Monday, September 29, 2008

a weekend with family i don't even know

So...where have I been, right?

Sorry for disappearing off the blog-o-sphere. I blame a weekend in Gotha, a few days in Belgium, my husband finally coming home to distract me, and a miserable cold we both caught. I still have the cold, but I'm getting sick and tired of feeling sick and tired so I'm determined to get back to you, dear readers, and reassure you that I still live.

But although I have lots to post about, I'm going to start off slowly...because I am still sick and tired...with a little report on a surprisly cool weekend, September 13 and 14, in the German town of Gotha meeting family I hardly knew existed.

So, here's the backstory on this strange little weekend I had. Remember last November when I was in the States visiting my family and Karl searched out his distant German relatives in Gotha and made a very cool film about it? That film was shown at his huge family's annual reunion in February and it inspired one of his uncles to visit Germany. Uncle David planned to come to Germany with one of his sons who was going to be attending a medical conference in Munich and make his own visit to these German relatives. He'd been planning this trip for months with my husband who was going to serve as a translater for him. And then Karl decided to take a trip home for his neice's wedding. So guess who got delegated to be his uncle's translator?

Now, keep in mind that although I've meet many of Karl's relatives I've by no means met them all and I can't even keep straight half the ones I have met. That's how big his family is. I mean really big. Early in our relationship we would often go to his family events and the following scenerio happened to us far more than once: someone would come up and talk to us, they'd leave, I'd ask Karl who that was, and he'd respond with "I'm not sure, I think it was one of my cousins."

Karl's mother was the third of 13 children and I don't think anyone in the family really knows how many first cousins my husband has...everyone seemed to have lost track at 80. In fact, my brother ended up marrying one of my husband's cousins...his family it THAT big. It was bound to happen.

So...long story short, Karl has a big family and I was suddenly in charge of meeting with people I've never met before to show them around a town I've never been before and translate with some German people I've also never met before and that's how much I love my husband!

But it really turned out to be a very, very cool weekend. Karl's family was a delight (not that I was surprised, his family IS amazing!), the Germans were very gracious, we had a lot of fun and I impressed even myself with my German language skills!

I was so busy translating between families most of the time I didn't get many pictures taken, but here are a few...

Gotha is the town where Karl's grandfather, Henry, was born. His grandfather's mother, Gretchen, was also born there and she was the one who made the decision to leave for America, thus separating the German and American lines of his family.

First stop was Wolfgang's house who was the star of Karl's film. I arrived with Karl's uncle David, his son Geoff and Geoff's wife Kathleen with their two sons Jon and Will. They graciously fed us a wonderful meal including tasty Thuringer Wurst (a local specialty!). Then they gave us a tour of the Protestant church next door to their home where Wolfgang and his son restored the original church pews. Wolfgang's son, Wilfred, continues to wind the church clock taking it over from Wolfgang when he retired who had taken over the job from his own father.

Wolfgang's family invited over another cousin, Annemarie, who had some great stories of the family. We all watched Karl's finished film together and I think Wolfgang was very proud of it!

The reason great-grandmother Gretchen decided to leave Germany for America was because she and her mother was baptized into the LDS church when she was a child. After she started her own family she felt the need to move to the States where she could be closer to others of her faith. She only ever described the location of her baptism vaguely but after a bit of research we found a possible is Uncle David with his grandsons at a possible baptism location for David's grandmother. Her choice both to be baptized and to relocate her family to America had obvious far-reaching consequences for Karl's family and I think this trip to Gotha was not only a exploration of family roots but an aknowlegdment of her sacrifices for giving her family the best she could.

Geoff and his sons gazing up at the birthplace of great-grandmother Gretchen.

Geoff and his son Will in front of grandfather Henry's birthplace.

More distant cousins... Klaus and his wife (sorry for the bad photo!). They weren't expecting us and we very nearly didn't find their house. But they were incredibly welcoming once I explained we were distant American relatives!

I had so much fun and I'm so glad I can no longer call these family member, both the Germans and the Americans, strangers. And I even forgave my husband for leaving me all alone to deal with this! And this post turned out longer than I intended and I'm starting to feel that cold again so I'm off to drown myself in juice and cough suppressent on the couch in front of the TV...

Friday, September 19, 2008

favorite shop friday: artquirk

One of my favorite things about living in and traveling around Europe is the architecture! And I've recently discovered Nina Clough who has a little shop called Artquirk filled with her architectural drawings of places all over Europe.

Her chosen architectural subjects aren't the iconic views one would expect from some of these famous locales...but as a result you get the sense of the place, it's mood and view that only the locals really see and appreciate.

Nina has such a delicate style and, I think, perfectly captures the mood of the places she paints...the urban comfort of Dublin, the prettiness of Paris, the freshness of Greece...I been to some of these places and Nina's artwork only makes me want to see more!

Escape with Nina's artwork at her shop,, where she also has beautiful images of nature, fairy tales and where you can even commission her to paint a portriat of your own home!

Friday, September 12, 2008

favorite shop friday: liza rietz

Liza Rietz designs and makes clothes. Her designs are so fresh and unique and yet so classically familiar.

I like knowing I can be the 1920s flapper (the ultimate modern woman) that I always wanted to be...

I like that I can be pretty and ruffly and feminine (like every modern woman wants to be, deep down inside)...

And I love that I can wear a gorgeous hat!

Why don't modern people wear hats anymore like they use to? Well, we can all start wearing them again because how can we resist Liza's "cloche"(French for "bell-shaped") hats? They will make our heads so much better looking!

If you're lucky enough to live in the Portland area you can visit her studio and shop in person: Or if you're unlucky like me then you can buy them at

Thursday, September 11, 2008

world rivers and the rhine

Remember our bike ride to France a few weeks ago? Well, I had another motive to head to the Rhine that day. I wanted to participate in the World Rivers project and dip a piece of fabric in the Rhine.

"World Rivers is a global collaboration uniting people through the element of water. Individuals from around the world dip white fabric in selected rivers. The fabric is then sewn together into a magnificent curtain. International participants, like rivers flowing to the ocean, join together to form a larger whole.

"World Rivers reveals a story of water, through the personal experience of many.

"World Rivers reveals civilization's connection to water while documenting our time in history."

That description if from the website which you'll find here with lots more information on the project including lots of photos and comments from other participants from around the world.

I was asked to participate by Lee from Looking for Fiddleheads and she is further asking for anyone and everyone around the world to send her pieces of white fabric (almost any size will do) that has been dipped in a river or lake. She's in the process of sewing together these fabric pieces into a giant curtan, connecting the people and the water together.

I liked making a physical connection to my river...I think we often forget how important our waters are for us. We turn on a facet to retrive the water we use and our travels are by car and train and plane and rarely by water anymore...but participating in this project made me remember how important the Rhine is to Germany.

The Rhine was a major trade and travel route in centuries past. As you travel up the Autobahn that runs parallel to our bit of the Rhine on one side and the Black Forest hills on the other, you notice a lot - A LOT - of ruined castles on the hills that look down on the river, which means that this was a major source of power for those controlling the traffic on the river for a long time.

Not just for trade and travel, but the Rhine has been the center of political disputes as well. For centuries France and Germany has bickered over the true border between their lands...the Germans claimed the French Vosges mountains should be the border between the countries and France claimed the Rhine is the natural dividing line. As a result the French Alsace region just on the other side of the Rhine has gone back and forth between being German and French resulting in a unique joining of culture.

The Rhine is mighty, powerful, beautiful and immensly influential in the history of this part of the world. It's amazing to think how water not only gives us life but also forms our lives and cultures and histories!

You can participate, too!! Click here to see how you can become a part of this international project!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

a barefoot birthday with butter

My good friend Denise turned 28 today and invited a few friends to spend the afternoon with her for a picnic and a barefoot hike to celebrate!

This is what my bicycle basket looked liked this morning after buying flowers for the birthday girl, some rustic bread for the picnic, and some fresh mint for the butter recipes I wanted to try out to go with the bread:

The group of us drove outside a town near Pforzheim where we ate our yummy picnic in a grassy field and my mint butter turned out pretty good! I made some walnut butter, too, and that was also rather tasty! I got the recipes from a German magazine so I'll share them (translated to English) with you...

Walnut Butter
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 bundle of fresh parsley, finely chopped
250 g butter (about 1 cup), room temperature
150 g crushed walnuts (about 1/2 cup)
salt & pepper
Add about 1/3 of the butter to a pan with the shallot and garlic cook til the butter's melted. Then add the parsley and walnuts and cook for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Take the pan off the heat and let cool a little. Mix with the rest of the butter then let cool completely in the fridge.

Mint Butter
250 g butter (about 1 cup), room temperature
3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh mint
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt & pepper
Mix it all together then put in the fridge!

After our picnic we took a barefoot hike! There was a trail through a forest that was designed to be walked barefoot! We took off our shoes and walked along a soft forest trail where there were opportunities for all kinds of textures for our feet to walk on: sticks, leaves, moss, cork, pebbles. And there was a tree house and log balance beams and mud and water and every kind of natural texture your feet could possible want to explore! I've never seen a hiking trail like this and it was so much fun!

Walking on pebbles then sand...

Your humble narrator...

Knee deep and giggling in muddy water...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

vermont forest quilts

I just finished a big commission to create two twin-sized quilts for a woman's Vermont home. She like my Black Forest baby quilt in my shop and wanted something similar for her summer home in the Vermont forest. I got photos of them in the garden yesterday...

The pattern is my own invention with green tree forms against blue and I hand-quilted leaves with white thread in the tree tops and floating down to the ground below.

Each quilt has a slightly different pattern, as you can see. She wanted the solid green and blue to match the color scheme of her summer home and I gave them a white binding to hold the colors together.

The backs have three rows of uneven stripes.

I like how they turned out. It's always fun to work with pretty patterned fabrics but using all solids in this case helped to concentrate the design on the trees and quilted leaves...there's both a simplicity in the fabrics and a complexity in the patterns. An idea I see in a lot of Amish quilts. Not that my humble quilts can stand up in the same room as the brillant work of the Amish...but I like being inspired by brillance!

Monday, September 8, 2008

keeping happy while karl is gone

A week ago today Karl flew out to the States to visit his family.

The first time we ever spent a significant amount of time apart in our marriage, I noticed that I didn't laugh much without him around. I realized that I laugh every day with Karl. I love that about our marriage. Every day there is laughter in our home. I still notice that lack of laughter when we spend time apart.

Karl won't be home for another couple of weeks, but, until then, I'm finding ways to distract myself from missing him and finding other things to make me laugh.

I have discovered a couple of blogs recently that keep me in stiches on a daily basis. Go Fug Yourself is some fashion fun from Jessica and Heather. They make the world aware of the awful - or rather fugly (fugly = "fantastically ugly") - clothing the rich and famous are choosing to wear. Now, I have no interest in fashion or being a fashion police, but these chicks point out the obvious in such a hilarious way I consider reading their blog as daily excercise for my abs! (This photo from Aug. 18, 2008...I would recommend reading its description!)

Cake Wrecks gives me the giggles, too. My sister pointed me in the direction of this blog of professional cakes that "go horribly, horribly wrong." Just looking at these strange cakes would give me laughter enough, but Jen's hilarious commentary takes the cake! (Sorry for the pun. I couldn't resist.)

But I've got more than blogs to keep me company. A few years ago Karl gave me all three seasons of the original Star Trek series for my birthday...yes, I'm a little bit of a Trekkie (and Karl is so proud!). So I've been going through all the seasons this past week. Original Star Trek is so much fun! The show really has some fascinating themes and thought-provoking comments on human nature...but so much of it just makes me giggle! I mean, who knew there were so many beautiful alien women in the universe for Kirk to womanize! Enjoy this little clip from one of my favorite episodes...

So that's what's been distracting me from missing my Karl the past week. But during the next two weeks I'll be distracing myself with some fun little trips!

I'll be spending a couple of days this coming weekend visiting with some of Karl's family in the German town of Gotha and then I'll spend of few heavenly days on my own here...

Friday, September 5, 2008

favorite shop friday: electric boogaloo

My sister, Susan, is married to a very cool guy. He's also a bit of a science nerd.

I first met Andrew when I went out for their wedding and when I first got there it was explained to me that I wouldn't be able to meet him for a few days becuase he was at "crack camp" learning how to safely disassemble an illegal crack cocaine lab. He works for the police department identifying confiscated illegal drugs where he is known for decorating his desk with novelty marijuana leaf Christmas lights. He's such a cool guy but he's also a bit of a chemistry nerd! That's why I'm very much looking forward to Susan and Andrew having kids because I already have the perfect baby shower gifts picked out for them!

Electric Boogaloo specializes in artwork for the nerdy baby!

Susan will get to review her baby's ABCs with nerdy flashcards where A stands for Atom and Z for Zoological Oddity!

Andrew can prepare his toddler for school by reviewing Newton's three laws of motion!

And their baby will be able to learn to count in prime numbers with this prime numbers counting chart!

As my sister's little family star-gazes at night they'll be able to remind Junior of the Hertzprung-Russel diagram that charts out the relative ages and phases of stars with this pretty print!

The art is beautifully rendered and the science is proven and even though I've never considered myself a science nerd I'm feeling the need to start learning my prime numbers. Tiffany, who is the science nerd behind all this wonderful nerdy baby art, has a blog ( and a shop ( or for the nerd in all of us!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

doors and windows 5

Strasbourg, France

Dublin, Ireland

Riquewihr, France

Baden-Baden Altes Schloss, Germany

Meersburg, Germany

Monday, September 1, 2008

a day worth the sunburn

On Saturday I had another race day!

I spent a sunny day at the horse races enjoying all the hats and horses. This time I wore my own race day hat I got just for the occasion...

Here are some of my favorite photos of the day! (Click on any photo for a larger view.)

All you need to enjoy a day at the races: a hat, some shade, and some bubbly!

First of all: cute parasol! Second: hot dress, mom!

This horse was a beautiful white/grey color...when he was wet with sweat after the race he turned pink!

I got this shot as this jocky was thrown from his horse...

Jockey groupies!

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