Wednesday, 29 September 2010


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


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 Düsseldorf 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


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


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?