30 Apr

Out and About

I’ve been driving around to friends’ homes a lot lately, which isn’t so bad, seeing as the weather has been wonderful. I thought I’d share a couple of things which you might not have in your neighborhood (unless, of course, your neighborhood is Germany).

Spargel Field

Ignoring the crappy photo and the annoying PSA billboard and you might wonder what’s growing in those covered mounds. It’s Spargel, AKA white asparagus. It’s in season right now, and there’s nothing I love more than Germans’ celebration of seasonal foods. Spring means spargel with hollandaise sauce and boiled potatoes, early summer means strawberry torte, late summer means onion cake and new wine, fall means venison or boar and lots of mushrooms, winter means gluehwein…. But I digress.

What do you do during “Spargel Zeit?”

Me, mein Mann, and a  Maß

You go to a favorite restaurant in nearby Schwetzingen, the spargel capital of Germany, (the tables are outside already, at the first hint of Springy sunshine) and have a Flammkuchen with spargel, and maybe even a really big beer! (It’s called a Maß — that ß is not a B, but two Ss — I’m pretty sure the word shares the same root as massive.)

Different topic, but still out and about — here’s something I saw on the way to Craft Day Saturday:

Eat your heart out Californians!

Yup, that’s the paramedics driving a BMW X5. How’s that for status?

27 Apr

Fun Friends

Sometimes it feels weird to me that I consider people I’ve never met, and don’t really know, as friends. OK, maybe not soul-mate kind of friends, but with blog friends at least you know you have a common interest, and usually a little insight into their life (which is probably not that different than friends you meet through the kids’ activities or merely because they live across the street). Anyways, I think it is a wonderful, generous gesture when blog friends like Jeannie and Katrin send me goodies out of the blue. Who doesn’t like getting tailor made goodies in the mail? I had been considering repaying Katrin’s kindness. I think I know a little about Katrin through her blog, and she a little about me, so when she gushed over Katja’s PINK school backpack, I knew what I’d make — a PINK Fliegenpilz pincushion!

Pink Fliegenpilz for Katrin

I had a pink stripe set aside for the stem, but after a poison green and bubble gum pink polka dot fabric came home with me from the quilt group swap meet I knew I had to get down to work. I considered buttons on top and a pink felt base like the previous ones I’ve made, but between the surreal colors and mini pom-poms, it just didn’t want any more. I received a gushing email from Katrin, so I guess she’s still my friend 😉

25 Apr

Back to Quilt Content

I finished the fun, scrappy, snuggly, ladybug baby quilt and the baby’s not even due for two more weeks! I could have procrastinated longer, but I’ve got another one I want to make too. I dove into this not sure of how it was going to turn out, but I’m pretty happy with it.

Ladybug baby quilt

Katrin, you’ll notice that I did listen to you and quilt in with all over leaves (my current favorite free motion “pattern”). TS&WGH, you probably can’t tell, but I used the variegated green thread you bought me for Xmas. Thanks! I think it’s cheery and modern and hopefully not too funky for mom and dad. Here’s the whole quilt, but the unfortunately the photo sucks. You get the idea though:

Whole Ladybug baby quilt

As you can probably guess, I used only fabrics from my stash for the quilt top (including a recent addition from Terry). A lot of them were from my scrap bag too, although you wouldn’t know if you saw my overflowing bag. The back of the quilt is flannel. Snuggly. Babies want flannel.

I’m attacking the blue scraps next, but something tells me that won’t make a dent either.

25 Apr

Earth Day (a few days late)

I have been visiting the No Impact Man blog recently. I was following a link, late at night, of course. At first, I thought the guy was over-the-top. I mean, “Wow, the ends to which people will go to promote themselves.” Then I moved on to “That’s easy for him to say, what with a kid young enough not to protest each and every life change, and someone else to rinse the poopy cloth diapers.” I’m a convert now though. The man serves up some excellent food for thought, and he’s got conviction. I can respect just about anything if it’s backed with conviction.

I’d love to save the planet myself, but I just don’t have the conviction. I fight with conflicting desires every day. I recently bought a second drying rack for my balcony so I have enough space to dry an entire load of laundry, but I use a non-organic/full of chemicals detergent. I walk all over my village, but drive a car when I want to go any farther. I buy organic food when I think it’s something the family would eat, but also serve my kids Nutella on weekends.
I hope it’s about finding some sort of a balance between convenience and sustainability. I could go to the health food store and buy more eco-friendly products, but it’s in another town and I’d have to drive or spend a half an hour each way on the streetcar to get there. Or I could walk two blocks to my local grocery store. I could go vegetarian because I know that it is lower on the food chain, but I also know that I have molars AND incisors for a reason — we humans are omnivores and our bodies need a variety of foods. I feel a bit guilty about our two cars and annual flights to the US or vacation destinations, and even brought up the subject of “buying” carbon offsets. Of course the buzz words make it sound like you are actually removing carbon pollution, but really, it’s just donating money to research or fund alternative energy in a direct relation to the carbon energy you use. Not a bad thing, but my in-house Devil’s Advocate says that it appears the money is not going to the research or funding, but just to those who say it will go to research and funding. I also treasure the experiences we’ve had in the myriad places we’ve visited. What we have learned about other histories and cultures may contribute more towards global understanding and a healthier world view than the carbon we use to get to have those experiences. Of course, as the developed countries are attempting to embrace sustainability, the much more populous developing countries are trying their hardest to get to the place we are now eschewing. Although it’s not about environmentalism, the book “The Eagle’s Shadow” by Mark Hertsgaard has made me think long and hard about the example we westerners make. We can each do the best we can do, but ultimately, the earth is a huge place with a lot of people who’s ultimate goals are not necessarily the same — or even mutually compatible. (Somewhat off-topic, another book I recommend is “Occidentalism” by Buruma and Margalit. It serves to remind us that America is not the center of the universe and there are other world views which are not the same as western ones.) Back to my little contribution (or lack thereof) — what and were to buy? If I buy locally, then I’m supporting the local economy and possibly the small farmer or entrepreneur. If I buy something grown or manufactured somewhere else then I’m supporting that economy. If I want to feed the world’s hungry, then supporting the entities which employ them and thus provide the means with which to buy food or seeds then that’s good too, right? I know it’s not that simple, but that’s the problem too: it’s NEVER simple. (In the end, I settle for quality over quantity and let teh rest sort itself out.) I am fine with a zero population sum; two parents, two kids to carry on the genes. But there are many more (in both developing AND developed countries) who don’t subscribe to that view — for economic or religious reasons just for starters. So, the world population will rise and so will the accompanying environmental issues.
I believe that the earth is in constant change. Some changes will happen regardless of the actions of the earth’s inhabitants, some changes we CAN affect. I believe the earth will eventually become uninhabitable for humans and that we’re probably speeding up that process. Does the earth care? No. It is very self-centered of us to think that the only state of the earth is a state in which humans can inhabit it. Earth will exist long after we’re gone, although it may look very different. (Fantasy end of the human race book recommendation: “Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood. Next on my reading list: “Collapse” by Jared Diamond, author of the very informative and readable “Guns, Germs and Steel.”) So where does that leave a pessimist with no convictions like me? I’ll do what I can to be mindful of the choices I make for myself and my family. I’ll try my best to strike a balance between modernity (love my computer!!) and environmentalism. But I’m afraid I’m ultimately contributing to the end of the world as we know it because I lack the conviction to change the entire way I live.

By the way, the views expressed in this post are my opinion alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the others living in my household.

OK, I’m off to clean bathrooms with my favorite eco-friendly vinegar cleaner and my (probably nuclear) energy sucking vacuum cleaner. The opposing forces are inevitable and inescapable. Uplifting craft content to come later.

23 Apr

A Bit of This and That

For anyone who might be wondering, I finished the denim skirt “update” for Katja. It did not elicit the super model response that the red jacket did, but it does look pretty cute and she chose to wear it today with no encouragement from me.

Denim Skirt refashion

I finished this muffin pincushion last year, but I don’t think I ever posted this particular one. The theme for the Pincushion Challenge this time around is “Eats,” so I thought it appropriate to pull this out. I have another idea too, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get around to it.

Bran Muffin Pincushion

And, as I crank away on my Chevron Scarf, I’ thinking that it will make a great gift for my man. It will be shorter and wider than the original (not necessarily a bad thing), and I like the color combo, but I realize that it’s probably because I already have two similarly colored scarves. Soooooo…… I’m thinking that I might want to make this again — in colors I don’t yet own in a scarf. I’ve been looking online, but have yet to find exactly what I’m dreaming of. Has anyone seen this color scheme in a Koigu Painter’s Palette-type yarn?

Have you seen this palette?

22 Apr

Why I should NOT be posting links on my blog

It’s because when posting links, I go to the site I’m linking to, which means I’ll probably look around there a bit, and maybe follow one of their links, and read around a bit, and then I might find another link to check out, and…… suddenly 10:15 pm becomes 11:45 pm and I still haven’t published my post.

Today, I blame the Tortenguss. When I looked for more info on “the guss,” I found Mausi’s expat blog and was drawn in by her refrigerator story. Like most Americans, I had noticed the absence of ice cubes in drinks right away when I first moved to Germany. No biggie — most beverages served at restaurants are served cold cool anyways. Over the years though, little peculiarities kind of creep in without you consciously noticing them. Mausi put into words what I have noticed, but was unable to articulate — that whole “if your drink is too cold you will get pneumonia and die!” thing. I was laughing out loud all alone in our living room last night. For those of you who might not believe Mausi about the cold drinks, I offer the case of my son’s best friend’s mom. All water and juice are served at room temperature at her house. And because you can’t leave the milk out on the counter all day, she actually warms it in the microwave before adding it to her son’s morning cereal — so the cold won’t shock his delicate system. This is just one step beyond another phenomenon I’ve noticed, which is the belief that wearing a scarf will cure a sore throat. Of course, if it doesn’t cure the sore throat, at least you won’t get pneumonia and die! As I was relating this story to TS&WGH this morning, he immediately put his palm two inches in front of his forehead and made a circle, which my German readers will recognize as charades for “that’s just crazy!” Meaning, “of course you’d be nuts to make your drinks so cold — everyone knows you could get pneumonia and die!”
Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to make fun of German peculiarities without pointing out a few American ones as well. The flea market yesterday reminded me of the help Americans seem to need with spacial reasoning. Somehow, Americans have a hard time fitting a potato wagon and two painted milk jugs into the minivan or SUV they bought the minute they found out they were pregnant with their FIRST child; whereas Europeans have no problem fitting a family of four, two crates of empty beverage bottles to be returned to the Getränke shop, AND a set of kitchen chairs into their sub-compact.

21 Apr

Flea Markets and Other New-to-Me Goodies

One of the members of our American quilt group is moving and must reduce her stash. She suggested a sort of Barter Flea Market at our last meeting. I cleaned out my stash of Quilter’s Newsletter Magazines and some more traditional quilt-making books which no longer interest me, and returned home with a pretty respectable pile of new-to-me fabrics. Woo hoo! (Lots of polka dots hidden in there.)
Turning old magazines into fabric

We also got another pile of hand-me down clothes from the neighbor, which I whittled down. Katja is a dedicated skirt wearer and though she liked a little white denim number, I thought it was way too short for someone who loves to hang upside down on the playground. So, I’m going to add a patchwork ruffle with some of my stash and newly acquired fabrics — plus a cute little trim I bought in the trim-shopping spree of a few weeks ago.

Denim Skirt WIP

BTW, here’s  (most of) the rest of my purchases from the trim spree. I got half the ribbon from Seru-Kid, and the other half from Farbenmix. The adorable pom-poms are from a  birthday gift certificate I finally cashed in at our local sewing store four months later. The kids picked out the patches which are probably destined for some T-shirts. You can sort-of see two more Fliegenpilz patches from My Wild Child. (Interesting how the internet makes the world so small; the website is primarily in German, so I assumed My Wild Child was in Germany — imagine my surprise when the postmark on the envelope was from New Zealand!)
Box o' Ribbons

Oh, at the quilt group meeting, my friend V (who makes everything into a handbag or backpack) gave me this little guy whom she found at another flea market:

Laechende Fliegenpilz

The BRAND NEW OFF THE BOLT fabric he’s sitting on is the back of the Ladybug quilt. I’ve decided that babies NEED flannel backing on their quilts and old lumberjack shirts just won’t do. Rest assured though, I’m not working my way back up to buying new fabric whenever I want. In fact, since I vowed not to buy any brand-new fabric I’ve probably acquired more secondhand fabric than all the new fabric I purchased in the previous year. Cases in point: the lovely pile above, and the four (count ’em, four) twin sized cotton damask comforter covers I purchased for 5€ at a flea market this morning (that’s like 1.25€ per four yards of fabric!!!!!). They will dye up gorgeously!
Flea market treasures

Also purchased for 5€ is the glass cake stand for Kate’s gallery (which matches nicely a candy dish I already had, so I think we can work something out).

What does an Obsttorte have to do with any of this, you ask? Absolutely nothing, but it’s the first one I’ve made this “summer,” and I wanted to share. This has got to be the biggest-bang-for-the-smallest-effort-bring-to-a-BBQ-or-whip-up-when-the-ladies-stop-by kind of dessert EVER. And I will miss it terribly when we eventually leave Germany. I think Germans learn to make this (purists learn to make the components from scratch) when they are still suckling at the breast. The base is a purchased “Biscuitboden,” which bears no resemblance to an American biscuit (or a British cookie), but is more like a thin cake with an outer rim (perhaps this is what the Brits refer to as “sponge”). Anyways, top the “cake” with vanilla pudding made from a package (German brands work best, but American ones will suffice) and fresh strawberries (or plums, or cherries, or berries, or canned mandarin oranges, or all of the above — whatever is available). To keep it fresh and glossy looking, you then mix up some “Tortenguss” and pour it over the top. Tortenguss is something that I will be bringing back to the US in bulk since it’s small and light and I don’t know of an American equivalent. It’s sort of a mostly-flavorless Jell-O which you pour over the fruit and then it quickly jells and seals everything for a very “professional” look. You can get it in a red tint too, but that seems a bit over-the-top for me. OK, in looking for links, I found frag-mutti.de (translates to “ask mommy.de” :-)) which says you can boil gelling sugar (not sure that’s available in the US either) and water or juice to make a “guss.” A vegan link suggests water or juice, honey, and agar, which sounds pretty do-able. Sorry for all the parentheses and quotation marks.
Oh, and look who had to jump in when she saw that I was going to take a picture of the Torte! I guess she figured she needed to be part of the composition since she helped put the strawberries on the dessert.

I have absolutely no idea when I am going to emerge from this crafty zone I’m in and return to “serious” art-making. Without any deadlines, I’m feeling like I should turn my attention to all the little things that pop into my head. Why not? I’m having a deep need to make practical things. You know you’ve succeeded when they are used. I’m also thinking that maybe after the intensity of last year, and the introspection with which I started out this year, maybe my subconscious is telling me to take it easy for a while. Hence a deep desire to sit and knit on my Chevron Scarf all day. OK, that could also just be my conscious telling me that it really doesn’t want to clean the bathrooms.

18 Apr

I’m Not Coaching Her, I Swear!

It’s official, my daughter is a ham! I finished the red ruffle jacket today and asked her to put it on so I could take a picture. She immediately started to strike poses and bat eyelashes for the camera.

Red Ruffle Jacket

Yes, she is amazingly cute, as is the jacket, but where is this coquettish-ness coming from? Really, we are not enrolled in some Wilhemina or other modeling agency correspondence courses — really!

Red Ruffle Jacket detail

Check out the adorable Fliegenpilz patch I ordered from Katalina of My Wild Child. In hindsight, I probably should have trimmed the pink background a little closer and put it up higher, but for some reason I was seeing the pocket and patch as one unit. Probably because I had originally envisioned the patch ON the pocket. BTW, the kind-of matching skirt is from her Grandma. Who says redheads can’t wear red?