30 Jun

To Bee or ?

I knew that bees really liked our lavender bushes, but I noticed today that there were no less than three varieties feasting on the perfumed plants in our little yard.

Honey Bee?

This little guy above looked pretty generic to me.

Same type of honey bee, or different?

This one could have been the same, but I thought he looked a little more yellow.

Bumble Bee

My favorites have always been these big, fuzzy, yellow, black and white bumble bees.

Red Mason bee or another type of Bumble bee?

And this one with the rusty colored back has got my interest piqued. Katja and her class recently built terra cotta pot homes for Rote Mauer Biene who are solitary, stingless bees. Could this be one?

We’re in the market for a new camera and I can see that a macro lens could be a nice feature. I also notice that these close-ups of the lavender make our yard look rather like it could be on a French estate. Ha! In reality, it’s only about the size of a two car garage (minus the footprint of one car). It’s nice to pretend though, and I like brushing up against the bush and releasing it’s fragrance as I take out the trash.

28 Jun

A Typical Weekend

Last weekend, the kids and I used our last few days with our car to make one last visit with friends we’ve known nearly our whole time here. Needless to say, we had a great weekend. It never ceases to amaze me how great their daughter and my kids all get along despite the fact that they play together only once or twice a year.

Being Nürnberg, our priorities were the zoo (Tiergarten), and Playmobil Fun Park

Grooming a Playmobil Horse

Where the girls spent a whole lot of time with the horses again

Milking a Plastic Cow

and Zavi milked a cow.

He scaled castle walls as well:

Life sized castle

I love how Playmobil Park is really just a great big playground. Everything is kid-powered and encourages exploration.

We’d been to the Tiergarten before as well, but it’s a really nice one and we really couldn’t go to Nürnberg without seeing their adorable new sensation, Flocke:

Flocke

OK, she’s just a baby polar bear who’s mama rejected her and must now be raised by humans, but she’s really cute. Berlin has Knut, and now Nürnberg has Flocke. We waited in the hot sun to see her, and I can’t say it was really worth it, but we had to do it anyway.

When we left our friends to return home, they gifted us the entire Ritterburg (knight’s castle) that my kids play with every time they visit (although the walls are a bit small to climb up). We’ll have to mail it to Hawai’i, but it’s totally worth it and now the kids have something to play with until we fly. THANKS!
Smaller scale castle

As has been typical here lately, on the drive home we saw lots of cars with German flags in anticipation of Germany playing in the European Cup semifinals. My favorite was this “only in the former eastern block” Trabbie filled with fans and flying the colors.

Schwartz, Rot, Gold

By the way, Germany beat Turkey and will play Spain for the title on Sunday!

23 Jun

Boosters and Rockets and Racecar

Racetrack Quilt Top

I started this one here after dyeing a comforter cover (think european-hotel white damask — they take dye fabulously) a particularly nice orange that derailed three other projects to bring one of Zavi’s drawings to life. I had also just come into possession of some interesting black/grey/white prints from Friday morning K’s sister and that just solidified the need to make this.

I pieced the top right away and then used the opaque projector at the Arts and Crafts shop on post to project the racetrack onto it. I traced the track with one of those blue wash-away markers and I was afraid if I left it too long it would never wash out so I jumped right into the embroidery back in September. Then I washed out the marker and set the project aside.

Since all it needed was the car hand appliquéd and then embroidered, I chose this one as a post-packing project. It went faster than I had expected. The next step is to piece the backing out of more orange — which is with one sewing machine in the crate of things to arrive earlier, and to baste the quilt with batting– which would just make it too bulky to carry with us anyway. So, I’ve mailed the finished top to Hawaii along with two hard drives that TS&WGH decided at the last minute were heavy and overkill (not to worry, he still has the third with him so he’s not without his bits and bytes). Once the “hold us over until the rest of our Stuff arrives” crate with the old sewing machine and the orange fabric arrives, then I hope to finish this for my son’s new room.

Any ideas on how I should quilt it? I’m kind of leaning towards a grid 1/4″ from the seam lines of the checkered flag. I think echoing the racetrack would be too confusing, but maybe echoing the car in the bottom section or adding some sort of action lines might work.

20 Jun

Jewelry Case

Along with our very important papers and all the clothes and toiletries we can carry, I am supposed to also “hand carry” my valuable jewelry so that teh movers can’t make off with it. Other than my wedding and engagement rings, I really don’t have much in the way of valuable jewelry, but I decided to hand carry some favorites anyway — just in case.

This is case of “good idea, bad execution.” I made it in an afternoon the day before the packers arrived. It would probably be worth doing again some day to get it just right because I do think it turned out very practical.

The main body is a “pre-quilted fabric” (actually a piece of scrap fabric I had been needle-doodling on at the beginning of the year). I added a zippered, quilted. pocket on the left side for watches and stuff, and on top of it, a strip with eyelets that I can attach earrings to, and a fat roll for rings. The right side has loops to hold necklaces and a felt flap to protect them from the contents of the other side.

Because of the bulk quilted fabric adds, I  made satin stitch seams instead of real ones, hence the rough green edges on everything, and the only zippers I had were invisible ones — which, combined with the bulk of the seam allowance makes it rather hard to zip up the case.

If I were to do this again, I’d use wider zippers to accommodate the bulky seams, and take more care in the construction of the case.  As far as functionality goes though, I am very pleased with this last minute creation.

17 Jun

From this:

Studio -- Full

…to this:

Studio -- Empty

Yup, it’s kinda empty here. This is not an interior design or lifestyle blog, so I don’t think I’ve ever shown what our living room looked like. Imagine that it probably looked a lot like your own living room — complete with rumply couch, lots of books, homework and projects strewn about, favorite pictures on the wall, a mix of “real” and IKEA furniture, etc.

This is the current decor of borrowed furniture and moving boxes:

Living Room -- Spartan

And do you know what? It’s not so bad. There’s still homework and projects strewn about, I miss a few of the favorite pictures on the wall and the couch could be a little more stylish, but it’s got me wondering (not for the first time) “why do we have so much stuff?”

I know a good part of the answer is that we are sentimental. I like thinking of my grandparents when I serve dessert out of their dishes, or the generosity of my uncle when I sit at his desk, or the treasures we’ve seen in Europe when I eat at the antique table we purchased here or look at the photos and paintings on the wall of places we’ve visited. We are also people who do things — and they all utilize “stuff;” like my hubby’s love of tinkering with geeky gadgets, my quiltmaking, the kids’ dess-up or Legos, all of our bikes, and on and on. Every time we move I am faced with possessions that take up space, but that we actually do use and enjoy.

My answer in the past has usually been to just get more organized, but organization is a double edged sword. It just allows us to get more stuff. All the DIY storage projects and closet organizing and container stores are an industry that enables us to live more comfortably with our stuff, but doesn’t address the fact that we wouldn’t need such big houses with so much storage if we just didn’t have so much stuff. (This reminds me how much I love George Carlin and his bit about “stuff.”)

My plan this time around is to be very mindful of what I incorporate into our next home and to have only as many storage devices as are aesthetically and functionally pleasing and when they are full to stop. I hope to be able to purge a reasonable amount of stuff, but I must admit that the administrative job of eBay- or Craig’s List-ing stuff intimidates me. This is my Grand Plan though. Wish me luck.

16 Jun

WWKIP Day

Saturday was World Wide Knit in Public Day. I went to my LYS, Anette‘s, and sat in the display window for a few hours, doing my part.

I had finished up my non-packed yarn on the dish cloths and then sent off my needles, so I needed to buy new supplies. I opted for cheap bamboo needles that I can take on the plane with me. If they get confiscated I won’t shed any tears. Anette is a wool fanatic so I couldn’t possibly knit with cotton in her shop unless I smuggled it in. That’s OK, because when I explained my project parameters (must work with my cheap needles, be easy to stop and start, require a minimum of skeins, and fit within my skill-set), Friday morning friend R suggested the felted pot holders from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. Anette jumped up and grabbed the book off the shelf — I was obviously in the right place!
Knit Felted Potholder

I’m pleased with the reults and I think I have enough wool for a few more on the plane. that is if my daughter doesn’t use all the yarn up making finger crocheted strings — her new obsession.

I’m pleased with the day as a whole. I chose to walk to Anette’s even though it’s probably two miles (perfect for a bike ride, but the bikes are packed). On the way, I ran into my son’s best friend’s mom. We walked part of the way together as she was off to the family garden plot. We had a comfortable chat. Once at Anette’s I met R from the Friday morning quilting/breakfast group and her two daughters. It’s always nice to spend more time with any of the Friday ladies (I had just missed U, also of the group). After they left, my neighbor E arrived with her daughter. Her daughter and my son have been in the same class since we arrived here four years ago, so we are good friends and enjoy hanging out together. She was kind enough to drive me home afterward and I had her drop me off at a friend of my daughter’s house in our same village so I could pick up Katja from the birthday party there. The party was going well, so everyone was staying longer. Instead of going home, I was invited to stay the extra hour. Mom S and I always have fascinating conversations about our various cultures and languages.

I finally came home so full of friendship and rich experiences that I was actually a bit melancholy about the prospect of leaving it all. I have met so many interesting people here from so many different backgrounds — many of which I could never have even imagined beforehand. I will miss the camaraderie that forms even between the parents when the kids stay in the same school group for multiple years. I will miss walking down the street and at least recognizing my fellow villagers if not running into friends. Saturday was not a unique day: Friday was cake and coffee with E and M and our kids who are all classmates, Sunday was an excursion with E. It happens all the time and I will miss it all the more because of that.

11 Jun

Needs Illumination

This is probably old news, but I belong to a group of twelve artists who periodically challenge each other to create 12-inch square quilted artworks on a theme. We hope to inspire and encourage each other and hopefully grow in the process. This time around the challenge is “Illumination.”

I already blogged on the other site about one idea, but I mentioned that I had another.

I (almost) always ask myself what my message has to do with quilts. I mean, if I wanted to paint portraits or landscapes, I’d probably do that on paper or stretched canvas. If I’m going to use the quilt as an artistic medium, then I want to incorporate “quilty” elements or themes and do it for a reason. So, what about illumination can I relate to quilts?

Reading under the blankets at night!!

So here’s a drawing I made from about three photos of my son. (I then messed around with it in photoshop to simplify some of the details.) I have in mind applique in the graphic style of Michael Schwab. Here’s the kicker though: I’m thinking of making a small quilt (in a Sunshine and Shadows pattern, get it?) and putting it over the top of this, attached just at the top so that you lift the quilt to see the boy reading underneath the covers.

I’m a bit worried that this is too gimmicky, so I’m throwing it out to the general public. I don’t promise I’ll take anyone’s advice, but I’ll definitely listen to input.

06 Jun

Etwas von Dorothee

Dorothee sent me a most wonderful gift!

I love the end papers. They remind me of German Scherenschnitte. The book is “Etwas von den Wurzelkinder” written and illustrated by Sybille v. Olfers. It is a German family classic for people my age and older, about the seasons. And, of course, the autumn page has Fliegenpilze!

I’ve seen this book at friends’ homes, and certainly the aesthetic lives on in Jahresseitkinder and Waldorf toys. Here’s a link to an edition from 1913. You may also recognize it as the basis for Sieglinde Schön Smith’s prize winning “Mother Earth and her Children.” Smith’s quilt was also the impetus for an English translation of Olfers’ book using the quilt as the illustrations.

I have to interject here my mixed feelings about the new book. Smith’s quilt is undeniably beautiful, and made with love and skill. The original book is a classic in Germany and it is no wonder that Olfers’ beautiful images stayed with Smith. She has done a masterful job interpreting the original, but I am a bit saddened that in all the hoopla about the quilt and the recreation of the book, little to no credit is ever given to Olfers without who’s artwork Smith couldn’t have made her fantastic quilt, and who’s words support the story. Most of the references I’ve seen in the quilt world seem to assume that Smith made up the images out of her rich imagination. To their credit though, Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine has an article online that explains the whole story, and if you look closely enough at this review the original date is up at the top next to the translation credit.

That said, I do love Smith’s quilt and must say that her appliqué and embroidery is richer than Olfers’ original illustrations (although I suspect that much original detail and subtlety has been lost due to the limitations of early 20th century print reproduction). I am also giddy happy that I now own the Olfers book and can revel in it’s nostalgic German-ness whenever I want. The generosity of the people I have met while living in Germany amazes me and for it I am forever grateful. Thank you again, Dorothee, I will treasure this gift and everything that it reminds me of.