Am I Getting Old?

How bad is it when I can put my arms over my head and stretch, and tear up the muscles in my back and neck so bad that I’m in pain for days? That was me on Friday morning, and the pain is still making my life miserable.

I’ve never messed up my back this bad before; well, not by just stretching for heaven’s sake! Falling down the stairs maybe, or crashing my car way back when, but not stretching! I can’t put my chin down to my chest all the way, bending it backward isn’t much better, turning my head side to side hurts, and trying to bend my neck toward my shoulder is bad too. I feel like I should be wearing one of those neck things. I feel like I’m old! Or something.

My back is better today than it was all weekend, but it’s probably going to be another week or so before it’s really back to normal and maybe longer than that. In the morning I’m much stiffer and in more pain than later in the day, and sleeping is just awful so I’m not doing much of that right now. That’s why I’m up at 5:45! Hurts too much to stay in bed. I’m supposed to drive LittleOne to her flute lesson today, but it’s probably not happening. Between the garage doors and simply driving, I’d probably be down for rest of the day afterward, if not two.

Interestingly enough, the task that bothers my back/neck least ATM is quilting. Darn. Aside from a client meeting this afternoon, thankfully via telephone, that’s my plan for the day I think. Maybe I’ll make one of these cute beaded spiders! Kimberly and I each bought one at the Arts & Crafts Shop in Stuttgart last week. They are soooo cute! Hers had a big black glass bead with white spots all over it for a body and a red head, if I remember correctly.

Now, you all might be aware that I have a major aversion to bugs, spiders, flying things, etc., but I just couldn’t resist bringing this one home to live here. There were so many cute ones, it was hard to choose! (There were also some that looked a bit too real if you know what I mean. Their bodies were just a bit too much like real spiders, so I passed on those. There are limits.) I’ll have to see if I have some big beads that I could use to make this one a companion. Oh! or maybe little beads for babies!

Have a wonderful quilty day!

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Comings, Goings, and New Friends

Life is funny sometimes. Since my friend Dawn left nearly three years ago, there hasn’t really been anyone close by that I hang out with or quilt with regularly. During one of our last outings just before she moved, we joked that I should put an ad in the paper for a new best friend, something like “Wanted: New best friend; must like quilting, shopping, chocolate and long telephone chats. No small kids. Cat lover a bonus, transportation not required.”

It’s been a pretty dry three years since then. I did feel a connection with Kristin, but she lived in Heidelberg, and we didn’t really have the time to get together again after our quilt day, and then she was on her way out of the Heidelberg area just as soon as I got here. There have been other quilting friends here and there, but not anyone that I could say I had a real connection with.

Quilt a Travel Souvenir

Quilt a Travel Souvenir,
by Kimberly Einmo

Enter Kimberly Einmo. Oddly enough, she used to live in Ramstein, and we met briefly when she was teaching quilting classes in Stuttgart years ago. I watched her quilting career with interest; she wrote Quilt a Travel Souvenir, a great book of quilts and patterns inspired by her European travels while she lived in Germany. She’s back here in Germany now and living in Stuttgart, arriving just after I moved from Stuttgart to Heidelberg. Go figure.

Actually, we can blame the timing of all this on our respective husbands: ITMan was just leaving the company in Stuttgart just as Kimberly’s husband was going to work for the same company, and Kimberly’s husband would have been ITMan’s boss had we stayed in Stuttgart! Perhaps the men knew they shouldn’t get us together, because we’ll probably help each other spend money. Well, not that we really need any help with that, I’m sure. 😉

We decided to get together last Tuesday, and it was just the most fun day! We have so much in common, I feel like I have a quilting sister already. And it’s not just quilting things we have in common either, it’s bunches of other things as well. We had so much to talk about that we couldn’t really finish a subject and say what we wanted to say before we were sidetracked by the next thing and off on another tangent. Kimberly has many of those “best friend” requirements from the ad that Dawn and I joked about: likes quilting, shopping, cats, has older kids, and doesn’t care if I always drive. I don’t know about the chocolate or phone chats yet, but I suspect she can deal with those as well.

By lunchtime, we’d decided that there would be many quilting days together in our future, and we’d just alternate back and forth between our studios in Stuttgart and Heidelberg to meet. Kimberly is teaching classes at the first AQS Quilt Expo in Des Moines, Iowa in October, and since I’ve been wanting to get to a quilt convention soon anyway, I decided to go to Des Moines with her. By Wednesday, I had airline tickets in my hand! Look out Des Moines, here we come!

Pod Invasion

Pod invasionI’m not much of a coffee drinker when it comes to drip brewed coffee. It’s bitter, and even with milk and/or sugar the average cuppa joe doesn’t do anything for me. My morning poison has been Orange Cappuccino from GFIC for 20 plus years, though I do like “regular” coffee if it’s made into something like a real Cappuccino, Latte Macchiato or something equally frou-frou and high maintenance.

ITMan started drinking the Orange Cappuccino instant coffee by default at some point shortly after we married, since he’d make a pot of coffee and drink one cup and the rest would still be sitting there when he came home from work. He doesn’t hate the instant (he’s not that picky), but he still might prefer brewed coffee in the morning. The “cup at a time” solutions we tried over the years tended to be too much fussing around for him to use just to make a cup of coffee before work.

Aerobie AeroPress Coffee Maker

The last single serve solution we tried was an AeroPress from Aerobie, which really does make the absolute best cup of coffee ever with no bitterness whatsoever, but it’s just too much work and too many steps in the wee hours of the morning no matter what they say about 30 seconds from start to coffee in your cup. I love it for making cappuccino in the afternoon or after dinner, but I almost can’t push the plunger myself with my weak wrists, I’m always afraid that the cup is going to tip over under the pressure during the pushing stage and leave a giant mess all over, and ITMan just isn’t going to go there in the morning and I can’t say I blame him.

Enter the Pods. ITMan’s been raving about the coffee maker that someone in his office has and lets everyone use. He says something about it at least three times a week, how simple it is, how good the coffee is, or that he must go buy more pods to contribute to the communal supply because he’s been drinking more than his fair share. I nod and smile, knowing that he’s less picky about bitterness, and even more of a techie gadget guy than I am, and that the machine is undoubtedly a “gadget.” Despite all that, I knew it was only a matter of time and opportunity before the gadget would arrive on my counter top.

Philips Senseo Pod Coffee MakerSure enough, while shopping for an air conditioner at Media Markt (more on that later), ITMan couldn’t resist the call of this very special machine. I finally just shook my head at him, insisted he get a silver one instead of bright blue, and watched while he collected half a dozen bags of pods in all different types and flavors to go with his new gadget.

And does it make the grade? Well, as single-serve coffee solutions go, this one ranks high for ease of use, and the coffee itself is pretty good, though still rather bitter, to me. Part of the “big deal” about this type of coffee maker is the foam, or “fine crema layer” it leaves on the top of the coffee, though not being a coffee aficionado, I’m not sure why it’s such a big deal. I will give it high marks for making cappuccino, since it’s ever so much easier than the AeroPress, and when you add the frothed milk and sugar I can put up with the bitterness a bit better than if I was drinking black coffee straight up. Cost is a factor though, since the Philips Senseo Coffee Machine costs 5-6 times what the AeroPress does, and of course, there are those special coffee pods to consider, which naturally cost more than even loose ground gourmet coffee. Surprisingly though, the Pods are quite a bit cheaper here in Europe than in the States, even with the dollar being as weak as it is these days.

My coffee cabinet has now been invaded by little bags of pods in seemingly infinite varieties, and using the new coffee machine is the deal of the day for everyone in the house. You can get pods to make Cappuccino and Latte Macchiato (without having to froth your own milk), and even tea if that’s your poison. Not wishing to be left out, LittleOne even uses it to make her SwissMiss hot chocolate, by running the water through without a coffee pod in the machine. I may try to get a different brand of pods, since the Senseo brand is made by “Europe’s renowned” Douwe Egberts, and I wasn’t too awfully impressed with that brand before it was sold in pods. Perhaps Illy would be smoother and less bitter. All in all, I’d give the machine an A++ for speed and convenience, and the coffee it makes a B.

What does all this have to do with quilting, you ask? Sometimes quilting requires chocolate, coffee, and Cosmos, though not necessarily all at once or in that order. Anything that makes coffee quicker or saves cleanup time is a good thing. Now, if only Cosmopolitans came in pod form, I’d be even happier. 😉

Sunday Patchwork: Scraps, just scraps

Here’s a short update on the scraps and bits that are the work in progress of life right now:

I’m still working with the lighting in the new studio, trying to get enough of it where I need it. I’ve come to the conclusion that halogen spot lighting is essentially useless, at least it has been for me for everything I’ve tried to use it for. It’s dim and yellowed, and casts shadows in all the wrong places. In other words, while the light that I bought for the studio looks good hanging up there on the ceiling, it’s not much good to actually light up this large room. I actually Googled to try to figure out how many watts I should have in here based on the space, and came up with 900 watts. Heh, 900 watts is a really long way from what I have now, I must say. No wonder I feel like I’m in a cave at night or if it’s cloudy! Back to the hardware store we go…

The owners of the house we’re renting asked us if we would let them leave their household goods in the garage until the second week of May when they would pack it into the overseas shipping crates for the trip to Canada. It was going to cost them 100 Euro per day if they had to pack the crates and then have the stuff stored somewhere until they were ready to ship it all. We agreed thinking it was a great way to build goodwill with the new landlords.

Unfortunately, the stuff is still here in the garage at the beginning of June, and there is no definitive date when it might be leaving at this point. There is evidently some issue with their move and they are awaiting some paper from the Canadian government before they can proceed to pack things up and get on their way. And to top it off, when we ask about it, we’re told we need to be more patient! Patient was two weeks ago, and now we’re on to irritated, and rapidly approaching something even more vehement and ugly. I think I’ve filled up the goodwill account now thanks, and I want my garage so I can park my car in it. Yesterday, if you please. Grrrr.

The heat and humidity makes it difficult to concentrate, or maybe it’s just difficult to want to concentrate. I’m still tossing around the idea of an air conditioner, but I’m worried about the power consumption. I’ve figured out why we’re spending so much more on power and gas: the power company here, despite being the same company that we had in Stuttgart, charges more per kilowatt hour here, and natural gas is just plain expensive when compared with oil. So, I think melting is on the schedule this summer until I figure out if I really want to spend the kind of money it would take to have an air conditioner. Another Grrrr.

And since my new front yard is full of perennials, I’m now suffering from the worst allergies I’ve had in years. When we moved in there were a few daffodils and some hibiscus and that was okay, but now there are huge numbers of flowering “things” out there, and while most of them are pretty (except for the ugly mounds of Iris. Don’t get me started on the ugliest color of Iris blooms I’ve ever laid eyes on), frankly I’d just as soon they all died. Quickly and without throwing their pollen around on their way out! I can’t keep the windows shut of course, or the melting might turn to expiring without even the little bit of relief that the open windows provide. *sigh*

So, with melting and sneezing on the schedule every day right now as we experience the heatwave that is late May and early June in Germany some years and my front yard continuing to bloom in all it’s pollen-laden extravagance, I’ve found it difficult to motivate myself to do much more than the bare minimum, which is why it’s been a quiet week in the blogging department. Maybe I need to become nocturnal for the duration.

And lest you think it’s nothing but bad stuff and complaints for today, the good part is I have 216 Inchies done (of 510 needed) for my current project. I originally hoped I could manage to finish 20 Inchies per week, but I’m feeling pretty good that most weeks I’ve done 36, and some 72 even! Thus I’m way ahead of schedule on this project, which is undoubtedly a good thing since I’m still tossing ideas for a pretty critical part of it around in my head and can’t seem to see the right way forward just yet. Thankfully, there is time. Photo shooting of the 72 Inchies I completed since I put up the Gallery is on the schedule for tomorrow.

Here’s hoping for cloudy with a huge chance of rain! All week!!!

Sunday Patchwork: Mail, moves, and melting

In leftover news, bits, and reviews from the week:

Mail delivery is always interesting around here. ITMan picks it up on the Army post where he works, and is usually mystified by the contents of the various packages and envelopes he carries home. Take this weeks’ loot: one package of polyester fibers from Embellishment Village and one mystery package from a person or place called goldenflyfisher. He couldn’t imagine why I was ordering something from goldenflyfisher and “polyester fibers” totally stumped him.

Angelina Fibers and Pigma Pens

The polyester fibers proved to be Angelina Fibers, which I finally decided to plunge into. I saw the fibers about four years ago at the Houston show, but I’ve never been able to think what I’d do with them since. And guess what? I still don’t have any idea what to do with them! I bought them to use for Inchie embellishment, and while the fibers are pretty cool when you iron them together to make the fabric, I realized that if I put the Angelina fibers on Inchies and then iron the Inchies at high heat to attach Velcro, the Angelina fibers are just going to completely melt, fizzle and die. So much for that idea. Hopefully I’ll use them for something else at some point…

The little box from goldenflyfisher was not hooks or lures, oh no. You all know I’m an indoor girl! I scoured the Internet looking for a complete set of Micron Pigma Pens in all the colors, and finally ordered from ebay. Don’t ask me why an ebay seller with a name like goldenflyfisher sells Pigma Pens. He just has the best price, and shipped it here with no problem at all, unlike the first place I tried to order from, which couldn’t be bothered to ship anything Postal Service to the APO address. I needed the pens to touch up the corners of Inchies, where the thread sometimes doesn’t completely cover the batting and stiffener inside.

Speaking of Inchies, I’m still working on them, and I have 128 done of the 510 that I need for this crazy project. I’m going to create a gallery here to show pictures and detail shots of all of them at some point, but I haven’t photographed them all in small groups yet. Until then, here’s at least some proof that I’ve been working at them:

128 Inchies done

I was looking for a way to display them temporarily while I’m working on them all, and I originally had them on the design wall stuck to the Block Butler. I guess they’re a little heavy because they kept falling off, and I was afraid that my buddy Shadow would make them disappear at some point. Figuring that they’d stick fine if the background surface wasn’t completely vertical, I cut a couple of chunks of cardboard from leftover moving boxes and covered them with spare bits of Block Butler. Now I have two small display boards that I can just lean against the wall behind my worktable so I can see all the Inchies I’ve done so far at a glance.

I spent most of Saturday moving my studio around, trying to figure out how to take advantage of the better lighting and cooler temperatures in the other room on the side. I started with a card table in there to see how it felt, and it seemed lovely at first. I could open the window wide for fresh air, the lighting was wonderful, and my chair even moved better on the linoleum floor than it does on the carpet in the studio. We moved both the sewing tables in there, transferred all the machines and assorted cables and supplies, and then I promptly decided to move it all back, accompanied by much head shaking and rolling of eyes from ITMan.

Coolness and lighting aside, I just don’t like it in the small room. I like my wide open spaces out in the studio, and it feels too cramped in the other room once the tables are in there, and I hate the cheesy floor despite it’s rolling chair friendliness. I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m afraid it’s not “run out and buy an air conditioner for the studio.” We got our first power bill, and it was huge. I fail to understand how we could be using half again as much power here in this house as we were in the old house. We have all the same electrical items as we did before. Sure the house is bigger, but it’s heated with gas, not power (and don’t even get me started on how much more natural gas for this house costs as opposed to oil at the old house). It’s all mind boggling, and I’m not sure I’m willing to pay for the power to air condition this giant room. At this point, I’m hoping I don’t melt in August!

ITMan and the girls are on their way out the door for most of the day, so I’m spending the day working on Inchies, of course, and maybe I’ll get some of that Inchies photography done!

Storage, closets and expansions

Cruising around in blogland this morning, I had a good chuckle over this post at unclutterer. Heh, welcome to my world of houses with no built in storage or closets. For the past eight years, I’ve lived in German houses, and the typical German house has no closets whatsoever and the bathroom storage, if there is any, is laughable.

As I understand it, homeowners are taxed based on the number of rooms in a house, and a closet is considered a room, no matter how small. A laundry room, however, even one so big as mine which is the size of a medium bedroom, is not a room because it’s “unfinished,” since the walls aren’t all pretty and smooth with wallpaper or beautiful paint, and the pipes are exposed on the walls and ceiling. Go figure. I’d be happy with an “unfinished” closet, thank you very much, and I’m slightly surprised that the Germans haven’t figured out that loophole yet. The pipes sticking out of the wall could double as wall hooks or closet poles.

Seriously though, I’ve spent the last eight years searching out creative storage solutions that don’t cost a bundle, but look half way decent, which is a pretty tall order really. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished that JC Penney could deliver bookshelves and dressers Priority Mail. Instead of something nice that I might like to keep for a long time, I end up with this kind of junk, just to have something to use that’s better than nothing at all and doesn’t cost a small fortune.

Amy at MomAdvice penned a post that caught my eye this morning as well. I laughed a little at this one too, since I did spend a huge amount of time decluttering my house before the move, but the big holes I have in the house now are more because I have 30-40% more space here than I did in the other house than because I got rid of anything. And I do have holes; as a matter of fact, I have an entire room that I don’t really know what to do with.

The room on the side of my studio, dubbed “the Library” since that’s where we thought most of the books were going to live, is kind of purpose-less at the moment. We’d also planned to put the sofa bed in there if family every came to visit. (snort. Like THAT will ever happen.) The majority of the books ended up elsewhere with Plan B, some in the dining room and some in the office, and since I’m not anticipating a horde of relatives at my door, well, there it sits, a fairly big, empty hole in the house.

I didn’t really mean to take over nearly a third of the house…

Every morning I walk in there and think, “Wow, the natural light in here is just wonderful” and every afternoon I wander in there and enjoy the relatively cool temperature when my studio is feeling like an oven, and it’s only the middle of May. The lighting is better in there all afternoon as well, probably because it’s a smaller room and the light reflects off of the white walls. So what’s a girl to do? Start moving furniture, of course!

And even if I eventually resort to purchasing an air conditioner to keep from baking up here come August, it’s cheaper and easier to climate control a smaller room as opposed to this wide open studio. Come to think of it, keeping warm in the winter will probably be easier as well. And the Library Little Studio has something else the Studio doesn’t have: a door to close off noise from the rest of the house when I really need some quiet, and keep the cats away from my work if needed.

Oh, the irony of it all: I have a 450 square foot studio, and I’m moving part of my work area into the 126 square foot cubby hole/annex on the side. It’s kind of a bummer when what you think is going to be so perfectly wonderful doesn’t turn out that way in reality. I really can’t fit everything in the Little Studio, so obviously this is an expansion rather than a wholesale move. I didn’t really mean to take over nearly a third of the house, but it seems I’m about to do just that. I feel no guilt though, it’s all in the name of comfort and functionality…