stunt car than a proper racing RC car. The entire package is ready to
go at this point if you have AA batteries on hand.

rc turbo tumbler go

The Remote Control Turbo Tumbler is “Made in China” and that means
that it doesn’t last. It is manufactured from poorly sourced materials
and one of them didn’t work (the one that my CTO got) so I gave him
mine, which promptly broke in two days. It is however, fun for a day.

Watch the video of the RC Turbo Tumbler at work in the office:

rc turbo tumbler video

Download: RC Turbo Tumbler video review [sixthseal.com]

rc turbo tumbler action

That’s me testing the RC car in the office while my CTO is manning
the camera after work just now. Take Two in the video refers to the
botched Take One where the RC Turbo Tumbler didn’t function at all -
there’s “Made in China” for you. :)

Bang! Bang! You're dead!

popgun super cap gun

Remember the pop cap gun toys that we used to play with as a kid? I
found one of them at a friend’s shop yesterday and decided to go for a
trip down nostalgia lane. The toy is named Super Cap Gun with Real Bullet Shooting Action and it retails for just a couple of dollars.

popgun contents

The contents of the package consist of a pink revolver type handgun
with a container full of plastic bullets. The firing caps are not
included so I got a couple of kids that were hanging around to go buy
some for me at a shop nearby and told them to keep the change.

popgun shot discs

They came back with a stack of the 72 shot packets containing 8 shot
plastic disc caps. I remember these things fondly from my childhood
days, when I used to shoot my sister with these pop cap guns. I
probably triggered some massive synapse linkage coz she’s now
practicing medicine at Christchurch Hospital and I’m here in Kuching
doing…fuck all? ;)

popgun shot rounds

Anyway, the shot caps are detachable from a large sheet of
prefabricated 8-shot firing caps. You’ll notice that some of the caps
do not have a proper amount of gunpowder (or whatever they use in these
things to propel the bullets)…it’s made in China, no quality control,
so there you go. In fact, some of the shot cap rounds do not have any
firing chemical at all…

popgun revolver canister

Well, back to the pop cap gun, the front of the gun has a release
mechanism that allows the revolver load to be detached. The back of the
canister has metal studs embedded into it to allow the firing pin to
hit the metal studs against the shot caps (the opposite action of real
handguns) and the front has loading bays for the plastic bullets
included in the package.

popgun loading

The loading of the plastic toy gun is done by manually inserting the
white plastic bullets into the chambers. There are 8 chambers, the
standard size in toy guns that uses the 8-shot firing caps. The first
time I loaded the pop cap gun, I didn’t push the “bullets” in fully,
which resulted in less-than-stellar discharges.

popgun correct load

I later found out that pushing in the plastic bullets until
they come into contact with the back metal studs resulted in a much
more satisfactory discharge, in terms of distance and power. The
picture above shows the correct load of this plastic pop cap gun.

popgun firing cap

The firing cap is put above the metal studs at the back of the plastic revolver…

popgun lock and load

…and the canister is put back into the gun frame. Lock and load! ;)

popcap

Download: Pop gun firing action [sixthseal.com]

Here’s a video of me playing with the pop cap gun at my friend’s
store. I used my hand as a target, just to see if it hurts. It doesn’t.

popgun welts

It gives you welts where the plastic bullets come into contact with your skin though…

popgun firing cap spent

This is what the firing cap looks like when it’s spent.

popgun residue

The pop can gun has visible residue in the chamber after its being
fired for a couple of times…it’s made in China, it’s not supposed to
last. :p

popgun hands up

Hands up! Or I’ll give you welts! ;)

LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader Transformation

lego star wars kit

LEGO came out with a Star Wars Darth Vader Transformation kit (7251)
for RM 44.90. I saw it at Jusco before I came back and couldn’t resist
buying it. I haven’t assembled LEGO sets in a long, long time.

lego star wars back

I brought the Lego Star Wars Darth Vader Transformation box to the
office today to assemble during my lunch break. The back of the kit
shows how Anakin Skywalker can be transformed into Darth Vader using a
twisting movement. I just found the kit interesting, so I decided to
give it a go.

lego star wars packet

I opened up the box and pulled out several LEGO pieces inside a plastic bag. It didn’t look like it would be hard to assemble…

lego star wars everything

…until I noticed that there’s another packet of Lego pieces in the
box, a flat LEGO mounting board and an instructions manual. That’s the
problem with LEGO pieces, there’s always more than you think. ;)

lego star wars pieces

This is the assorted LEGO Star Wars pieces from the first packet.
You can see an Anakin Skywalker LEGO man piece in there as well as an
unmasked Darth Vader LEGO man. There’s something about the characters
having a LEGO man head that cracks me up to no end. :)

lego star wars other pieces

This is the other (smaller) packet, which mostly contains the LEGO
pieces necessary to build the torture device/transformation thingy. The
instructions manual (a thinly disguised promotional brochure) is at the
back.

lego star wars manual

The LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader Transformation manual has the same flame-licking-the-fringes design as the box.

lego star wars nstructions

I must admit, I’ll be lost without the step-by-step instructions to build the contraption. Seriously.

lego star wars assemble 1

I started with the base LEGO mounting board and started building up
the back towers (they’re actually LEGO pieces, but I’m trying to lose
myself in the illusion here, dammit ;)).

lego star wars assemble 2

The side swing away multiple armed transformation machine came was
starting to bear some resemblance to the image on the box after a
couple of minutes.

lego star wars assemble 3

It’s starting to look more and more like the LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader Transformation kit now…

lego star wars anakin skywalker

Behold! The LEGO pieces are finally assembled! I present to you – The LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader Transformation!

lego star wars darth vader

This is the “Darth Vader” side – the previous photo shows the “Anakin Skywalker” side.

lego star wars

Download: LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader Transformation [sixthseal.com].

Here’s a video to show how the LEGO swivels to “transform” Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader.

lego star wars varients

There are also two other possible permutations with the existing
LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader transformation kit – there’s no instructions
for those, but it can be done with a bit of experimentation. One of
them depicts Darth Vader standing beside the machine and the other
shows Darth Vader with this huge ass phallic looking weapon.

lego star wars desk

I like it in the original form though, so the LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader Transformation set is sitting on my desk at work now.

Everybody Loves Kung Fu Fighting!

kung fu rat

The Kung Fu Rat is a soft toy that sings and dances to a theme song that’s so catchy, you just can’t get it out of your head!

kungfu rat

Download: Kungfu Rat [sixthseal.com]

It’s hooked up to one of the video servers in our network. It’s just too funny for words…so just download the video. :)

Anyway, I’ll be flying to KL early tomorrow morning for a business
trip. I’ll be there the whole weekend, staying at the same place
(Cititel, Mid Valley).

McDonald’s and Sega2 mini video games promotion

sega2 compilation

The Sega2/McDonalds mini video game promotion has ended. McDonald’s
released a new mini video game made by the Sega team every week on
Thursday. It’s a joint promotion that continues where the first one
left off, thus the name Sega2. The mini video games retails for RM 6
each with every McDonald’s meal purchase. There were six different mini
video games in total, and it’s all reviewed and linked here:

Sega2 Mini Video Games #1 – Sonic Skateboard [sixthseal.com]

Sega2 Mini Video Games #2 – Cream Flower Catch [sixthseal.com]

Sega2 Mini Video Games #3 – Tails Soccer [sixthseal.com]

Sega2 Mini Video Games #4 – Shadow Basketball [sixthseal.com]

Sega2 Mini Video Games #5 – Amy & Rouge Tennis [sixthseal.com]

Sega2 Mini Video Games #6 – Knuckles Baseball [sixthseal.com]

The Sega2 series is a definite improvement over the first Sega series. I’ll love to see a third promotional run.

Sega2 Mini Video Games #6 – Knuckles Baseball

knuckles baseball

This is the last mini video game in the Sega2 mini video game
promotional tie in with McDonalds – Knuckles Baseball. It just came out
this morning and it’s the sixth and final one in the series.

knuckles packaging

The packaging of this one has a slight difference from its previous
five predecessors. This one opens up at the top and bottom instead of
from the sides.

knuckles game

Here’s what Knuckles Basketball looks like. It has a dark orange
color scheme, with the usual transparent cover. It only has two up-down
directional buttons though, to make Knuckles go in three possible
positions to catch the baseball.

knuckles manual

The manual indicates that this is a simple game, and true enough, I finished it on the first run.

knuckles bg

Here’s the pre-printed color background. It shows a baseball field and Sonic as the batter.

knuckles gameplay

I caught your curve ball Sonic, try harder!

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