28 Feb

No Quilt Content, it’s Fasching!

Bear with me, this is a long one, but worthy I think, because it’s mostly pictures. Today was Fat Tuesday, or as the Germans call it, Faschings Dienstag. Today concludes the Crazy Days begining on November 11th and working up to the last five or so days before Lent when it’s all parties, parades and pandemonium (what, you don’t think the Germans can do pandemonium? I’ve been to a couple of parties that disprove it!). We bundled up to go to a parade in a neighboring town. It had snowed this morning, but mother nature was kind enough to warm up just enough to melt the snow (though not enough to be considered at all warm). Here, those watching the parade get dressed up just as those in the parade do. (And likewise, those in the parade drink like those watching it do!) Here are my kids, as a blue bunny and Sonic the Hedgehog, plus our neighbors two doors down as a pirate and a witch, and our neighbor three doors down as an insurgent with his cousins the cowboy and the “gar nichts” (absolutely nothing).

Kids Dressed Up

Like any good parade, this one had bands. Often the bands will be in the usual band regalia. More often, not. This was a band of clowns, literally:
Clown Band

All Fasching parades must have officials. The hats these two are wearing are traditional and symbolize Fasching (I think they mostly symbolize the political parody that goes on at fancy dress balls in the weeks before Faschings Dienstag, where people dress up in these hats and capes and elect officials and pass all kinds of crazy laws and things.)

Bürgermeister and Bürgermeisterin

All parades have floats and small town Fasching parades are no exception. These guys and gals are dressed as traffic workers, complete with a float outfitted like the ubiquitous storage/office trailer at every building site.
Vehrkers Float Front

I loved how the back of their float included the extra clothes and pin ups de riguer in these sorts of buildings. By the way, the main purpose of floats seems to be to haul the group’s sound system and all the candy and stuff they throw at onlookers along the parade route (note beer stein in the green hard hat’s hand). Floats can be as elaborate as this or as simple as a handcart (or stroller) filled with pretzels or popcorn.

Verkehrs Float Back

My son goes to school with the cowboy in the light brown jacket, so I had to take a pic of him with his brother and dad.

Jürg and boys

Here’s the rest of their group. I didn’t even notice what club it was that they belonged to because I was so entranced. These guys had a whole dance routine going (of course). Their soundtrack? “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” by John Denver. It happens to be the national anthem of Germany. You don’t believe me? You’re right, the anthem is actually “Country Roads.” Really, it’s played at absolutely every fest and absolutely every German knows absolutely every word! Oh, and the papier-maché steed seemed to be rigged so you could drink beer (or something) from it’s penis. Probably better not to ask too many questions.
Cowboys

If anyone is familiar with European comics, particularly French ones, you might recognize this guy as the Gaul Obelix, or at least a relative of his.

Obelix or Other Gaul

My son, speed racer, loved the troupe on mini motorcycles.

Did I mention this was in Germany? This is a country obsessed with football (soccer if you’re an Ami).

Footballs

Here’s another float. This tractor is pulling a witch’s house complete with taxidermy crows on the chimney. It’s not unusual to see old tractors (not pulling witches’ houses) on a daily basis going to and from the fields, as houses are crammed close together in towns and then surrounded by unbroken fields, as opposed to everything scattered everywhere with fences in between as in the USA.
Witches' House

Here are the witches. My neighbor says that the farther south and east you go, the more witches are in the parades. When we lived in Wiesbaden/Mainz, in the center of the country, there were more political looking costumes and very few witches. Here there are a few more. My neighbor’s home town parade is almost all wooden masked witches, of many varieties. Unfortunately I can’t show DebR pics of my favorite witches because this parade didn’t have any. Their shirts, skirts, or pants are covered with row upon row of fabric squares which flap in the wind.
Witches (Hexen)

My neighbor called these Gefährliche Hexen, or dangerous witches.

Gefärliche Hexe

I guess that’s because if you throw confetti at them, they will threaten to sweep you up…

Witch Sweeping up Kids?

Or just go ahead and stuff their own confetti down the back of your shirt! (Luckily, Lukas is a good sport.)

Lukas Gets Stuffed

Speaking of throwing things, did I mention that parade participants throw candy, confetti, or little bags of popcorn at you?

Throwing Candy

Here’s the kids rushing to get the goodies.

Kids Rushing for Candy

Here’s some more witches. I loved these guys’ wooden wood masks (no, not the two in the foreground).

Woodsman Witches

In addition to popcorn and candy, these guys were handing out brötchen (little breads) too.

Wood Witch Offers Brötchen

So, what kind of message am I sending to my kids, telling them that it’s OK to take bread from a strange stranger in a mask…

Big Devil

or candy from an 8 foot tall devil?????

Big Devil Hands out Candy

We’re definitely NOT in the USA! Everyone is everyone’s neighbor and people actually respect each other over here.

So, the parade officials thank everyone for coming, and throw some popcorn of their own (notice, they too have a large speaker on their float for loud music!).
Fasching Officials

Viel Spaß; bis zum nächsten Jahr!

26 Feb

Progress you can’t see

I was going to post a picture of my blank hallway wall, but is was BLANK, so why bother? The cool part is that it is blank because I have taken down the last two pages of hexagons and put them in my sewing basket! Of approximately 810 pieces, I am down to the last 40!!!!! This was the pokey project that was supposed to be happening in the background, while other stuff was happening on the machine. But it was actually fun once it got going; and it appears that I find more pockets of time for handwork on the go than for sitting at the machine at home. Hmmmmm. I like the process. I wouldn’t set out to spend a lot of time on something if I didn’t enjoy it. Well, except for housework and cooking. I have to spend time on those, or we don’t eat and must wear smelly clothes, and I don’t want my kids to have to endure that. But I like the piecing process, and I do usually have several projects going on at once so that one will match my available time or temperament. What’s funny though, is that as much as I enjoy the process, once I can see the light at the end of the project’s tunnel, I get very focused and obsessed and find myself putting everything else aside to work on the near complete project (or stage of a project). That’s where I am now with the hexagons. I can’t wait to get back to the sewing basket and keep going. I’ve put all the finished pieces on my design wall and am auditioning border fabrics.  I’m envisioning steaming and marking and squaring the piece up (because if any quilt needs help squaring, this  is probably it!). In fact, I am going to post this right now and go sew. Bye!

25 Feb

For Lisa

This one is for Lisa. We went out to dinner at our favorite Brauerei Ausschank and the kids entertained themselves writing on the beer coasters. I couldn’t help but think of Lisa the whole time since she’s totally into bird imagery. It says it’s “for those loyal to the line (the straight and narrow)” and below is “simply see more” but they’ve used a play on words and it could also be read as “simply see the ocean,” which I guess means the bird is probably a seagull. Anyways, it was a bird, so it caught my attention.

Connect the dots bird coaster

23 Feb

Not quilting, but the sewing machine is happy

I’ve been making slow progress on the hexagon quilt; it has taken a back seat to Fasching preparations. Fasching or Fastnacht is the German version of Carneval. It is described as the “crazy times” and features parties, parades, mock government and mocking of government. There’s lots of dressing up and general goofiness. It was originally a time to scare away winter and bad spirits in preparation for spring and the new agricultural year, and then later included a time to get all your ya-yas out before the seriousness of Lent. We hope to go to a parade on Tuesday so I’ll take pictures to share (especially rag covered witches for DebR). In the mean time, I’ve been making costumes for the kids to wear to school. This year Katja wanted to be a blue princess:

Cinderella Costume

Note the classy pink undershirt, since it is inconcievable in Germany to send a child outside without an undershirt as long as the weather is under 78°. (It’s hovering around freezing today, so I’m more than willing to comply.) The outfit looks great with a down jacket and fleece hat and gloves! In the works is a Sonic the Hedgehog outfit for my son. I have no pattern for it, but I am bouyed (sp?) by the fact that it doesn’t have a three layered skirt using 4 yards of satin, so how hard can it be?!

I had to take a break from the costumes to whip up a present, from my sewing stash, for a crafty neighbor turning 6 on Saturday. I decided to make her an apron with lots of pockets for essential craft supplies:

Craft Apron

The bear is modeling since I sent the kids off the school already. It’s a basic shaped apron with a row of pockets across the bottom, filled with paper, markers, stickers, and in the little yellow pocket, the all-important glitter-glue. Center is a pocket with decorative scissors. All pockets are trimmed with rick-rack, and there’s a few cute patches I got on sale at the notions store. It has gross-grain ribbon ties on the side and the halter around the neck is a tape measure with a backpack-type slide closure thingy. The guy at the store was happy to lead me to another tape measure that had inches (my American accent gives me away every time) so I had to explain that it was the width I wanted, not the measurements 😉

Off topic, my soundtrack today is mashed music. This is where DJs take popular songs and mix the lyrics of one with the music of another in often creative ways. I mention this because TS&WGH just snuck in one I hadn’t heard before: rx (DJ) splicing sound bites of George Bush to make him sing “White Lines,” originally by Grandmaster Flash. What a crack up! Also “by” George Bush are the masterfully edited “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (U2) and my ironic favorite, Dubya “singing” John Lennon’s “Imagine” with bonus chorus of Lou Reed’s “Take a Walk on the Wild Side.” Less socially relevant, but fun to listen to is my perenial favorite “Bring the Musik Back” by DJ Lance Lockarm which mixes 80’s one hit wonder “Pop Musik” with “Bring the Noise” by Public Enemy. Not everyone’s cuppa, but I thought I’d share just the same.

19 Feb

Geotracker

Have I mentioned how cool it is to have a geo tracker thingie to see where visitors to your site are visiting from? I love checking in and finding that I’ve had a visitor from some far off, exotic place. I’ve had a few visitors from places in India and Hungary I’ve never heard of, nor can I pronounce. Today’s fun place is a tie: I got visits from Reykjavek, Iceland and from Singapore! Of course, I love my North American visitors too. Though not as exotic, I am quite curious about my “regulars.” I’ve noticed that my blog is popular in the northeastern part of the US (are there just more people with computers in that part of the country?), and I have a regular from Enid, Oklahoma. Actually, Oklahoma is pretty exotic to me as I’ve never been there either. So, thanks for visiting, everyone! I love going “virtually” around the world with you 😉

19 Feb

Parties, Parties, Parties

I have done very little sewing in the last few days. We’ve been playing host and hostess with the mostest. Thursday is our usual evening to go out to dinner with friends. It’s almost stammtisch (german for a gathering of the same people at the same place at regular intervals) except that we rarely do it at the same place, and the guest list is pretty fluid. This week TS&WGH offered to host since we’ve missed the last few weeks. We filled our relatively small living/dining room with about 20 people (half of them under eight) and had a crazy, cozy time.

Next Tuesday, the American quilt group will come over for cake, coffee, and conversation too. But, in the mean-time, I hosted a baby shower today. (I swear I’ve never vacuumed so much in my life with all this pre- and post-party clean-up!) I can’t take all the credit for the shower, though. It was Tina’s idea to have the shower for our mutual friend Becky, and I couldn’t say no. So, here’s the festivities, ‘cuz I know you’re dying to see.

Me decorating the “baby blocks” cakes (with my ever-present assistant by my side):

Icing the cakes

The inside of the cakes, because I can’t leave well enough alone; and one of the gingerbread men in diapers Tina made for our prizes:

Cake cross-section

The table, mostly set and ready for guests. We went for afternoon snacks rather than a full meal, because, hey, we’ve both got smallish kids and we know our limits. I got out the silver because I was feeling girly:

Pretty table

Here’s my “bar” minus the coffee and waters I put out later. I’m so glad the baby was a boy, because pink just wouldn’t have went so well with all my blue decor:

Drink bar

Tina’s daughter was very curious about our guest of honor. I think she thought he was a doll.

Ella checks out Cashel

She still wanted to hold him, even after he started screaming:

Ella holds Cashel

No shower is complete without silly games. My favorite is one where you have various mushed and melted chocolate bars in diapers and have to guess which ones they are:

Tina sniffs a diaper

Here, Becky is very serious, meticulously writing down her results. This woman knows her chocolates, both American and German:

Becky studies the diaper

Becky and the baby received many wonderful gifts, but of course, the one I took a picture of was my quilt. Here Becky, baby Cashel, Birgitte and daughter Mira find all the fun novelty fabrics. They are totally unaware of the hideous combinations of greens because they found the print with the purple spiders! Oh, and the other one with the little bunnies! Did you see this, with the polka dots?…

Checking out the quilt

A fun time was had by all, and this being Tina and Birgitte’s first shower, we did a pretty good job as cultural ambassadors as well. Now I have to rest up so I can vacuum again in time for Tuesday’s group!

14 Feb

New Recruit

This is what’s on my design wall these days:

Frau Mecher's baby quilt in progress

My daughter’s Kindergarten teacher (more specifically, her student teacher) asked me if I would make, or help her make, a baby quilt for her nephew who will be born in March. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to teach her how to make her own quilt ’cause you know, quilting is like the Borg: “Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated!” Really. As much as it’s about staying warm, making do with what you have and expressing your creativity when you may not have any more traditional outlet, quilting is also about sharing fabrics and patterns and creating a community with like minded women to working together.

So, last Saturday I showed Frau Mecher how to use a rotary cutter and set her up with a pile of fabrics from my stash. Then I showed her the beauty that is chain piecing and away she went. She cut and sewed at least 80% of what’s on the design wall. Soon, she’ll come back to sew the rows together and baste, quilt and bind the quilt. I’m not sure yet if we’ll be tying or machine quilting this.

It makes me happy to see this project when I walk by the wall. I love the clear colors and fun patterns; I love that Frau Mecher is happy and inspired by it, and I love that I hardly lifted a finger to make it appear from a pile of fabric.