Friday, 24 December 2010

Daughter fun


Olivia and I made our gingerbread house this afternoon while the snow was flying thickly outside. It's a bit of a bodge job and if it were raining, I think the roof would leak... While we played with walls and icing, we listened to our 'Sing Mit' (singalong) cd of German Christmas carols sung by children. We have had this cd a long time and the carols are much loved, so singing along reminds us of all our past Christmases and good memories. Including this one: we used to live in a house with very high ceilings and each year we would have a very tall Christmas tree. One year, the tree we chose turned out to be a bit wonky but we supported it as best we could in its stand. We then listened to 'Sing Mit' and decorated the tree and it looked beautiful. I went to get some drinks and suddenly heard a series of tinkling, swishing sounds. Olivia had been fascinated with one particular ornament and had reached out to touch it - I think she was about four years old - and that was all it needed for the tree to fall. There was no big crash because what I had heard was all the ornaments and baubles as they hit the floor with the tips of the branches. I remember screaming because I thought that Olivia had been squashed under the tree but no, she had escaped but was a bit scared... Well, instead of sitting down together and watching 'Muppet Christmas Carol' (another tradition), I had to shut the girls and the cat out of the living room while we removed the remains of the broken ornaments and Stuart lifted the tree. I then swept up all the tiny shards of glass and hoovered, twice! Luckily, a lot of the glass things remained intact as they had been on the other side of the tree and we also had a lot that were not glass but it took a while before the tree was cut again at the bottom to balance it a bit better. Once stable, the tree was left until the next day - nobody felt like decorating that evening. It's one of those stories that every family has and one of the joys of Christmas is digging them out again and having a laugh. I'm intending to have lots of laughs with both daughters over the next few days. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Busy!

That's it - I'm busy. Back soon...

Monday, 29 November 2010

Finished and half-finished.



Well, I managed to finish this today in spite of having a rotten cold, sinus pain and no voice. I didn't go into work as I was feeling so bad when I got up but, as often happens, I got to lunchtime and felt a lot better. Now it's evening and feeling awful again! I'm really pleased with this little runner and am now going to make a few coasters to go with it. If I've time I think I'll make one of these for my mother - I'm not going to be in England with them at Christmas so am planning to send a box of German goodies and one of these runners would be a nice addition. I shall play around with coasters tomorrow if I'm feeling better.
And here's the progress on the cross-stitch, which also has to be finished (and framed) before Christmas for my pride's sake because I said it would be...

Off to do some steam inhalation, have a hot shower, a hot toddy and a hot mug of tea (see the temperature theme there?) and see if I can shift stuff in my head. Never had sinus problems in my past and this is a new and painful frustration. Snow outside and more to come. Hope everyone keeps safe in the wintry weather.

Oh, and a message for Nancy if you drop by: thanks for telling me that you upload photos first and then write afterwards - SO much easier. I feel like such an idiot for doing it the other way round, getting into a muddle and not being able to work out that the opposite method would be more sensible. Fixed ideas are a danger at my age!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Super fast quilt!



Every quilt I've made has been a slow process; I'm just not one of those people who can turn out a quilt a week, nor would I want to work at a fast pace all the time. But, having set myself some challenges (three cross-stitch Christmas embroideries and a Christmas quilted table runner) and only five weeks to do them in, I needed the quilted runner to be quite simple. Found a very quick and easy pattern (free) on the Quiltbug website. The actual sewing of this took less time than the cutting and tomorrow I should get it sandwiched and machine-quilted and bound. I love hand-quilting but this is a project which will suit machine quilting better - the middle square looks a bit bare so I will either quilt it with a circular complex feathered wreath or put an applique star there and echo quilt it. Don't know yet but it is a lovely feeling knowing that this was just a few pieces of fabric this morning and is now something pretty and useful. I bought a nice black candle tray yesterday and I think it will look good on here.

Right, back to the embroideries before bedtime.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Wild windy wet weather and cosy sewing

It is unbelievably warm here, so the heavy rain and wild wind are not bothering me, despite being slapped in the face by a large wet leaf - twice! - on the morning dog walk. The trees are so huge that we've been walking through thick multi-coloured carpets. It's actually quite dangerous getting into my car because the parking bay has so many leaves that you can't see where the kerb is, so I've seen several neighbours doing what I do - dip their toes in the leaves until they can feel the road. Why don't we clear them up? Because we pay for landscaping of the community parkland in our rent and the parking bay is out on the street and I suppose none of us want to sweep the public street, especially as it is quite a way from our appartment.

Anyway, Stuart is in Lisbon, enjoying some very sunny business meetings and I'm tucked up cosily doing different bits of sewing. Here's the progress on the Christmas cross-stitch:


I've also done some of the stand-up Santa but at the moment he has half a pink face with no features and looks a bit scary, so I shan't photograph him until he looks a bit more human.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Goodies from Kreativ Welt, Wiesbaden

We had a very good day at the Wiesbaden Craft Fair. It was the first day and very busy - we thought we might have to eat our lunch standing up in the restaurant but did find seats in the end. I think there were a lot of people who had finished lunch but were giving their feet a rest before entering the fray again.

There were lots of stalls I wasn't interested in, scrapbooking, jewellery-making, beading, dried flowers, etc, but there was plenty to attract me, both quilting and cross-stitch. There was a small exhibition of quilts with some real beauties. I hadn't taken my camera so I had to stand and make design notes and descriptions in a small notebook - deciphering these and trying to remember the quilts in my head has taught me a lesson: always take the camera wherever you go. As usual, the ones that attracted me were very traditional patterns but with a little twist.

I could have spent a fortune on embroidery stuff - I've spent so much time quilting over the last few years that I forgot how much I love cross-stitch and was like a child in a sweet shop. The first thing that attracted me was a Christmas pattern but although the stall had loads of individual patterns this one was in a book, which of course I had to buy.


This is a German country-style company and to be honest, there are only a few things I would make from the book but I just had to have this pattern and when you look at the cost of cross-stitch kits, this book still comes out cheaper. Here is a (not very good) photo of the pattern.



I'm not impressed by the fact that part of the stave is missing in the bottom line - not very professional when it is illustrating the book! Also, the position of the notes varies between the pattern graph, this picture and another version in the book done as a wall-hanging. I do think that if you are going to make it look like a piece of music, you might as well get the notes right. I had to play it on the piano and then alter bits where it was wrong! I don't like it done on this oatmeal-coloured linen and the one on display was done on white, so that's what I'm doing.

I actually was tearing my hair out when I began this yesterday because I hadn't realised that this company only use a particular brand of embroidery thread and I only have access to DMC and Anchor. I'm sure you know the feeling that you just MUST start immediately and I did not want to waste time ordering this special brand online and waiting. I should have. Instead, I went shopping and chose colours from Anchor. That took a while. Then the shop didn't have the right thread count linen so I came home frustrated again. I checked all my pieces at home and none were the right count or could be adapted to this pattern (about an hour of experimental adaptations and stitchings told me this). In the end I took the linen from an old Danish sampler kit I had bought years ago and never got around to starting. Right thread count, beautiful quality and white. Only problem is that it wasn't quite big enough. Should I have ordered some online and waited? Yes. Did I? No. I persuaded myself that it is big enough as long as I only have a narrow edge round it when framed and then went ahead. I think it will be alright. Here's the start of the middle part (the wonkiness is because the linen is not quite straight in the frame.)



I also bought a couple of little Christmas cross-stitch kits done on plastic canvas, which I've never used before. The tall Santa is cone-shaped when finished (hence the plastic canvas) and stands up.



The other one I think I'll find a place for on the front door as it has a nice little black 'welcome' hanger.



Then I found a kit that I wanted but there was only one left and that was in someone else's hand... She and her friend both wanted one and had looked all through the kits but couldn't find another. The friend took her second choice and they left. I kept looking around and asked the assistant if they had any more. She said no but then did a double check in a box behindthe counter and found one.



It does look a bit too brown, brown, brown in the photo but the tones are lovely and there is a metallic copper thread in parts of it that make the brickwork look beautiful.
I didn't neglect the quilting stuff but my friend Renate is due to visit this week with lots (and I mean lots) of fabrics that I ordered from the US a while back and I just don't need and cannot justify any more at the moment. But - there's always a 'but', isn't there - I couldn't resist these jelly rolls on one stall which were very good value and I love these colours.



Don't want to unwrap them yet, so here's another view!



And just in case nobody believed me, I have finished Olivia's quilt and here it is, just needing a label on the back.





Oh, and I bought a pretty scarf as well...

Friday, 22 October 2010

Nearly there...



Had a lovely quilt group yesterday at Nancy's - noisy, chatty, patterns exchanged, fat quarter gifts from Nancy after her trip to the U.S. and delicious food. Once again I heaved The Quilt along with me but for the last time. I finished the binding last night and have only to do the little circles and quilt round them. Off to IKEA today but hope to get to them later.

While I'm here, I'll just say hello to the silent lurkers out there. I was one for years before I started commenting and then started the blog. The word 'lurker' is not flattering but I'm not insulting you - there's nothing wrong with looking and not speaking. Your comments are always welcome, though...

Friday, 15 October 2010

Catch-up


The weather here today is foggy and cold with drizzly rain so I'm leaving that outside and thinking of more pleasant things. The above photo is instantly recognisable for anyone who has seen 'Les Miserables' and as soon as we took our seats in the theatre and saw this on the curtain screen, well, hearts started beating faster - oh, it was wonderful.

Our long weekend in England was very busy; in two full days plus a half and a bit(!) we managed to see my parents and brother, spend a day shopping with my eldest daughter, the afternoon at the theatre, an Indian dinner with all of us plus my daughter's boyfriend's father and we crammed two birthday cakes in as well. A calorific weekend but fun. The best food was a lunch we had with eldest daughter in a French brasserie in Cambridge - perfect steak/frites with home-made mayonnaise and a crisp French apple tart with good quality vanilla ice cream. The very best food is always simple but perfectly cooked and this was.

I have now finished at work ready for the half-term break. Yesterday, the quilt group didn't meet - instead, I joined one of the quilters and her German neighbour, who were going to Marburg for the day. It's about a two hour drive from Bonn and Marburg is the neighbour's home city. It is one of Germany's old university cities and very beautiful. As you can see from this photo, the weather was extremely foggy as I waited for a ferry to cross the Rhine to meet the other two: You would think this was a storm in the North Sea instead of our friendly river.And this was the weather in Marburg two hours later - you wouldn't believe it was the same day.
Instead of going inside the old buildings, we decided to make the most of the sun and walk up to the castle on top of the city and then enjoy a good lunch in the sun. I just love to see the old buildings and the chaotic roofline with the old tiles - such beautiful colours and textures. So instead of panorama shots from the top, of course, I took lots of roof photos.



And, as usual, chose my favourite house - I love this one because it has a complete little house as part of the roof:Unfortunately, after climbing hundreds of steps up to the castle, the restaurant we were hoping to eat at, with a wonderful view, was closed for renovation. We found a nice place near the Town Hall, however, and had lunch and a glass of wine while basking in the sun. It was a lovely day and a great start to half term holiday.

As for my daughter's crescent and star quilt (don't yawn - the saga will soon be over...) I'm done with the quilting - Hooray!!! While this is good news as finishing is near at hand, I also feel I'm losing an old friend as it has been so easy just to pick it up and quilt without having to think about anything. I just need now to put the binding on this afternoon and then make some little circles for decoration. Photos soon.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Excited!

Well, I had to cancel the quilt group (and the food) because my husband runs his consultancy from home and really needed to get some work done for a meeting in Frankfurt. He has an office in the basement but this time needed to work on a big table (dining table) and also needed the big computer screen in the living room rather than his laptop. In fact, there would have only been three of us and I later found out that one had a cold and was not unhappy to stay home, so it wasn't that bad to cancel.

I still cooked the Roquefort souffles for a dinner with friends on Saturday evening and they were very tasty. I also did a beef and Guinness casserole with butter, garlic, mustard and parsley spread baguette slices toasted (they were a meal in themselves) and walnut and coffee syrup cakes with cream and a sprinkling of raspberries. It was a very good evening.

I've been doing blogs without photos for a while because since my youngest daughter left for university in England, I haven't seen our camera and vaguely thought she had borrowed it but was too lazy to go down to her basement room and look for it. Finally did so tonight and shall put some photos up with the next post.

Quilt going very well indeed, end in sight; on the last stretch of border quilting and I must say that doing one continuous line is very lovely because I don't have to mark it or keep knotting off my thread.

Oh, and the reason I'm excited? It's my birthday on Friday and my eldest daughter's birthday on Sunday. I chose to have a weekend in England and to take us all to the theatre in London to see 'Les Miserables', which we all love. So we leave tomorrow, stop and see my parents for a bit and then to stay with eldest daughter and boyfriend in Ely. My birthday will be spent going round Cambridge and shopping with husband and daughter, including birthday gifts. My youngest daughter will be coming down from Sheffield by train to join us Friday evening. Saturday we will spend in London with a nice dinner in the evening and then Sunday we will eat birthday cake again for my daughter. We get back to Germany Sunday evening and collect the dog from friends. THAT is why I'm excited... I love spending time with the girls!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Not so bad

Got up this morning, did a speedwalk in the park, gathered walnuts and sweet chestnuts on my way, then hot shower and breakfast. Only then did I look at the quilt and found, to my relief, that it was only the two short sides that are a problem; the long sides are fine - I must have been tired last night and over-reacted. Cut two strips of white backing and sewed them on and felt a whole lot better. This evening I'm cooking for the quilt group who are coming here tomorrow but shall find the time to fix all the edges, trim and sew round so I can do the border quilting and sew on the applique circles to the middle of the big white bits. It's having a plan that calms you down and last night I was tired and didn't really have one.

Cooking twice-baked Roquefort souffles tonight and these will go back in the oven tomorrow topped with more Roquefort and double cream(!) so that they rise up again to be plonked on Feldsalat (lamb's lettuce, I think this is called in Britain). I'm also making a coconut and pineapple cake. Quite a small group tomorrow, I think, so I should be able to get quite a bit of sewing done as we won't all be talking at the same time!

It struck me this morning what a wonderful thing is a hot shower. We're often encouraged to be thankful for things and I thought how comforting a hot powerful shower was when I was sick last week, how it helps if I've done too much sewing and have got sore shoulders and how fantastic it is when I come in from fast walking or after other exercise to just climb into that hot fast water. I hate baths, so now you know...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

If only...

If only I had not been so eager to get started on the quilting of my daughter's graduation quilt, I would not be sitting here now angry and frustrated. All my own fault. Because the piecing was done by hand, it took a long time and I was excited when the quilt top was complete. However, when I laid out the backing fabric, I was shocked to see how little I had to spare at each edge - I had made the quilt smaller than the original pattern and thought I had calculated all the fabric proportionately smaller. Maths was never my strong point. I stretched the fabric as taut as I could, pinned and basted the sandwich and all seemed okay. Just. But it was 'knapp' as the Germans say - cuttting it fine.

I never quilt with tight stitches and I didn't think I would pull much of the backing in with the quilting. So I've been merrily quilting away for months now, on and off, and finally finished all except the border today. Felt really good and the quilt looks lovely. Oh goody, I can put the binding on and quilt around the applique bits on the border afterwards. And then I realised that even with my non-tight stitches, the backing is now slightly too small to match the top. There was nothing to be done even if I had realised earlier as my quilting pattern was fixed and I wasn't going to undo it.

I've thrown the quilt onto the rocking chair where it is staring at me and demanding a solution. I've thought about doing a binding that is sewn to the back and brought round to the front, with a wider strip to the back and a normal width at the front. I actually think that would be hard to do, though, as it would need all layers to be sewn in a nice straight edge before I added the binding and it is all layers together that I HAVE NOT GOT! So, creeping into my brain and slowly overcoming my resistance is the simple solution of going back to what was left of my backing fabric and making some strips to sew to the edges of the quilt back to extend them and then add binding as normal. It would leave the back with a seam running all around the edge about an inch from the binding but it's all I can think of. Having accepted that it has to be done, I feel much better and shall try to get this done tomorrow morning before I go to work. It's not a tragedy; it's a setback. Not a halt; a delay.

However, this is just another of those examples of what my husband calls my perverse preference for taking risks instead of taking a risk-free route. We're not talking huge life risks here - I'm not a daredevil in any way. But if I need to put something down in a hurry, I will always choose to balance it in an insecure way, inviting accidents or breakages, rather than take my time and do it in a sensible way. When I think of the many incidences where I've shown this tendency, I realise it's always the short cut I'm taking, the quick way, the easiest. I'm too lazy to do things securely. This was never the case with my children or with the dog, but 'things' ? Yes. It's the same reason I won't take an umbrella even when it looks like rain. If it isn't raining AT THE TIME, then I don't need an umbrella. As you can guess, many is the time I get soaked and look what has happened to my quilt! I do wonder sometimes how my husband puts up with me because this is not really grown-up behaviour. Still, we had our 34th wedding anniversary on Saturday so he hasn't been put off yet.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Enough!

Haven't been back because it was a rotten virus. Feeling much better but left with the sort of cough that interrupts sleeping and leaves you sore and weary. We are both sick of being sick in that low-spirited way. It's our 34th wedding anniversary tomorrow and so that ought to trigger the endorphins, or whatever they are called, into changing gear. And, in two weeks we go for a weekend to England to celebrate my birthday and my eldest daughter Eleanor's birthday together; a day in London with tickets for Les Miserables and a day in Cambridge for Stuart and myself. What has often seemed a nuisance having our two birthdays so close, now seems very convenient when we are living in different countries.

Have been given a lovely quilt book called 'Two Colour Quilts' - just my cup of tea - what I call an 'ooh and aah' book. As if I didn't have enough patterns on my list of want-to-dos, here are a whole lot more, most in blue/white, red/white and looking crisp and wholesome and very Scandinavian. The problem is not only shortage of time but the temptations of cross-stitch patterns (which I ought to be kept away from) and now I've been reading a couple of knitting blogs and wouldn't mind having a go at the hand-knit sock thing that seems to have swept through knitting people. The truth is, I'm not one of these people who quietly and quickly produce something new and use all their time effectively; if I were, then I would achieve a lot more than I do. My workmanship is good but oh, oh, the time I waste cross-referencing stuff on the internet, finding stuff on the internet to watch while I'm sewing, playing the odd computer game, procrastinating with just one more cup of coffee, looking at even more patterns and techniques, etc. I wish I were one of these people who turn up and say they've 'just started a little something new' and pull from their capacious bag a full-size quilt top which is three-quarters finished. I tend to talk a lot about what I'm doing but don't produce much. Perhaps that should indicate a good resolution for 2011.

Haven't put photos here for a while. Last time I tried, the system had some sort of bug and took a long time to NOT work. Will try again soon.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Snotty yukky weekend

Stuart's brother is visiting people in Europe for a few weeks and he came to stay with us this weekend. Unfortunately, Stuart had caught a bad cold/virus thing and was feeling pretty rough but I was fine until he left to collect Lawrence from D├╝sseldorf airport. In the time it took him (about an hour and a half) to drive there I went from feeling fine to wanting to crawl into bed - how is that possible? So fast and so aggressive. Luckily, I had done a four cheese and spinach lasagne the day before so I could just put it in the oven without spending time in the kitchen (he was only with us for one full day and an evening). I had also booked a table in a nice restaurant for the Sunday evening, not knowing that my legs would feel like new-born Bambi and my joints hurting, amongst other symptoms. Isn't it amazing how, when you're in good health, it's hard to identify with someone who is sick but when you are sick, it's hard to imagine what it's like to be healthy? Anyway, I gritted my teeth and we did actually have a lovely evening but as Stuart was paying the bill, I went to the bathroom. This was an old converted mill and the bathroom was at the end of a very long flight of stairs, way down in the depths. My ibuprofen had long worn off and I thought I'd never get to the end of the stairs - I just sat down on the bottom step and felt so sad that I had to climb those stairs again. Poor Stuart had to get up at 4.30 a.m. to take Lawrence to the airport again - he is a couple of days ahead of me so is feeling on the mend but it was still tough. Me, I was such a snotty jellylegs this morning that I had to stay home from work but I think I'll be okay to go tomorrow as everything has moved down into my chest now - okay, that could also be a problem but the weakness is fading and that is what was so debilitating. There's nothing more boring than hearing about people's viruses so I apologise to anyone passing by here but I did just want to say a public thank you to my husband who has looked after me so thoughtfully today.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Aaargh!

The haircut is hateful. After eight weeks since my last cut, all I wanted was the growth cut off and the shape put back in. Instead of which he kept waving the comb and scissors about but only took the tiniest snippets of hair off. I waited and waited for signs that he was putting the style back the way he'd done it before. What a vain hope! Why would a hairdresser ever want to do the same style again? That's not what they are there for, is it? When I questioned him about cutting so little, he said it suited me better with the sides longer and the back shorter. So was the last cut a mistake on his part, then, I asked? Well, he said, this suits you better. Hmmm. I ended up with something that looks like Julie Andrews in The S.of M. whereas last time I came out looking quite sophisticated. I've got this stupid little fringe that won't do anything but sit there looking like a little girl. The fact that I AM little doesn't help matters. Came home sulking (there's nothing quite like a post-haircut sulk, is there?) and thinking that after three years I probably won't go back (because that's how far my complaining goes). My daughter said it was more fashionable and made me look younger. The last bit I believe but in a non-good way. My husband came home and just skirted around me for a while before carefully saying 'He's cut it a bit differently, hasn't he?' Hah! That lit the firework and I went into the familiar Haircut Moan which he has heard many times before. Usually, however, when I've washed it and styled it myself I like it. I doubt that is going to happen this time. It'll grow, I suppose.

Stuart took Olivia back to university in England today. I was so sad to see them fly off because they are staying with my older daughter and all going for a jolly lunch tomorrow with Stuart's brother who is visiting from Australia. He is visiting Germany next week, so I will see him then, but am feeling very abandoned and weepy - have really enjoyed having my youngest daughter around this last few weeks. I knew I would get a lump in my throat when they left, so grabbed the dog and walked for an hour - whenever I'm upset, angry or have something to think about, walking always works wonders. We had a wonderful walk in glorious late afternoon sunshine and came back feeling much better. Then I walked into the empty appartment and was overwhelmed with tears again. Honestly, I despise this kind of behaviour and I am the sort of person who cries at sad movies but hardly ever cries at real life. I'm blaming it on that bloody haircut...

Friday, 3 September 2010

Herbst

Yes, Herbst (Autumn) is on its way. I can smell it in the air. Just walked Logan round the lakes in the park and there was that lovely mulchy scent. I get sad when the evenings get dark earlier and that summer is going out with a whimper but looking forward to all the pleasures of Autumn.

I think my crescent and star quilt for Olivia will eventually get finished but it has been going like a long-running tv. series, i.e. in episodes with breaks in between and no end in sight. I just finished all the inner quilting and had started on the inset triangles (in the hope of perhaps doing the binding this week before quilting the border) when my daughter spotted one of the big white bits that hadn't been done - how did I miss it?

Our quilt group had a lovely visit yesterday from our founder member, Renate, who had left Germany to live in the US. Her husband now has a new job and they have returned to Germany but to Bremen in the north. She came for the day yesterday and we had such a jolly session (thank you, Nancy!) all talking at once as usual. Afterwards, Renate came back to me for a dogwalk by the river and a long quilty chat and a pot of tea. Although we can't see her often, it is so lovely to know that she's only a train journey away and not an expensive flight, and that we can see each other reasonably regularly. We are all looking forward to visiting her in Bremen and also making a trip to the island of Sylt, where another former group member is now living and running a hotel.

Before Renate left South Carolina, I ordered loads of fabric online from US stores to be delivered to her. She has incorporated this with the family's house contents, which will be shipped over in October. It will be like Christmas when I receive those packages because I will have forgotten a lot of what I ordered. I do know I've got quite a lot of civil war reproduction prints coming and some French provencal fabric, so I need to plan what I do with those. Apart from opening them, sniffing them and stroking them - it seems I'm not alone in this, having talked to other quilters.

Well, I must do an hour's ironing and then sew madly before I go to the hairdresser's for a much-needed trim. I never quite know how my haircut is going to go or how I will look when I come out - does anyone else live with this uncertainty, I wonder?

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Home again, again!

Returned at lunchtime today from my youngest daughter's university graduation in Sheffield, England. We left Germany on Tuesday afternoon, drove through Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, onto the Channel Tunnel where our car was put in a carriage with broken air conditioning - temperature down there was high 30s. At least they gave us free bottled water to help stay alive and, of course, the crossing only takes half an hour. Then drove to a hotel in Luton. Up early Wednesday morning to drive to Sheffield, collect Olivia, go to graduation, take photos, drink champagne, collect her suitcase and then drive back down to Channel tunnel and across to stay in Calais overnight. This morning, drove back through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany and home by lunchtime. You can't get more of a whistlestop tour than that. Don't know how my husband does it but he's proud of being a road warrior - me, I sit and read, embroider and sleep. I always sleep like a baby in the car.

Graduation was lovely. As both daughters went to an international school, we had big celebrations over their school graduations (this doesn't happen in England where finishing school is taken for granted and not a cause of celebration). As Eleanor has already had two university graduations and Olivia is doing her Masters next year, all in all when we are finished we will have attended six such events with all the attendant gown hire, photos etc, etc. Still, each one still makes us very proud.

Now to concentrate on the four weeks left of my summer vacation and get some serious sewing done. Not easy as the temperature, despite the odd storm, remains stubbornly in the low 30s - just a few degrees above comfortable for me.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Home again!




Stuart and I just spent a week in La Ciotat, next to Cassis, in Provence. Horrendously hot - when it gets to 36C I look like a squashed cabbage leaf and feel I am about to die. Luckily, the hotel had excellent air-con and the infinity pool was on the roof, five floors up, so there was always a breeze up there (even if it felt more like a hairdryer than a fan). Stuart unwound rapidly and completely in response to sun, swimming, good food, lots of wine and afternoon siestas. We had a good time but couldn't do any sightseeing at all apart from walking round the old town and the tropical gardens - luckily, there was an all-night market every night in La Ciotat and the whole harbour was full of bars and restaurants, so there was plenty to choose from and lots of people-watching to do and street entertainment. Also, of course, the World Cup was on, so we made sure that we had access to a big screen whenever there was a match we were interested in. Stuart had been working intensively for a couple of months and was stressed out and it was really good to see him relaxed again. Me, however... well, I was missing my beloved Normandy the whole time. It was great to have guaranteed good weather (the massive European heatwave which made it overwhelming was just bad luck) and I know Normandy can be rainy and cold. Oh, but I missed those early mornings, beachcombing for hours along those empty golden beaches. I missed being able to walk out miles along the damp sands to meet the tide. I missed the quietness and the feeling of being a child again which always comes over me when I am at the coast. In short, Provence was too damn hot for me and all of its beauties and charms were negated by the intense heat. The food was great and I put on 2 kilos over the week - Bad Barbara!

We came back home to Bonn where the temperatures were only a few degrees cooler and a couple of storms had not cleared the air. I'm walking the dog at 6.30am, getting chores done and then spending the rest of the day surrounded by cooling fans and trying to finish the graduation quilt for Olivia. Not a good idea, hand-quilting a double bed-sized quilt in 30+C but I have to get it finished!! Here's how I decided to quilt the big white bits in the end. When finished, each one will have an applique 'button' circle in the middle to connect it to the border and because, well, it needs something in the middle...

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Need to catch up


No blogging - just been doing other things. School is in its last week and a half, holiday is close and we've been taking Logan for all kinds of tests and examinations to find out what's wrong with him. Last week we went to Cologne to see a dog internist and he has recommended an appointment today with a dog neurologist. Meanwhile, a colleague has suggested that it might be a thyroid problem, so I need to check today if that has been tested before I pay another whopping medical bill. He, of course, lets everyone prod and poke him, stick needles into him, electrodes etc, with the patience and good nature of a saint. When I quake at the bills, I remember all this little chap has done for us and all he has given and don't feel so bad.

Quilting when I can but no time to take or upload photos - next time.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Quilting and pondering



Quilting away at the crescents and stars - nothing revolutionary but I am enjoying it and liking how it looks. Pondering, however, what to do in the big white spaces in between... The crescents and stars are would not look good next to feathers or anything too complex or pictorial - the small blue crescents would get in the way even if I did want that. I have a couple of quilt books which show a spider web in this sort of situation but although I can see that it is simple and effective, I don't like the look of it and my daughter hates spiders anyway. I'm tempted to do rows of outline quilting 1" apart which would be simple but would emphasise the unusual shape of the white bits. Maybe I could stop this with, say a 3" circle at the middle, which could be the 'O' for Olivia and then wait until I finish to see how everything looks. If the middle needs something later, I could perhaps make some more fabric applique buttons and put one in each? Any opinions on that or other suggestions would be VERY WELCOME!

I'm very keen to get back to the Nearly Insane blocks but really need to push towards my deadline with Olivia's quilt as long as my fingers keep going. Having a most relaxing half term.

No quilting yesterday but Gay and I had lunch with Barbara, our new friend visiting from California. Our meeting with her a few weeks ago and this farewell lunch were like bookends around her trip with her husband. Again, we talked and talked (and ate, of course) and feel we have known her for much longer than two occasions would normally justify. It's good to know we have a quilting date with her when she visits again this time next year.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Dancing and quilting!

As I'm on half term holiday this week and we're not going away, I've been starting the day with a dog walk, then 30 minutes on the balcony in the glorious sun (not to go brown but to take away the white!), then 30 minutes of Zumba dance/exercise, then shower, emails and coffee. Then an hour of chores and the rest of the day I can quilt to my heart's content - or at least until the ends of my fingers give way and I'm down to using the pinkie on my left hand, which is really going too far and even I couldn''t do that. The weather's lovely, the quilting looks good - photo tomorrow maybe - and I'm sleeping really well. Stuart, on the other hand, is working all hours on a new project and even when he is here, we are really only able to talk properly at dinner. So, a restful week for me and a tiring week for him; at least it is work that really interests him. We are going off to Brussels in a couple of weeks to spend a long weekend with old friends from England so he will get a nice break fairly soon.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Crescent and Star top finished




It's been very hot here the last two days and so I've been sunbathing, zumba dancing and reading instead of finishing the university graduation quilt-top for my youngest daughter, Olivia. This afternoon, though, I finished off the last 15 of the fabric 'button' circles and appliqued them on. Now I'm in the middle of sandwiching. Satisfied. But hungry. In the middle of the asparagus season here and we're having some organic green asparagus tonight with melted butter, some very good ham and steamed potatoes. Had late breakfast and no lunch, so I think this will not stay long on my plate...

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Grrrrrrr!

Got to the point yesterday evening where the quilt top had all the swags done except for the four corner ones - these are a different shape and couldn't go on until I'd mitred the corners of the border and could match the crescents exactly. Decided that they and the rest of the little button circles could wait until I'd sandwiched the quilt because the sandwiching was my goal for Saturday. I'd already washed and ironed all the backing fabric and got my batting ready. Oh, yes, really organised. Except that my batting was too small and it is the largest piece I have at the moment. I mean inches too small - really frustrating. And quilt shops aren't open on Sundays, hence the Grrrrr! I don't even think I'll be able to get any tomorrow as I'm working and have to rush back to walk the dog since my husband is not returning from Scotland until tomorrow evening. At this rate, I'm not going to get started with the quilting until Tuesday evening.

And so to bed...

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Grey, damp Saturday - who cares?

Not me! Stuart has gone to visit family in Scotland for a few days so I am having one of those weekends when I have only myself to please as to when I eat, what I eat and what I do with the rest of the time. This does not mean that my husband is in any way obstructive or difficult - it's just that being totally alone has a potential for selfishness that isn't always there. Apart from walking the dog, I plan to sew, sew, sew and make real headway on Olivia's quilt, hoping I will be finished with the applique border and have it sandwiched and ready for quilting by the end of today.

What might interfere with this progress is that I also want to watch Series 5 of The Wire at the same time. Stuart and I have been thoroughly enjoying this series but he has opted out of Series 5 because he's too depressed about the corruption and negativity in it. So this is the perfect time for me to watch it and hand it back to the friend who lent it to me. I already cooked a lamb pilaff yesterday evening and there's plenty left over for dinner tonight, so I don't even have to cook. The appartment is clean, too. Of course, there is the little matter of the ironing but as it's behind the laundry cupboard doors I can allow myself to forget that's there until tomorrow...

So away with the internet and off to my one person quilt retreat!

Friday, 14 May 2010

New Face

Some weeks ago I received an email from Barbara, an artist and art quilter living in Santa Barbara, who had found my blog when researching 'quilting' and 'Bonn' online. She was accompanying her husband to Bonn on a business trip and wanted to contact some quilters. We invited her to our group 'stitch and lunch'.

By the time the date arrived, our group of six had dwindled to two of us - our Thursday was a public holiday; one was in the US, another in Switzerland and two had other commitments. When I collected Barbara, we drove to the ferry, parked the car and went across the Rhine as foot passengers as my friend only lives 100 metres from the ferry on the other side. But we two (complete strangers) were chatting so vigorously and happily that when the ferry slowed down and we prepared to get off, I realised that we had talked right through the landing on the other side and had arrived back at our beginning again - we skulked in the little cabin and went across again. By the time we came back to the car we had done four crossings instead of two!

That really was the tone of our session - Gay provided a delicious lunch (I even managed a piece of cheesecake, which I usually hate) and the talk didn't stop. Was it the quilting link, the fact that we were women of approximately the same age or just plain luck - no idea, but the three of us got along famously and we would really like to see Barbara again when she returns with her husband this time next year. Thank you, Internet!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Muttertag

Just back from two days in England, visiting my mother and very sick father. Came back emotionally exhausted having felt the full weight of love and fear. We are awaiting the results of an MRI but the outlook is depressing.

Came home to a lovely welcome from my husband. Stuart had done the laundry, ironed his shirts, cleaned the appartment, bought me fresh flowers and chocolates for German Mother's Day and has cooked me a big English breakfast today (not counting the calories) and will do dinner later. My youngest daughter had sent me a dvd of 'Cranford' and my eldest daughter sent silver earrings and necklace - lovely gifts and here on the day! I'm feeling thoroughly spoilt and after my emails I'm going to spend the day quilting as I've got a 20 July deadline for my daughter's graduation quilt. Oh, and bond again with our loving little border terrier. Happy Muttertag, everyone!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Deceptive Day

Well, it's blue skies and bright sun outside but only 11 degrees with a cold wind - such a disappointment to have last week's warmth disappear again. Fighting a very bad head/neckache I woke up with - have tried a dog walk to loosen up and get rid of it and I've had a sensible breakfast; next comes a hot shower to ease the muscles and last of all will be a tablet as a very last resort (I hate taking any drugs if I can help it, although when I do feel it is necessary, I have no qualms about gobbling one as quickly as possible - just like putting it off in the hope I won't need it). But before I go, I'll put up a few photos.Today's quilts from the European Quilting Championships Exhibition are:This one really needs a close up of some of the details but I didn't take one for some reason. It was an impressive piece, very Japanese in feeling.
I am not one for pictorial quilts - I've just never seen the point. This was one of the quilts I walked past and dismissed, having learnt from experience that when there are thousands to look at you have to skim quickly through or you don't make it to the end and therefore miss some good ones. I was drawn, though, to the beautiful border on this and the vivid jewel colours. I wouldn't want it on my wall because it's just not my thing but I can still honestly say I really like it. Isn't it strange that we can like something very much and yet still not want it in our home?
This one I would like in my home. It is in the same colours as my Japanese taupes log cabin and would look really good on another wall. I love the balance of the design, love the spaces in it where the wall behind can show through, love the change in texture from cloth to threads, from solid to fragile, concrete to abstract. Everything about it works and it makes me feel good to look at it. Unfortunately, one of my quilting companions would fight me in the gutters for it, so it's a good thing it wasn't available!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Hitting the Past

Yesterday was my youngest daughter's 21st birthday. Unfortunately, she is in the middle of her degree dissertation so we did not go to England to celebrate as she wanted to 'keep it low profile'. Fortunately, she has a great boyfriend who organised some surprises. Her sister and boyfriend travelled up to Sheffield for the weekend and gave her a lunchtime surprise, then they all had a lovely dinner followed by a surprise party in a local bar, where a roomful of her friends were waiting. I had supplied some old photos of my daughter growing up and boyfriend had them enlarged and put into an album for her. We had sent our gift in advance and my eldest daughter delivered some champagne and flowers for us on the day. She was a very happy girl.

All this sent me in a remembering mood - while I was at work yesterday I couldn't help thinking back over those 21 years to her birth and the lovely childhood she and my other daughter had here in Bonn. The only thing missing was not seeing their grandparents (in England and Scotland) enough through those years. What was also pushing my mind back is that I was going to have coffee yesterday with an old friend I had known here when my daughters were small - she was also an expat in Bonn and had daughters the same ages, same class at school, sleepovers, parties, etc. She and her family left Bonn 13 years ago and she had not been back since. She had done a little work here for the first Oxfam charity shop in Germany and they had invited all the people on their books for a 25th anniversary celebration. I only got an emailed request to meet on the Sunday, so my thoughts were naturally focussed on our shared time here, our daughters, reinforced by my daughter's 21st.

Well, we met and hugged and got very emotional - although we had been friends, after a few years' Christmas cards with notes inside, we had lost touch. The expat world is one of constant comings and goings - life has changed very much here in Bonn since the capital moved back to Berlin and the diplomats left Bonn; the expats here now stay longer and the population is more stable because of it. Back then, however, it simply wasn't possible to stay in contact with everyone who crossed your path. It didn't matter, though - we sat and drank coffee and talked non-stop for two hours and had a wonderful, if emotional, time. Thirteen years contained many divorces, infidelities, deaths, illnesses, joys and sadnesses among the group of people we knew and we couldn't catch up on everything. What was wonderful is a very simple thing - that we are both still here, fit, healthy, active and hopefully a little wiser. We felt as though we had only seen each other the week before and both knew that if it is another 13 years before we meet again (I hope this won't be the case), that won't really matter either.

Anyway, I need to get back into the present today and get moving with my quilting before I go to work for the afternoon. Here are today's quilts from the European Quilting Championships Exhibition. Firstly, two very traditional quilts with perfect workmanship:






And as a contrast, here is another astonishing art quilt:
This one was so exciting to see. I almost walked past it but something drew me back and the more I looked the more fascinated I became. The coloured diagonals that look like sticks ARE sticks covered with fabric and they give the most subtle but effective 3D touch to the geometry of this quilt. The connection between the colour points, the effect of the diagonals all seemed to be a growing coherent wholeness that only appeared the more you looked at it. I could have been tempted to steal this by the end of the day when I had criss-crossed in front of it visiting the quilt stalls for the umpteenth time. By the time I left I felt I knew this piece and wanted it badly. I just don't think I have the ingenuity to be able to copy it, sadly.

Right, hoover, change bedding, put some laundry on, then an hour's sewing till I go to work!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Not ready for Monday...

The last few days seem to have gone very fast. I only work on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and so have, effectively, a four-day weekend. Thursday I was in Holland for the quilt exhibition, Friday seemed to be totally taken up with finding out that our dog has epilepsy and getting the right medication, etc, Saturday was Rhein in Flammen and yesterday seemed to disappear in a puff of smoke (I actually worked on a quilt for hours but it never seems that long, does it?).

Anyway, I wasn't ready for Monday morning but have caught up with myself now. Later this afternoon I'm going to meet someone for coffee who I haven't seen for 13/14 years (she was another British expat in Germany who had daughters the same age as mine but they went back to the UK all those years ago). Surprisingly, she has never returned to Bonn in all that time. I wonder if we will still recognise each other?

Here are today's quilts from the European Quilting Championships Exhibition. First, a Baltimore album:
I've just bought an Ellie Sienkiewicz pattern book for blocks like these and one day in the distant future I might actually get around to doing one like this.


And this is one of the art quilts that I really liked. Art quilts are never 'okay' with me; they are either fantastic or bog-ugly and I've never yet seen one that falls in the middle. The maker of this one wrote that she was inspired by seeing the Chinese Terracotta Army and was fascinated by their armour made up of small pieces like this. There is something of Gustav Klimt also, I think, in her colours and the overall look. Very successful - I would love this on my wall even though the rest of our house is probably not 'cool' enough to match it...


And there was this charming pot plant quilt with some very inventive applique/embroidery effects. This is not normally my cup of tea but it was interesting seeing how each one had been done. I know my mother would love this one as she loves gardening. Not sure if I would want it hanging up all the time but I do think it's cute.

Off to walk the dog before meeting my long-lost friend.