31 May

If you’re in Florida this month…

You might want to check out two of my wall quilts in person.

One piece (“Village Series #1”) is at the Comma Gallery in Orlando, and the other, (“Fliegenpilz II”) is at the Harris House. Here’s the official info:

“I-4 Corridor Exhibition” is a joint venture between Studio Art Quilt Associates and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Three exhibitions will take place all during the month of June in conjunction with the HGA’s Convergence 2008 in Tampa Bay. Curator/organizer, Mary McBride will be visiting the Comma Gallery in Orlando on June 21st if you want to pick her brain.

VENUES

1. Harris House Gallery of the Atlantic Center for the Arts (New Smyrna Beach)
Opening reception June 7, 4-7 PM

2. Comma Gallery (813 Virginia Drive, Orlando)
Opening reception June 10, 6:30-9 PM

3. Rose Room Gallery in Peabody Auditorium (400 Auditorium Blvd., Daytona Beach)
Opening reception June 14, 12-2 PM.

PLUS a quilt walk along Canal Street, Flagler Avenue and several side street businesses for the month of June in New Smyrna Beach!

27 May

Payed Forward

Several months ago I signed on to the Pay It Forward meme. By agreeing to offer a handmade item within 365 days to the first three commenters on my PIF post, I would receive a bag from the blog on which I was one of the first three commenters.

I don’t think I ever shared the fabulously springy Lylou bag Lynn sent me:

Lylou Bag

So now finally, I have given up on a few other deadlines and decided I could finish my obligation before the sewing machine and fabrics are packed up. Here are the three Fliegenpilz pincushions that are on their way to Angela, Dorothee and Una. (Actually, Una, if you still read this blog, please leave a comment so I can get your address.)
PIF Pincushions

And because a certain Mad Pirate already has a pincushion, I’ve tried to make her a Captain Cone Sparrow in the spirit of the ever popular Kampfzwergglücksbringerin (who I hear is still wearing her grass skirt).
Cone Pirate

Thanks everyone for playing!

On other fronts, I am in full-on pre-move freak-out mode. Because we don’t actually pack things into boxes (the moving company does), it just needs to all be cleaned and organized into piles of what goes now via ship, what goes in a few weeks via airplane, what we’ll carry with us in July, what we won’t need anymore (i.e. 220 appliances), what TS&WGH will take with him to his class en route, what stays with neighbors here to be mailed directly to TS&WGH when he’s eventually deployed this Fall.

I live in fear that something important that I’ll need in the next four months will be inadvertently packed on Friday not to be seen again until September. I’m also fighting the force that is kids. The rooms that were clean and organized before we went to Egypt have now exploded into a mass of tiny parts. I know if I put it away again it will only explode again before Friday, yet I don’t want to be stressed on Thursday night re-piling everything. Complicating matters (sort of), I found lice eggs in K’s hair on Sunday — necessitating washing all the bedding, the couch cover (which was on my list anyways) and quarantining stuffed animals (luckily, three to four months in a crate on a ship will go a long way to de-louse things ;-)). Then, last night she wet our bed (which doesn’t have a waterproof cover like hers) necessitating more washing of bedding and of the bed itself.  Oh, and the living room is hopeless.

I am now knitting a lovely washcloth in denial of all the work I should be doing.

23 May

Released into the Wild

Our fish can’t move to Hawaii with us. When I took our sucker fish pair to the pet store the owner thought it was a shame, because the fish would certainly love life there. Our goldfish, at least, got to our neighbor’s pond.

Apparently we’ve been taking good care of our 5¢ goldfish because, believe it or not, Moby Dick here used to be just a bit bigger than a thumb.

Big goldfish

Katja enjoyed releasing the fish “into the wild.” Note the drawing pad where she has documented the big event.
New fishy home

As of dinner time, the fish were cavorting nicely with their new pond-mates.

Wish them luck!

Wish them luck in their new home.

Now, a week later, they are still doing well and swimming with the other (smaller) fish in the pond. Yippee! No regrets.

23 May

Now Multi-lingual

Check it out — my technical support department (namely, “Tech Support & World’s Greatest Husband”) added a translation widget thingie to my blog. It’s over there on the right, below the “search” feature that (at least) I use all the time. If you read my blog as an RSS feed and would like to try it in another language, TS&WGH suggests that you visit the blog (not it’s feed) and activate the translator. Then, I think, if you subscribe again to the feed with the new parameters you’ll get it in the language of your choice. Hopefully, this meets your translation needs. Let us know if you have any problems.

Not bad for a lunch hour experiment.

21 May

Here’s where we were:

EDIT: Mr. Incredible blogged too if you want to see even more pictures.

This was our last family vacation using Germany as a home base. We decided to go somewhere not as easily accessible from the US. The all-inclusive route was the way to go, after our success in Turkey two years ago and Mallorca last year (OK, I’d go half-pension there if we went again, but you get the idea).

Amazingly enough, the water slides actually looked exactly like they did in the hotel brochure. They were perfect — safe enough for the kids, exciting enough for the adults. There was a big one across the street at the higher end partner to our hotel on which you could use inner tubes, but with the four here it was too much fun racing each other. The white slide is the fastest. It’s been scientifically proven.

On the fourth day or so, we found the wave pool at the sister hotel next to ours. It was a good concept, but the water was a bit too cold and we were happier spending the day by “our” slides.

In general though, this was our view as we lay in the shade while the kids played in the water.

Aren’t they cute all bundled up like turtles?

We played on the beach too. The kids spent hours collecting hermit crabs in cups (and then setting them free to then catch more).

Zavi snorkelled for the first time. I was amazed that we could just walk out from the hotel, into the water, stick our heads down, and see dozens of colorful fish. Mr. Incredible wasn’t as impressed, as he has scuba dived in the Caymans, and I have to admit the corals were a bit trampled; but given the accessibility, and the traffic, I was impressed.

So have you guessed yet where we were?

The town is Hurghada — which I believe exists entirely for the tourist trade. It is located on the Red Sea (yeah, the one Moses parted). In Egypt.

We couldn’t visit Egypt without visiting something with hieroglyphics, so we took a packaged tour from our travel agent. We had determined that Cairo was too far away although we would have loved to see the pyramids at Giza. Nevertheless, the Luxor trip did not disappoint. Due to problems with tourists being kidnapped in previous decades, there is now a convoy system in place. It wasn’t so much an unsettling as odd feeling to line up with about 30 other buses in a guarded compound and then to be led through the mountains to Luxor by armed police escort.

I noticed that all the towns we passed through had heavily guarded checkpoints. I didn’t get the feeling they were there to protect us though. I think it has more to do with the government’s attitudes towards it’s own people. I also got the feeling that a handful of dollars or euros could speak loudly.

We saw lots of buildings along the way that were hard to tell if they were going up or coming down. This one actually looks like there was work going on. Most just had rebar sticking out of the roof for future additions, and very few looked fully inhabited. I asked our guide about them and he said that many buildings were planned large, but since there’s no pressure to get a roof or windows on anything before winter rain or snow, the building can go pretty slow — depending on the owner’s cash flow. It could take five years to build something like this. Or more.

First stop was at a rest stop in the mountains that lay between the red Sea and the Nile River Valley. The government had built homes nearby for the local beduins, but I got the feeling they didn’t use them as much as expected. There was a small group that came to take advantage of the tour buses and meandered about in colorful clothes, disheveled kids holding adorable baby goats, and of course camels. I loved the camel in the picture above because it perfectly meets my expectations of what a beduin’s camel should look like.

Touristy as it was, we had to play along. Katja was absolutely thrilled to ride this camel. I was happy to pay the owner for the experience. I might as well say here though that it seemed like everybody we interacted with had their hand out in one way or another. The hotel wasn’t quite as “all-inclusive” as the one in Turkey. The guys hawking wares or trips were very aggressive (I was completely fleeced by one guy early on which soured my relations with all the following ones even though they were much more reasonable (my fault for being unprepared, but still…)), niceties like the guy loading bags onto the security belt at the airport or the kid giving you a hand onto a boat then blatantly ask for money, the entrances to the temples were lined with guys shoving wares in your face, and on and on. It got old.

On the other hand, it’s pretty much overshadowed by the REALLY old stuff like the Karnak Temple.

Here we are in the heart of the complex looking out at, I think, the Middle Kingdom Court, and the obelisk of Ramses II. Apparently the obelisks were installed in pairs and this one’s twin is in the Place de la Concord in Paris. (Tonya, I thought of you and said hello to the obelisk from it’s Parisian brother).

It amazed me that although these structures are thousands of years old and live in one of the world’s harshest environments, there is still so much to see — like the color still pigmenting the carvings on the underside of the roof in the Great Hypostyle Hall.

And these look like they were carved yesterday. The kids looked for repeating symbols they liked, such as the scarab beetle in the upper center. I was intrigued by a bee/wasp figure like those on either side of the Ankh in the colored picture.

After Karnak we had lunch at a restaurant on the Nile and then took colorful boats across the river to the western side. Supposedly, as the sun sinks in the west, it was associated with death, hence, all the tombs are on the western side. As time went on and Luxor grew larger, and the era of the Pharaohs was passed, clever people started building homes to the west of the Nile — coincidentally on top of entrances to tombs. The goods were sold on the black market and these “simple farmers” did well for quite a while. Only recently have people been evicted from these homes in order to preserve the antiquities underneath them.

The holes in the hillside are tomb entrances. We made a stop at an alabaster factory which had a great “schtick” for the tourist buses. If nothing else, the stop was entertaining. Then we continued on to the Valley of the Kings. Outside it was convection oven hot, but inside the tombs it was incredible. The paintings are so well preserved it’s hard to believe how ancient they really are. We kept saying to ourselves, “Wow, these are the REAL THING!” I wish I could remember the numbers of and the kings buried in the three we visited, but it’s all a blur now. It is not allowed to take photos, but there are docents who explain the images for you (for a tip of course) and for a larger fee they’ll allow you to take photographs. We tipped for a little of the former but didn’t spring for the latter. One of the chambers in one tomb had these cool cobra snakes with crowns and robes that Zavi loved.

Next stop was the Temple of Hatshepsut, notable for it’s unique terraced architecture.

Again, amazing that it’s real and that we were there.

Our last stop was the Colossi of Memnon. Then we linked back up with the convoy and returned to Hurghada. Long day, but completely worth it. I would have liked to have lingered longer, especially at Karnak, but I’m not sure I could have due to the heat. As it was, a few people sat out a few locations. The kids were troopers though and stuck it out.

Back at the resort, on another night, the kids and I enjoyed the special show (extra, of course). Mr. Incredible opted to stay in bed as he had a short bout with Pharaoh’s revenge. The belly dancers were reasonably good, and I enjoyed the food even if the kids opted for plain pizza.

This guy though, was quite impressive. I had heard of the religious order of the Whirling Dervishes, but I didn’t realize that there was an entertainer version as well. He really did seem to be in a sort of trance as he spun (or at least in a state of extreme concentration inward). As he spun he held up to six of these shallow drums in wonderful feats of pattern and balance. Then he switched to twirling with his scarves.

Then he took off the top layer of his skirt and did fabulous things with it as a wheel and a funnel.

Wearable art enthusiasts take note. This costume is fantastic. The under skirt is appliquéd both top and bottom. So is the upper skirt — which is made of two layers connected at the circumference so that the dancer can have the waist of the underside at his wait and the wait of the upper side over his head to look like a giant spinning top. The appliqué itself is similar to that of the Egyptian tentmakers with beautiful scrolls.

All in all a good vacation. Definitely worth doing once in a lifetime.

11 May

Everyone Loves a Wedding

Rose Bower

On Saturday, my daughter’s teacher got married. Her current and previous classes were there to make a bower of roses for the bride and groom to pass through after the ceremony. The groom is a teacher too, and his students were also in attendance with a huge heart for him to carry his bride through.

The kids’ art teacher helped them make sheep with drawings and good wishes for the bride and groom, and then they sang a cute song to the pair about a flock of sheep having a wedding party.

Teacher quilt

And if that wasn’t enough, the two parent reps from our class presented our gift — a quilt! It’s the super secret school project made with the help of a few moms (sewing and ironing) and the art teacher (allowing us to sneak into class and have the kids make and sign handprints). I’m really pleased with how it turned out and can’t wait until our holiday is over and I can see my daughter’s teacher again and find out how she and her man like it. The other parents were definitely appreciative, though all other teacher gifts will probably pale in comparison now.

Teacher Quilt detail

I kept the construction simple with just one size squares to cut and simple chain piecing to put them together. The handprints were simple enough to do and arranging them like flowers on a vine lends a nice movement to the composition. All the parents chipped in for the fabric and batting (most of which was from my stash) and the mom who’s in-laws own a fabric store provided the backing and muslin for the hand prints. The machine quilting is a forgiving pattern that also reflects the vine-y motif I have going. Hopefully it’s a gift that will not only remind the teacher of her students but also be something she and her husband can use and enjoy on a regular basis.

08 May

Things I’m going to miss

As I’m procrastinating washing and packing more bedding, curtains and garage items, I’m getting sentimental about our life here in Germany. With the exception of ten months in the US in 1999/2000, we’ve lived in Germany for the past 12 years. In the past four years we’ve been lucky enough NOT to live on the military base, and we’ve almost gone native. The first time we left (after a little more than three years) it was like the end of a particularly good vacation. This time it’s like leaving home. And we really don’t know if we’ll ever have the opportunity to come back (at least for more than just a two week vacation). I’m taking a bit of Germany with me to Hawaii though — my German-born kids, a second language, our Kuckoo clock and flea market finds, and of course connections with all the friends we’ve made over the years.

So, in addition to seasonal fests for anything and everything, the awesome tilty windows, and the Autobahn, here’s a few more things I’m going to miss:

The kids walking to school with their friends/neighbors. They’ll most likely do this in Hawaii too, but it will take time.

This is where they walk to. Quaint, no?

The gondola system to transport raw materials from the quarry to the cement factory in our town. I have the urge to whistle “hi ho, hi ho” whenever we walk near these.

Late afternoon sunlight in our bedroom.

Our not-too-big-not-too-small kitchen.

Looking left

Looking right

The ability to turn lights on and off with my elbow. Picture a laundry basket on my left hip and you’ll understand the beauty of this (see the top photo here for what it actually looks like without an elbow in front of it). I used to think they were clunky and ugly; now I don’t know how I’ll live without them.