Monday, December 21, 2009

Cousins' Get-Together and Blackwork And Stones

I got pictures from the Cousin's Get-Together and want to share a few of them with you. These were taken at the Get-Together at the end of November. I posted about the weekend here and now, I've got the "people pictures" to share!

From left to right, Anita, Heidi, Monika, Sigrid, me and Renate, my sister-inlaw.

This is a good picture of us all. Left with the blue scarf is Anita, me in the white coat, Sigrid has the orange scarf, Renate in the way back, Heidi with the orange coat, Monika on the right and her husband Walter to her right. Yes, he is half-saint, hanging out with so many women!

We sure had a good time! And fortunately, it wasn't all that cold. The hot Christmas wine helped with any chills though. I am always the designated drive so I'm drinking hot "children's punch". No we didn't drive and no I couldn't have even helped find the way back to the farmhouse where we stayed! ha ha The get-together is a yearly thing and I'm sure looking forward to it next year!

My Blackwork and Stones now has a name.....Sometimes Together.

This is the last colored block on the piece. It's very pretty, I think. I like the colors. I was afraid that the white beads wouldn't be seen but they are great.

And, for the first time, here's a picture of the whole project.

You can see where I've started working on the "holes" on the left side. Neither of the black blocks are finished. I haven't quite decided what I want to do. I've got it narrowed down to three options so as I work on them, the "right" thing will pop into my head and I'll just know. The spaces between the blocks will also be worked but that's still a long way off. I hope you like it!

I'm not sure how much I will be writing over the next couple weeks. So just in case it isn't alot, I want to wish you all a good holiday and merry Christmas. However you spend it, I hope that you all find the true spirit of Christmas filling your hearts.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Project Progress and What's Under My Tree

Hi everyone! Just a couple more pictures of new Blackwork and Stones blocks. I'm working on the last colored one now.

I think I've got a nice mix of simple, complicated, chaotic and elegant blocks. It's really exciting to see how this is progressing. I'm not quite decided where I go from here. I guess I'll just have to see where my imagination takes me.
Under my tree is Abby Cat. She sat there for the first couple of days but only when the lights were one and only in the evening. Today I found her hanging out in mid-afternoon, all alone in the room! No, I don't really want her there but YOU try telling a cat something! I didn't think she'd go under the tree since she re-discovered the heated floor in the bathroom. It looks like my Mom is right again....I put the tree up for her!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Blackwork and Stones Progress

Here are the latest 2" blocks completed on my Blackwork and Stones piece.

I'm now done with 9 of 12 colored blocks. I know...I'm showing you one block at a makes it more exciting that way!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Lessons Learned

Reflections while baking cookies: Lessons Learned

1) softened butter is not the same as melted butter
2) planning on 5 different kinds of cookies sometimes means having 4
3) experimenting with baking a new type of cookie when you need them is not such a great idea
4) try to pay attention when you mother teaches you how to bake may need to know 40 years later

Everyone in my family knows the story of Wanda's No-bake cookies. My mom tried to save them...she baked them. She froze them. She tried to feed them to the birds. Well, they were not really edible but they make a great story, one that the next generation is already laughing about. I feel pretty much that way today. I planned on baking 5 different kinds of cookies (three American and two Austrian) to take to my mother inlaw so she had cookies for holiday guests. I made the American ones first....peanutbutter/peanutbutter with chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip cookies and molasses cookies. The molasses cookies were sort of different. No surprise there...I couldn't find molasses so I used something called "sugar beet" which is similar but not really the same. But fine...these cookies were all good and I am happy. Then came the vanilla Kipferl. I can't really complain about the taste....they taste totally like what they are supposed to taste like. But they look so weird!!! I think some of them look maybe okay but some of them look like vanilla worms! Or maybe vanilla crabs!

OK...but so far, so good. I'm doing alright. How hard could "cut" cookies be? You know...the kind of cookie that you flatten out with a rolling pin and use cookie cutters? I just know I was taught how to do this. And I had dreamed of the perfect little cookies with jelly filling...I even went in the basement and got my rolling pin!

I just have no idea what went wrong.

They had holes in them! And they didn't hold their shape! and they were sort of chewy in a carmel sort of way!

I tried sprinkling them with powdered sugar.

I tried baking them longer than called for.
Nothing really helped. I did finish making them all but I am NOT giving them to my mother inlaw! Mommy......where ARE you????????

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Tree, Another Blackwork and Stone Square and Knödel

Jingle Bells.....Jingle Bells....It's a wonderful time of the year! Everything is so colorful and happy and bright. As promised, I'm posting Christmas tree photos now that I've got some good ones.

Even though the reflection from the ornaments looks bluish, I think you can really see the royal purple. My lights are supposed to be purple too but they look more pink when they are on.

Under the tree this year, I put one of my geodes. The purple matches really well. And it takes away a very empty place where Abby Cat thought she was supposed to be the decoration! Even if you don't live with a cat (or, as the cat thinks...if you don't belong to a cat!) it just goes to reason that trees + cats = potential disaster!!!!!

It's a pretty little tree. I have used just the top of a huge tree for the past couple of years. The huge tree would actually fit in the living room but it would be just too big and crowded.

I finished another one of my Blackwork and Stones squares.

Of course, this is one of my favorites because it has amethyst in it. But I used some bluish/purple thread which really makes it stand out.

Lastly, I'd like to share my first Knödel making experience. Of course, I couldn't just follow the recipe. I added celery and carrots. It was sort of like stuffing but in knödel form. They weren't as solid as they could have been but, for my first try, I'd say they came out really well. Only two of them sort of fell a little apart. Not completely but just enough for me to see that I have to pack them just a little harder. Not "tennis ball" hard, but hard enough to keep the ball form.'s back to cookie baking. Did anyone want to see pictures of the cookies? I started with the American cookies first (chocolate chip, molasses, peanutbutter) and this weekend I'll attempt the beautiful Austrian cookies. Well, just two different kinds. Here is what they are supposed to look like:

I can only hope that mine look half as nice as my sister inlaw's! By the way...they taste just as good as they look!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Get-Together With Cousins, Progress on Piece

Happy 1st of December to everyone from cold and rainy Munich! Things are really starting to be very holiday-like here. Christmas time means many things, one of which is getting together with family and friends. I had a wonderful weekend experience getting together with the female cousins. I had met them all before and I spent a little time with a couple last year on the ski slopes. And I know my sister inlaw fairly well. But the chance to get together with everyone? Wow! I was so honored to be invited! We met at one cousin's house in a beautiful little town in Tirol. We enjoyed the music program and festivities in Rattenberg. Rattenberg is a medieval town known for it's glass refining businesses.

Because of the many glass products, you can imagine how bright and beautiful everything is. The town was completely decorated for the Christmas program in almost a medieval way with candles in all the windows, big barrel fires, torches lighting the streets and the smell of hot wine and food everywhere.

I for one cannot take photos at night but this one turned out sort of okay. This was the grand finale of the program. The angel in the middle, sitting on a big swing, sang in a clear and strong voice.

It was magical. After the singing, the church bells rang. They must have rung for a good 15 minutes. I personally could listen to the bells ringing for hours - I love the sound. After the program we had an incredible meal in an amazing restaurant which was the old train station restaurant. The food was absolutely perfect! After a nightcap in a local bar, it was off to bed. The next morning our day started out right with a great big breakfast at the farmhouse where we stayed.

We couldn't have asked for better weather. We visited the "der lustige Friedhof" or, as it is called in English the "merry cemetery" where funny tombstone verses from all over the area have been collected and are displayed. I'm sorry, I couldn't find a translated link but if you go to this link and click on the photos you can see at least what it looked like. After that, we went to Kufstein to a huge Garden store. It was amazing! The place is huge, I think at least 5 big halls and anything and everything you can imagine for Christmas was there. Everything imaginable to make your own wreaths or decorations to ones already made. Poinsettias in every size, shape and form and every other plant associated with Christmas and winter. In one hall, ornaments and decorations were grouped together by color. In another, by what it was. They also had a wonderful orchid display, bonsai trees and herbs. There were, however, no Christmas trees. It's still too early for that. A real tree is put up on Christmas Eve here and they are all down by the 6Th of January.

We all headed back to our own homes from the Garden store (after having some trouble just getting out of the parking lot there!) with good memories and a happy mindset to start December. To all the cousins.....thank you so much for inviting me! I had a wonderful time! I did learn though that being around so many people with so many conversations and topics that I need to get my German....faster!!! ha ha ha

I know this is a long post but I did want to share the great weekend. I'm almost done....I want to share a couple more squares on my Blackwork and Stones project.

If you click to enlarge the photos, you can see the details better. I can't tell you how much I enjoy working on this piece! Not only because I am designing it but because, well, it's colorful and happy and has so many neat things going on! More progress pictures soon!

And lastly, the house is decorated! It's great! The tree is beautiful...I used the big balls this year since last year I used only the smaller decorations. It looks fantastic but no pictures to post until I get one that is good. So far, they are too dark or too light or just not right. I don't think I often capture the true royal purple of the decorations. But some day.......

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving in Munich

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. I love the excitement, the smells, the work. I love the food. I set this day aside to think if family and friends and count my blessings. I have lots to count!

This year we had a friend over, a friend who never experienced a "Traditional American Thanksgiving". He came not knowing much about it at all except that he had heard that turkey was a dried up big bird. It was a great joy telling him about all the traditions and things that happen in households throughout my country. Some things I just had to football and sweet potatoes and real corn on the cob, right from the farmer. Others he got to experience first hand....

Like a beautifully set table, homemade stuffing, a juicy and tasty turkey, pumpkin pie. He wasn't sure about what he was going to eat. And he isn't a dessert person....not at all.

But I did my thing and it was awesome! I did our Thanksgiving dinner proud and represented my country well! The stuffing was either going to be really good or very strange. It turned out very good. The mashed potatoes were heavenly....and yes, mashed potatoes can be heavenly! The turkey itself was incredible. I thought since I've learned so much about cooking this past year that I should use some of this new founded knowledge on my turkey. Please note...there aren't any pictures of the finished product....the turkey didn't have one of those strings on it and it actually fell right off the bones when I took it out of the pan!! It was that juicy! I did have corn on the cob but it's just no way near what fresh-from-the-farm is. I had a vegetable dish and the closest thing to dinner rolls I could find. No one ate the rolls....there just wasn't room!
I did sort of cheat on the cranberries....I had preiselbeere instead. This is sort of like cranberries but the berries are smaller. It translates to "lingonberry" or "foxberry" but I've never heard of those. Whatever it is, it is better than cranberries in my opinion. Our friend ate and ate....and ate. He couldn't get enough! But then, we all know what happens, after you stuff yourself with're stuffed! ha ha

I worked on the dishes while the guys walked around and around the couch, trying to work off some of that good food. I love my little kitchen but it really is not set up for doing a whole Thanksgiving dinner! Well, better said, it's not set up for doing the dishes after a whole Thanksgiving dinner! But I plugged away at it and did it sort of in shifts. As the last dish was rinsed, I ran completely out of hot water. I consider that successful...last year I had to heat water in the water cooker to finish!

Our friend made it very clear that he wasn't a dessert person and that he would only try a very small piece of whatever a pumpkin pie was, just to try it (and be polite) So after an appropriate wait, it was pumpkin pie time. I cut a small sliver for him. He ate it and then helped himself to more! This was really the "icing on the cake" .... Americans aren't all about microwaves and fast food! I won a heart that day.....all because of my pumpkin pie! Thanks Mom for bringing me the Libby's pumpkin....there's no way to make a pumpkin pie without it and we can't get it over here!
I hope you all made memories in your own traditional way. Whatever that is. I know that not everyone's holidays are the same. I've spent many Thanksgivings and even Christmas's in a Laundromat....and those were special too. Yes, it was pretty empty but it wasn't completely empty. There was always a few people milling around, doing laundry, trying not to feel lonely and far away from everyone you love. And we all ended up celebrating together, with conversation, laughter, cookies from the vending machine and smiles. The laundry sometimes forgotten and complete strangers becoming part of our personal history. However you spent your Thanksgiving, I hope that the memories are good and, even through some tears, they will bring a smile to your face in the years to come.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Blackwork and Stones in Progress

My Blackwork and Stones piece is coming along really nicely. In fact, this is exactly my "thing"... I love working on it! It's exciting and provides lots of variety and, yes, even wakes up a little creativity that is mostly buried deep inside!

Some of the 2 inch squares are dainty and very orderly. I think if you click to enlarge on the photos, you can see the detail a little better. You will be able to see that I am using all sorts of things.

Others are full and bold. I think I'm doing pretty good with the color matching so far. It's not as easy as it seems it would be. I've always said that I have no talent in imagining things. For example, don't ask me how my furniture would look in a completely empty room. I have no idea. I can't imagine it. The furniture has to be IN the room. Once it is in place, I never re-arrange because I have no idea how it would look positioned differently! So designing is a real challenge for me. But I like it! And the creative juices seem to flow. Of course, it helps that I love everything I am doing and everything I am using. I love the feel of the rocks. I love the tiny petite beads and I love threads. Yeah...this is definitely a good thing for me!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Blackwork and Stones

My sister Susan has told me for years that I need to try designing. I am hesitant because I don't think I'm good enough and that I don't have an imagination. But she's my mentor and my "handwork goddess" so if she says something, I'm going to at least attempt to do what she says!

So I've been planning and drawing and sorting through things. I've been color matching and rummaging through years of collected threads, beads and rocks. I've been counting...and counting and counting. I now have a base plan.

The piece will have everything I, beads, silk and metallic threads, couching, maybe a little canvas stitching. It will have stitches over 1 and stitches over 2. It will be orderly but with a touch of chaos since rocks aren't perfectly shaped. It will be full. I enlarged the above picture so you could see the details. Sorry it is one-sided but I don't know how to correct that! And thanks to Plays with Needles for how to do the enlarging!! In my opinion, Susan has one of the best blogs on the internet!

And I'll attempt to photograph it as I go, to show you how it is evolving. I've already noted, when looking at these first pictures of the first 2 inch square that the light blue thread doesn't show up too well. But there will be lots of pale colors as well as bold. I'm trying to keep a list of exactly what threads and beads I am using but some I just don't know. And I don't know that it really matters.

The weather in Munich has been unseasonably nice. Yesterday was over 60 degrees! Today looks like it is going to be a beautiful day as well. The motorcycle isn't put up for winter yet. There's still the possibility of a few hundred kilometers more. The ski pass is purchased but the skis aren't up from the basement yet. On today's schedule is planning out my Thanksgiving menu and making a list of all the things I need to get at the grocery store for Thanksgiving and for cookie-baking time! It's all coming up very quickly. I like having a schedule. I like having a plan. And I like where I am right a very good and safe and calm place. Filled with love and satisfaction. I hope you are too.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Something New

I've had this idea for a long time now. And the blank white wall really needed something but I didn't want anything right over the TV. When my sister Sonya was here this summer, she gave me a beautiful orchid. I've never had an orchid before but it seems to like it here. I had it sitting on the TV stand and it did really well. So I incorporated this orchid with my wall project...and this is what I came up with.....

I got a second orchid (the top one) this past weekend. And we got the kind of baskets that hang flat on the wall.

So, yes, even though I said I wasn't ever going to get another plant...well, I just had to to make it work!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Spirit of Vierlande Progress and Dinner

Hi Everyone! Yes...believe it or not, two posts in one week! I'm trying to be more attentive to my poor blog! I thought I'd show some "progress" pictures of my Long Dog Sampler, Spirit of Vierlande. I don't iron it before I take pictures...I think it would look better but I don't want to iron it too much. I don't know why. It just seems like it could be bad or something.

Next time I'll put an object beside it so you can see just how big this thing is. I didn't really want it this big, but I didn't have much choice in material so I took what I could get.

This one is side ways as to keep the original size but it looks alittle less wrinkled. Unfortunately, there isn't a place in my house that is large enough in the sun to get the whole thing in the sun. I do have a nice blank white wall but, when hanging there, it looks a little striped with the sun pattern so....I just do what I can!

Speaking of "doing what I can".... this past year I have really improved my cooking skills! This meal today was exceptional. It's a Tafelspitz with lots of veggies. The sauce was amazing. Let's face it..the whole thing was amazing, if I do say so myself!! It was definitely "Sunday Dinner" material!

Have a nice weekend!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Munich Rock Show

This weekend was the annual Munich Rock Show. It's held every year here in Munich and it is the biggest show in Europe. It was fantastic! There were new things to see and new booths and vendors sprinkled throughout the 4 gigantic halls in which it is held. One of the most amazing things this year was a smaller area of "nature meets nature" displays. Photographing was a little difficult because of the glass casings and spotlights everywhere but I think these pictures will give you an idea.

Someone combined collections I think. Or two people with different collections came together and created this awesome idea. Butterflies and moths from around the world displayed with rocks from around the world.

The color and pattern combinations were RIGHT ON! None of the butterflies were from the same place as the rocks but if they were, the creatures surely would have had the perfect camouflage.

I was fascinated with these combinations. In real life, they were even more perfectly matched than in the photos.

Another thing that is so fascinating about the rock show is the surreal look of nature.

These "puff balls" look soft and furry. But in reality, they are really rocks. To the touch, they are hard and prickly. It takes great skill to actually clean these things up as they are all covered in dirt and small stones when they are found.

Here you can actually see the crystal shapes. This is a larger "ball" but some of them were so small that you couldn't make out exactly what it was. And the crystals were so thin they were thread width.

This larger specimen is a great example that shows different crystal widths and lengths all on the same piece. Doesn't it look soft? Well, it isn't! It's rather sharp!

The surrealism continued throughout the show. I like the close ups because you can see the actual rock on which the crystals sit. And you can see that often there are many types of minerals all on the same piece.

This specimen was truly amazing. The longer piece of crystal is almost as long as my arm! Oh yes, this show isn't just for tiny little stones, there are huge pieces all over the place.

This is most definitely the largest Amethyst piece I have ever seen. It is as big as a single bed! And it is a beautiful piece as well.
Next time I'll have pictures of my stitching...I have been working on my Long Dog sampler but haven't taken progress photos yet.
If you would like to see more rock pictures, please check out The Camera Lenz where I've posted a slide show.