Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Cheer & Challenge Revealed

This last Tuesday was our annual challenge reveal in Mülheim . . .  what a wonderful day.  The picture above was a peak through Gila’s studio window as we gathered around a merry table to chat, stitch and share.

We all took home a little pile of fun and festive things.  Here’s a peak at what stood
before me on the table.  Everyone brings little “goodies” - a few of “us” hadn’t but will make up for it in a new year.

This year many of us did bring yummies to share and we feasted on a gorgeous and very festive beet salad with apples and walnuts, smoked trout, a cheese board and variety of bread plus broccolli salad and pumpkin pie from the Goldschmidt kitchen and of course cake - to celebrate Gila’s December birthday.
Gila also unwrapped her birthday blocks - this year we each gave each other one block following a set of guidelines, I’ll tell you more about those later in January.  Our challenge next year is to do actually do something with the blocks . . .

The culmination of the day was to “reveal” our challenges for this year - our theme was “CRAZY.”

Unfortunately, I had a bit of a “where is it” problem.  With all my to’ing and fro’ing, I couldn’t the piece I wanted to use.  It was a Christmas-themed crazy in Reds, Greens and Golds.  I had made tons of progress and wanted to finish it off in an unusual way . . . but lo and behold - I could not find it anywhere.
Searching through my studio I was berating myself out loud and at one point mumbled “this is just plain crazy, there’s no way I have time for *another* project.”  Well, that thought led to another and the phrase “Just Plain Crazy” stuck in my head big time.  So . . . yes, I started another project.  Of course this is as far as I got.  Of course, there was quite a chuckle as I pulled piece by piece out of my basket.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas is Coming

. . . and the goose is getting fat!

It would help if the silly goose didn’t keep tasting all the yummies she’s busy baking. But, it’s so hard. It’s at this time of year that I get all those yummy flavors that I miss from home . . .
  • Molasses & Gingerbread
  • Anise - I put extra into my Pfefferneuse
  • Cornbread - for my stuffing of course
  • Pumpkin Pie and all kinds of spices
and mmmmm, yummy moist Fruit Cake that I can hardly waiting to slice into. Color me weird if you want to but I LOVE FRUIT CAKE.

However, I am picky, it can’t be too sweet and absolutely must be very moist.  What can I say - my mom made the best!  Actually she made two recipes - a “Light one” and an “Inexpensive One.”  The latter being darker and moister, gooier and full of raisins and candied fruit.

The recipe is below - give it a try, you never know. You might like it - or love it like I do.

I also thought I’d update you on my Festival of Trees that we’ve been doing as a block of the month. It’s been fun, very and so popular that it will be back next year!
Reserve your space now – then choose to pick up your fabric kit or have it shipped to you in January. Just $60 for all twelve months, including the fabric for the top, binding and the pattern.  Quilt finishes approximately 40” x 48”. Designed by Barbara Brackman & Karla Menaugh,

And here’s a sneak peak at my challenge entry for the group of friends in Mülheim (Germany). The theme these year is “Crazy.” We’ll see how far I get on this. “Sew little time” right now with Christmas preparation and patterns-writing for the shop. Our group reveal is this coming Tuesday . . . wish me luck!

Mom’s inexpensive Fruitcake

2 Cups raisins or mix of raisins and dates
2 Cups Sugar
2 Cups Water
5 Tablespoons Butter or Margarine
2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Cloves

Mix above ingredients together in a medium saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes.

Allow to cool, then add:
3 Cups Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Walnut Pieces (optional)
and Candied Fruit to taste - if you don't like candied fruit, increase amount of raisins, dates or consider chopped dried apricots.

Mix thoroughly and pour into paper lined bread pans. Bake at 325 F for 1 hour.
For maximum “moist-ness” pour one tablespoon of rum, cream cherry or other sweet liquor over baked cakes. Repeated weekly until Christmas your cakes will stay fresh throughout the New Year season too.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Harvest Fest Donut Recipe

Phwew! You can tell it’s fall again. It’s always this time of year that I finally gather steam again and try to get back on top of things. I’m not sure where October went but it was packed full of wonderful things!

I celebrated another birthday, visited, dined, chatted and shared wine with many friends in the Northwest and finally returned “home” to Schellebelle (Belgium) on the 15th. The last two weeks have been filled with numerous trips to purchase furniture for my studio and I’m nearly set. There are still boxes to filter and put away . . . somewhere . . . it’s amazing how quickly these new spaces fill up. But it’s fantastic and I can’t wait to pull out my sewing machine. It’s been away in lieu of catching up some of my computer work.
But today is Halloween - honestly, it never has been one of my favorite holidays. I prefer to celebrate the harvest season - pumpkins, golden colors, reds, rust and candles.
To celebrate just a bit though I made drop donuts - yummmm! Many of you will remember these from various autumn and winter events in the garden at our previous location.

Nothing conjures the taste more than a mouthful of pumpkin pie or these orange-flavoured drop donuts!

2 Tablespoons Shortening
1/2 C Sugar
2 Eggs
1 Tablespoon (or more) Grated Orange Rind
2 Cups Flour
2-1/2 Teaspoons baking powder
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup Orange Juice - fresh is best!

Mix all ingredients until a thick batter. Drop by spoonfuls into hot oil. Cook at 300F for about 6 minutes until golden brown. Test temperature first with one donut. Break open to see that it is cooked through. If it is seems dark enough on the outside but not cooked thoroughly lower the temperature to ensure they will cook all the way through. Drain on paper towels then roll in granulated sugar.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Busy – Sewing Samples for you!

Color me Guilty!  I haven’t been updating my blog or pics of my design wall.   
I’ve been sewing and prepping non-stop for my next trip to the States.  Here are a few pics to wet your appetite.
Both simple patterns, but very red – these two quilts really caught my eye!  Hmmmm, maybe ideas for quick but eye-catching quilts to use up some of my stash . . . ?

These blocks are from our new block of the month.  It’s just $60 for the whole kit using solid cottons.  
There’s more and my suitcase is getting full – I can hardly wait to see you all!  See you in September!
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Friday, August 15, 2008

Lost Quilt(s), Lost History

It’s August - summer holidays here in Europe.  And that mean everyone is on holiday.  I’m not kidding.  We recently needed new brake pads for our car, the mechanic told us we were just in time to order the part, before his supplier went on holiday.  I wanted to buy flowers for a friend (explanation later) and we have a wonderful choice of 5 flower shops in our little village - they were closed - all five shops - holidays!  Axel can get to work 10 minutes quicker on a daily basis because so many people either leave town or stay home that the roads feel literally empty.  In Paris - you don’t have to pay for parking for the whole month of August.  Firstly because all the parking attendants go on holiday, but secondly because so many shops are closed that it doesn’t warrant fighting over spaces.  And our leaking shower - yep - it will leak for the rest of the month . . .

We all love to go on vacation . . . and many of us secure our homes, arrange for a neighbor to pick up the mail, water the plants, either take our pets with us or leave them with friends, etc.  But how many of us think about a kenneling our quilts and heirlooms?  The story below will explain why all of a sudden this is on my mind . . .

A few weeks ago, I received an email from my friend Gabi.  I thought it was weird because I knew they had gone on holiday - two weeks in the mountains and by my calculation we were only 1/2-way through it.

The gist of the email was surprise!  She and her husband, Eberhard were back from vacation - early.  They had received a phone call from a friend who lives in the same “hof” as they do . . . there had been a fire in their apartment.

As I’m reading her email in my scrappy Germany, I’m thinking of all the beautiful quilts she has made, heirlooms from her mother and mother-in-law that she had shown me with so much pride, her expansive collection of wool - in finished sweaters, socks begun, and so many skeins waiting to be fondled.  My heart was in my throat and I could barely read it aloud to Axel.

I phoned Gabi to see if I could help as I was driving over for a couple of days.  I’d bring dirty close if she wanted help in the apartment or was willing to provide distraction if she needed some girlie time.

When I got there I could hardly believe my eyes.  The sofa where the fire broke out was gone!  The wall behind now looked like a huge fireplace like you’d see in old stately homes.  From the knees up, the apartment turned grey and then black as the smoke had accumulated at the ceiling.  There was substantial fire damage but that was limited to the living room - that sofa, behind which Gabi stored all of her knitting wool.  Next to the sofa used to be a small table, first draped with a 40” square whitework “Hessesche Stickerei” hand embroidered by her mother.  This was crowned with Gabi’s favorite Japanese quilting books - they were totally destroyed.  I asked about the cloth from her mother which she later showed me - an entire corner was missing, it was totally grey and covered in scorch marks.

This is all that I managed to salvage from her beautiful 9-patches. Pin It Now!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Quilt Show – Gent, Belgium

Today I visited a Quilt Show in Gent presented by the Vlaamse Quilters Guilde.  It was just what I needed for some contact with “quiltsters” (feminine form of quilter) here in Belgium.  From the moment I walked into the show I felt welcomed and at home among women who also share my passion.
I began in Nederlands, she answered in English, asked where I was from and took €2,50 (just $4) for the entrance fee.  Everywhere I went, women were smiling, nodding and enjoying themselves.  The show included the largest number of Dear Jane quilts I had seen in one location.  This is probably my favorite Dear Jane so far.    

Both simple patterns, but very red – these two quilts really caught my eye!  Hmmmm, maybe ideas for quick but eye-catching quilts to use up some of my stash . . . ?  

Next I wandered outside to the circus style tent and found my absolute favorite . . . that I liked this very yellow quilt was quilt a surprise . . . not sure why, I’m still exploring that.  But I fell in love with it more and more and more.  
Of course, the best quilts are also best viewed from the back.  The subtle daylight showing through from the front really softened the entire effect – and of course really highlighted the exceptional hand quilting.
There were more – 141 – in all and I could go on and on.  But the highlight of my day was truly visiting with the ladies.  I enjoyed a cappuccino and piece of home-made cake with Loes and Dora.  Then I joined the Open Quilting Bee in the courtyard – the weather has turned warm, but there was cloud cover and a gentle breeze.  This guild breaks for the summer holidays and resumes in September, so many ladies were milling around and catching up with each other, their projects and families. They were all very welcoming and I exchanged small chat in a mix of English and Nederlands. 
But oi vey – I also heard a lot of French – I may need to learn it sooner than I thought.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Dad - My Inspiration

Today is my Dad’s birthday.  He would have been 80 years old.   Dad grew up in a tiny, tiny town in the back woods of Mississippi.  He was the oldest in his poor family and to help the family income planted peach trees around the property when he was 12.  He tended these trees, picked and sold the fruit to the neighbors.  I also remember stories of stealing watermelons from the neighbor and hunting squirrels.  As a young man he helped on his Uncle JR’s peanut farm.   

He was the first to graduate high school.  After which, he enlisted in the Army Air Core (which later became the US Air Force).  He served 20 years, living in five countries while raising six children.  A year before I was born, Dad retired from the service and settled in Everett, WA.  He had flown through Seattle a few times during his service years and had always thought it looked like “a nice place to live.”  He hired on at Boeing but that quickly ended with “the big layoff.”  He then hired on at Everett Community College, beginning as a janitor.  He ended up founding their Audio Visual department – repairing, planning, fixing and locating all AV equipment on campus.  I have fond memories of going to work with him – working at the counter to check out materials to students and falling off the high stool with a huge crash, driving through the library after hours on the electric cart which would only go if your butt was firmly planted on the seat, but then my legs were too short so Dad would stack a pile of books up behind me and of course his desk, a huge pile of tangled wires, parts and tools (but he could always find what he needed, hmmm, a chip off the old block?)
Dad took care of three gardens when I was growing up, the largest was at my oldest sister’s where the corn, beans and who knows what else was.  In our front garden grew peas, strawberries and the biggest crop of chard one year that none of us will ever forget.  I always thought it was spinach but later found out it was chard – that’s why it kept growing back.  One row of this stuff meant it was on the dinner table nearly every night that summer.  Yuck!  I still can’t eat it just cooked – a mess of slimey greens and I’ve learned to cope and cook with it in other ways – but I don’t grow it!   I still have his work / gardening hat …
If Dad was here today, I would take him for a walk in my garden. I think he would be proud of my tomatoes, give advice on my beans (they’re still straggly) shake his finger at me for not eating my peas fast enough before they got too old and bemused by my need to grow so many flowers – no matter how she asked, he would never plant them for mom.      
Dad was a quiet man – unless he had a good story to tell, he was extremely resourceful and could fix anything you threw at him.   He didn’t get involved in the raising of us very much – that was Mom’s job.  But he loved to be around his grandchildren.  He could tell you all 20 of their birthdays and probably even the weather the day they were born.  And he had a knack for settling them when no one else could.  He was also a thinker and had an incredible mathematical mind.
In 1997, Dad quit smoking so he could fly to England for my wedding.  I told him if I knew that’s what it would take, I would have gotten married years before.  A few months after our wedding I flew back to the States and met Dad in Mississippi for a week’s visit.  It was a great opportunity for him to show me around all the old haunts and share family stories.  I’ll always treasure this time spent with him.
Two years later he was diagnosed with cancer and he went quickly.  He was a remarkable man who touched many lives, but none so much as his youngest daughter’s.
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Monday, March 31, 2008

Getting Down and Dirty

Thank goodness for sunshine!  I think someone was watching out for my state of mind and delivered the first day of Spring when I most needed it.
Yesterday I spent the whole day fighting with my computer.  I had recently bought Microsoft’s most recent version of Office for the Mac and was all excited to draw up the diagram for the Toybox children’s quilt that so many of you asked about at the Quilter’s Anonymous Show.
Well - I don’t think I ‘m alone when I say I wish they wouldn’t mess with a good thing!  Last week I spent quite a bit of time drawing the quilt diagram and writing up the construction notes.  Saved it, moved on to something else and came back to put the finishing touches on it yesterday.
Lo and behold, the colors of the quilt diagram and all changed - willy nilly, no rhyme or reason.  What used to be red was now lavender, what was blue (to resemble the marble fabric) was now white with little blue polka dots.  
Needless to say, I was ready to throw things and my husband looked for places to hide.  This morning I remembered that I hadn’t junked my old version of Word and am almost back on track.
However, in the meantime I woke up to sunshine this morning . . . lovely!  We’ve been needing it.  It snowed here in Belgium too, the week after Easter.  Yes, I know Easter was early but snow that late?  Yuck.  Except it looked so pretty.
So after a bit of housework, another hour of Toybox and reading my emails - I headed outside to weed for the first time this year.  It was lovely and one thing led to another when I thought it was a good time to clear off my potting bench and found 100 daffodil bulbs and quiet a few tulip bulbs that never got planted.  Yikes.  They were actually sprouting and one was nearly ready to bloom.  
What the heck - into the ground and various pots they went.  It will be fun to see how many materialize and if we still have daffodils in June . . .
Now, it’s back to that computer . . . for a good fight until the Toybox pattern is complete

. . . wish me luck
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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Where have I been?

So, once again, it’s been ages since I was able to update the blog.  I did keep something of a journal though - but was on the road constantly for about six weeks.  Property hunting, moving, packing, opening and trying to stay sane - you can read all about it in the following journal entries.

4th February
2008 - Monday
Arrived in Seattle last night, met with Patti today.  She’s taking the month off to prepare for her daughter’s wedding so today we concentrated on the hand-over.  Questions, answers and to-dos.  Began the hunt for the new office space.  Need to get over this jet-lag.
11th February
2008 - Monday
Spent the rest of last week down with the flu.  Not what I needed.  Am somewhat reconciled this morning as I’ve found the location of the showroom!  I’m very excited and feel like it ticks every box on the list.  Enough space for a small showroom and office space for Patti to work.  Great light!
15th February
2008 - Friday
Axel arrived today, flying directly into Portland for the wedding.  I know it’s only been a couple of weeks but it sure is nice to be on the same side of the world.  Sometimes I wonder how we ever managed all this to’ing and fro’ing.
17th February
2008 - Sunday
Jessica’s wedding today.  It was truly beautiful.  The ceremony was lovely and the reception happy.  Axel and I kept the kitchen going, taking care of the buffet and trying to keep hungry guests happy - they were truly a hungry crowd.  Must be those starving medical students.  We’re both exhausted and I can hardly feel my feet, but we drove back to Bellevue tonight.  Trade the rental car tomorrow for a van and start moving into the showroom.
18th February
2008 - Monday

Emptied the “shop” storage unit.  The first of four storage units that we need to sort, organize, throw out and pack in order to ship all of our personal belongings to Belgium. Began moving everything into the new office today.  And the sign went up!  Yippee, an official “P&P lives here” sign!  It feels real.
22nd February
2008 - Friday
Amazing!  The first day of the Open House for our new show
room is behind us.  Everyone’s reaction was wonderful and their comments made it all worthwhile - "wow - it's really bright in here", "i love the lighting", "it has the same great feel that peacock and periwinkle always had in that little house", "it feels so homey", "there are some great fabrics in the clearance corner", "hey - did you see that??", "it’s nice to have you back" 
23rd February
2008 - Saturday
It’s official - PEACOCK & periwinkle has re-launched!  It’s been a bumpy few years but it’s clear that opening a showroom was the right idea.  Even if it’s only open one Saturday a month.  
Am absolutely exhausted but it feels good.  Finished off the evening by having a wonderful meal with Dave and Sharon McCallum.  Their new DVD “Fantastic Featherweights” are nearly ready and they gave me an advance copy to preview.
24th February
2008 - Sunday
Staying in bed ALL day seemed like the thing to do today but a slow start was nearly as good.  Met up with John for “breakfast.”  It turned into a four-hour brunch full of every topic imaginable.  And a nice walk in the crisp sunshine.  I wish somehow that we lived nearer, but it seems that will likely never happen.  We took a picture - surely the first of the two of us together after 20 long, wonderful years of friendship.
25th February
2008 - Monday
Enough rest for the weary, began what feels like the insurmountable task of sorting, packing, organizing and making decisions on what will go in the container of our personal belongings being shipped to Belgium.
28th February
2008 - Thursday
Lectured for Quilters by the Bay in University Place.  Shared some old and new samples of working with silk and went through the entire pre-washing process.
29th February
2008 - Friday
Picked up my nieces and nephews and headed to the Nicholson’s. 
Oi vey, it was a full house!  11-year old wisdom, followed by FOUR 8-year olds (triplets plus my niece) and a 5-year old “I can do that too.”  
I know I’m a glutton but I love ‘em all!  Group overnight, bike-riding, lunch, skateboarding, 4-square (Jacob taught me how to play again) and dinner!  
3rd March
2008 - Monday
The packing continues as we get ready for the movers to come on Wednesday.  We’re looking at a 1/2-container.  20’ x 8’ x 8.5’.  Yikes, that’s 1360 square feet, amazing to think we have so many belongings.  I’m most excited about having my entire stash and sewing supplies in one place.  Watch out world - I plan on quilting!  Too bad, we didn’t take pics of the container packing - maybe we’ll remember when it reaches the house in Schellebelle.

6th March
2008 - Thursday
Axel flew back to Belgium this morning, it was hard to let him go and I longed to be stepping onto that plane with him.  I’ve been here 4-1/2 weeks and it’s been packed full of moving, shifting and organizing.  I’m ready to wake up in my own bed in my lovely house in Belgium, listen to the birds singing, pad downstairs for a cup of coffee and walk through the garden.  
Instead I got up and headed to the showroom to pack the van for the Evergreen Piecemakers Retreat in Renton.  Ok - so I got over it and had a great weekend!  Number one goal, design a great kids quilt using the Toybox Collection.  I think I did ok . . . need to add a border top and bottom and we’re there! 

14th March
2008 - Friday
First day of the Quilter’s Anonymous Show in Monroe.  Another 10x20 booth, it’s exhausting to set-up and this year I did it alone except for a couple hours of generous help from  Jennifer who it turns out is married to the brother of my best high-school friends, Kristin and she’s a quilter!  The biggest question / announcement this weekend was our new showroom!  Everyone was excited to hear all about it.  Well, we finally came up with the best description - 
“We are an on-line shop with a local showroom!”

The booth was bright and eye catching - helped by the Block Party Quilter’s Raffle Quilt designed by Lisa Jenni - we sold pins, patterns and tickets to benefit their guild.  The Amish-inspired 9-patch top intended for our bed hung next to it  Lisa and I are talking about future collaborations . . .
This show is always a blast as so many of our local customers attend.  It’s a weekend full of hugs, laughter and yes, sometimes even tears.  
This year I’m staying in Monroe with “I’ve always wanted to get to know you better” friend, Jodi.  What a blast!  I’ve been very blessed in my lifetime to find a few kindred spirits that you knew you needed to spend more time with and that you know it doesn’t matter how often you get together.  We laughed and cried until the wee morning - primarily because her first husband’s last name was “Horrible.” 
17th March
2008 - Monday
Eeeks, there’s so much to do.  My flight is at 6pm tomorrow night.  Unpack the van and put away as much as possible in the showroom.  Last minute good-byes.    Piles of little jobs - and, oh yeh, pack my suitcases.  
20th March
2008 - Thursday
Arrived back in Belgium today.  It’s so nice to be “home.”  Too tired after the past six weeks to even think about unpacking.  Usually I have it done and nearly everything put away before bed-time.  My hand project is coming along nicely.  Needing a small project to unwind with in the evenings I started just after the Evergreen Piecemakers Spring break.  Our silk dupioni and hand-dyed cottons from Judy Robertson.  It’s destined to hang above the sofa . . .

So that covers 6 weeks and I hope you’ll agree this helps close the gap a little.  I’m looking forward to a few weeks of settling in and piece and quiet before the container arrives in Belgium.  Plus developing our showroom and website.  Am sure it won’t be as much relaxing as I’d like but there are always the garden and handwork to distract me when my brain starts to get muddled.
In the meantime, it feels good to be a little more caught up . . . next . . .      Jovita

And please do leave a comment - it’s nice to know you stopped by.  I heard from so many of you during my visit that you were reading my blog, but I had no idea . . .


1 Comment $manage-tooltip$
Yes, we are reading your blog, Jovita.  Hey I recognize that picture of your and Axel!  What a wonderful evening we had with the two of you.  Our paths have crossed many times over the last 3 years and a wonderful friendship has been formed.  Looking forward to seeing you again in the fall and in the meantime, we will read about your European adventures.
Many blessings to you and Axel,
Dave and Sharon McCallum
Featherweight RX
Burlington, WA
Monday, April 28, 2008 - 04:02 AM
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