25 February 2011

Happenstance

The weather has been very cold here this week.   Down to -10 with a wind that removes un-protected skin.  (not really, just me being a drama queen)  I don't normally walk the dogs in the morning but Friday is my day off so I was out in it this morning.  And this caught my eye:


  
I thinks it's a combination of cold air temperature, the wind and the warmer air coming up from the drains that left this frosty "tail".    Unfortunately someone, I think it may have been our neighbours son on the way to school, found it necessary to step on everyone down down the road! 

22 February 2011

Meet the animals

Just a quick post to introduce the animals. They will probably play leading roles in my blog (as they do in life), so you may as well know who they are

Lucy & Eliska - the dogs
Both from the rescued from the kennels where we board our dogs when we’re on hols.


Eliska (Elizabeth), but we call her Liska (which means fox) was a 5 week old puppy when we had her. Probably a dachshund/terrier cross but not sure. She’s a doll. Quite well behaved although probably instigates the trouble that Lucy gets told off for. Constantly looks like an un-made bed.



Lucy was found wandering on the Czech/Austrian border. We were told she is a hunting dog which I think is a euphemism for a Heinz 57. She has a beautiful head on a prize fighters body. Mad as cheese. But so loving and I defy anyone to resist stroking those velvety ears.
George and Uncle Bryn (the cats )


George – firstly named after Chicken George because he was afraid of everything, then became curious george. Back to Chicken George at the moment. I was standing on a chair this evening and as I jumped down I frightened him to death.


Bryn – after Uncle Bryn on Gavin & Stacey, because we’re not sure if he’s gay or not. This was doubt was compounded when the vet who was due to castrate him, prepped him up for a hysterectomy!

Budgie and Hazel (The budgies)


Budgie was a Xmas gift from the girls at work. He was nice enough, but I felt he needed a friend. Enter Hazel. Bad Mistake. She is the noisiest budgie in the world – Budgie + Hazel = Enough noise for 7 budgies and enough mess for 3. Sorry no photo of Hazel ...... which speaks volumes

So that's the (current) animals.

PS I have had a nightmare downloading these photographs. Hope it doesn't take me this long in future

21 February 2011

It's.. not.. too... small

Last year I bought a czech knitting magazine, as I thought my czech was just about good enough to manage to follow a pattern.  Actually they are different to an English pattern as there is a diagram of the stitches, and very little written description other than "follow the diagram".   Anyway loved this summer cardigan, so decided to go for it.



Now the pattern was for one size and I wasn't sure if it would be big enough, but I wanted to knit it so, logic and reason didn't come into it.  The pattern and instructions were really easy to follow and the pattern was a pleasure to knit.  I must say following the diagram was easier than following pages of instructions.  But even as I was knitting the back I knew in my heart of hearts that it wouldn't be big enough.  But did I stop?   No.  I knit the sleeves, again knowing they weren't big enough, and then one front.  Only then did I give in to reason.   I even got another cardigan out to measure against it, thinking I might still be wrong




I know it's not blocked but let's face it, it was never going to fit.  And the sleeves were even worse.  I could've tried to add another pattern repeat, but then it would've been too big, and it I couldn't see how to work the front..

So it went.  It was really disappointing, and maybe I'll have another go with some different wool if I can figure out how to make it bigger.

But for now I'm using the wool to crochet this summer shrug.   It was quite hard to follow as it is crocheted from the neck down in one piece, but I've got down to the bottom of the arm holes without major incident.  And I think it will look really pretty, even though it looks a bit like a dish cloth at the moment.   So I'll wait until it resembles an item of clothing before taking any photos!

20 February 2011

Star block

I have not yet started to join in quilt-a-longs or block parties for a few reasons:

  1. My stash of fabric isn’t very large
  2. I would worry if I have to complete a block on a deadline.  Don’t want to let anyone down.
  3. I don’t think I’m good enough yet.

However if I’m ever going to move on from beginner, I do need to start to learn different patterns.   I know that I could be considerably better at cutting accurately and sewing a true ¼ inch, so it’s no surprise that this block could be better.



It’s from crazy mom quilts' Star quilt along (week 11) , and whilst I may never do a whole quilt, there are several blocks I really love and will make to practice getting all those points and seams line up.   There’s quite a lot of puckering and at least 1 seam that’s not straight (OK, you can see a lot more than 1).  Not to mentions seams/points that don’t meet.   So, the three horizontal rows are going to be ripped back and redone until they look reasonably good.   It may get made into a pillow to match the quilt I am working on at present as it’s using up some of the same fabrics.

I really do love these stars (they are so dainty don’t you think?) but I also admire and aspire to anyone who can think this all up!   At the moment I’m strictly following someone else’s pattern or design.  I think I was at the back of the queue when they were giving out genuine creativity.  Who knows though, what I may achieve in the future…………

19 February 2011

Pretty in Pink

The second quilt I made was for my husband’s niece who was having her first baby in January.  This little girl is going to be spoilt rotten  by her two aunties, as she is the first pink baby to be born in their family for something like 27 years.    All the rest have been blue ones.   So I wanted to make something girlie, but still modern with a bit of attitude.  What do you think .. about the quilt, I know the photos are rubbish!





I took inspiration from this beautiful quilt from Saidos da Concha, which I thought was simple, but striking.  As I have probably said before, and will no doubt say again, I don’t get much opportunity to shop for nice fabrics here and usually buy off the Internet, which isn’t the same as touching and feeling real fabric.  So on a trip to Berlin last year I had a wonderful hour with Linda at Volksfaden and bought some beautiful fabrics there. (she has great fabrics and a really striking website)

The quilt was delivered in January, and by all accounts it’s brand new recipient, Elsie Rose, loves it!

I wanted to give it a name, because I understand that’s what you should do.   My husband is very good at this sort of thing and came up with “Pretty in Pink”.  This just happens to be one of my favourite films and favourite tunes, so decision made.   It has also started a tradition of naming my quilts after songs.   I haven’t done the label yet, as everything I’ve tried looks really naff.   Does anyone have any good ideas of how to make it not look like a 3 year old wrote it?  Any tips gratefully received

18 February 2011

R.I.P.

There's not much sewing going on here at the moment largely due to this



I've had this machine around 27 years - my husband bought it for a Christmas present for me.   It's fairly basic, and I can’t say I have ever felt any love towards it, but has served me well.      It has a tendency to mangle thread, but I can largely manage that by regular rethreading and holding the threads tight when it starts off.   Unfortunately, it's not a happy bunny these days. When I was quilting the last quilt, I was only able to do 10 minutes at a time, because the foot pedal was getting so hot I couldn't put my foot on it!   My other half loves nothing more than taking things to pieces and breathing new life into them, but even he said there was nothing he could do as it's dilithium crystal (or something like that) was disintegrating.   Then I noticed the belt is about to go…………


Jones no longer exists so no spares are available.  I may be able to get these repaired here - I have found a sewing machine repairer who frankly has seen a lot worse than this.   But the final nail in the coffin is the post that the foot attaches to (it has probably got a technical name put I don't know what it is).  I think I bent it when I ran over a pin, and consequently the 1/4 in foot now sews somewhere between 1/4 inch and 3/8 inch, which is not much help.   Again my husband came to the rescue and made a small slip of metal to glue in, but even so I have a cocktail stick stuck in it, and the foot doesn't sit straight.

So I think I'm in line for a new one, and have been researching what to buy since Christmas.    I'm looking for an intermediate machine, something with a large harp for ease of quilting, but also something with a few fancy stitches, button hole etc.  I don’t need a 300 stitch computerised job.  But  of course I do want all the lovely little gizmos that you can get now – knee lift, thread cutter, needle down).   However, as I read the internet for reviews, it's frightening that you can pay so much money for a new machine, and find that it still has many of the faults of my old 27 year old machine.   I would have thought they would be faultless for that sort of money!

Has anyone else been through the same thing?  What did you buy?   What can you recommend?

17 February 2011

My Back Yard

The weather was quite nice on Sunday.  Still hovering around freezing but the sun made an appearance, and it was very still and calm.  Today we took the dogs on my favourite walk. We are lucky enough to live in an area that is a UNESCO World Heritage site, thanks to the Liechtenstein family who lived in this area.   In the late 18th Century they built two chateaux, their winter residence in Valtice, and their summer residence in Lednice which is where we went for a walk.  The chateau is a neo- baroque building, which is currently undergoing a full external restoration, and is set in acres of parkland based on an English country park.  Maybe this is why I like it so much.   We regularly walk around the lakes in the park from the main building, out to the Minaret and back.  I didn’t take a camera today, but we have taken many pictures over the past years at various times of the year. 




 In summer it is busy with holidaymakers, but in winter, we have it very much to ourselves.


When the lakes are frozen, which is usually for about two weeks each winter, families get their skates out and head for the lakes.  To me this is magical, like a Christmas card, because it is so rarely seen now in the UK.  (Far too dangerous!)

And if I’ve been very good, we stop for a hot chocolate on the way back!


16 February 2011

SMALL ACHIEVEMENTS

Last week I joined the local library.  So what I here you say.   Well having moved from England to the Czech republic, we have learnt to celebrate these small achievements because they take quite a lot to achieve.

When we came here, we obviously knew that the fact we spoke no Czech at all would make it difficult for us to settle, but we didn’t realise that just living day-to-day lives would be so different.  For example we had no idea how to get post delivered, bins emptied, pay bills, register with a doctor and we couldn’t ask either!    We had a “Man Friday” to help us at work, and he was a tremendous help in our personal lives too, telling us how to “do things”.    But still it was difficult. We waited 3 months for a post box at the end of our road, then another 3 months for it to be fitted! We had endless problems getting a phone fitted at home, then an Internet line, and then getting it all moved to our new house.   So now we feel rather proud of ourselves that we can get things done relatively easily without any much help. 
I have recently started going to a line-dancing group, and my other half has started to go to a gym.   We are also joining a local “citizens group”, mainly to meet new people and for the opportunity to practice our Czech.

And now I am a member of the library.   I so missed this when I first came because I love reading, and the library was one of my favourite places to visit.  I couldn’t see me ever feeling like this about a Czech library, full of books I can’t read.  I still can’t read most of them, but they have a small English section, and quite a good selection of knitting/crocheting/quilting books in Czech.   But I can’t help thinking it won’t be long before I have run out of readable books!  

And the next challenge is …………….maybe joining the local quilting club?

15 February 2011

Meet Tom, Dick and Harry...........

   
....my new friends.    They are actually sweet potatoes which I have just set out to "chit".  Hopefully in a few weeks they will start shooting, then I will break off the shoots and either pot them up, or put them into water to root.   I tried this a couple of years ago, with reasonable success, even though I did start them off later, in April I think.   They do need a long growing season, and they prefer hot weather and well drained soil, which I think may be a lot to expect in the UK, but here in southern Czech Republic, we usually get.

I may have gone a little overboard with 3 but that's me all over, I always grow too much.  And last year I couldn't find any sweet potatoes anywhere so I'm making up for it this year.  I'll let you know how I get on.



14 February 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

My better half is not usually given to demonstrations of romance, nor does he like lining the pockets of the florists and the card manufacturers,  so after 30 years I don't expect flowers or a card.   However this year he did suggest we went out to mark the occasion.


After picking myself up off the floor, we decided to go to "up to the Big City", Brno, to go to the theatre and a meal out.  So I booked tickets to the Opera at the National Theatre in Brno.  We're not opera and ballet buffs, but living here, it's the only option for a trip to the theatre as our Czech isn't good enough to follow a play.  And it's cheap.  The most expensive tickets are around £15.00.  Our were much cheaper than this,so we now have cricked necks!   The opera we saw was Nabucco by Verdi.  It was very good, although not being familiar with it, it might have helped to find out what the story was about before we went!  It is great to see the whole family out together, and dressed up specially for the occasion. 


Before this we went to an Indian Restaurant in Brno.  This doesn't sound much, but it is 6 years since I've been to an Indian Restaurant, so it had been well anticipated.  Unfortunately although the food was good the service was verrrry  slooowww.  We coincided with a party of 19 which meant we were in there nearly 2 hours.  Never mind, we had the time.  I would certainly recommend it to anyone visiting Brno.


Did you do anything special for Valentine's Day?

11 February 2011

For the past couple of weeks I have been working on a quilt that will accompany us this summer on picnics, holidays and just days out in the country.  It's based on a Moda  quilt called Posh by Chez Moi, but I have varied the fabric a little more and added sashing.  I bought a few fat quarters from the  "Beyond the Sea" range from Cloud 9 and added a few more blues, lime greens, greys and beiges.




I've just finished the quilt top today and I think it's turned out well.  However the photo is rubbish and I don't know how to avoid the shadow in the bottom left hand corner



But you get the gist. 

I've got to think about the back now, but I need a bit of a rest from it for a little while.

09 February 2011

My first quilt

I’m quite new to quilting and like so many others I’m now hooked.  I do remember as a teenager I started making a hexagon patchwork – by hand, with paper templates and everything.  My sister made clothes to supplement the budget when her kids were young, so I had a bottomless pit of fabric scraps (with hindsight I should never have included crimplene).  But I discovered more interesting things as teenagers do, and it never got finished.   It lay hidden in a cupboard at mums for many years, but must eventually have been thrown away.   What sparked my interest recently was when I came across “oh Fransson”’s blog.  I’d never seen anything like it before – clean,crisp modern quilts made with such beautiful fabrics.  And that was that – I never looked back.  I went on to e-bay and bough a charm pack and used Elizabeth Hartmann’s tutorial to make a charm squares baby quit.




I was really quite pleased with it although I couldn’t sew a straight line for toffee.   I enjoyed the free motion quilting once I had plucked up the courage to go for it, but it is a bit dodgy in places.  
And I was very pleased that I could hand sew the binding so neatly (if my home economics teacher is reading this, see I’m not useless).  I used this tutorial - I love it that you can learn how to do almost anything on t'interweb.



So that was my first one – I think it will always be rather special to me, like your first boyfriend!   I’m only on number 4, but I’ve improved quite a bit already (quilts not boyfriends – sorry!) 

08 February 2011

Bean Chowder

Now I'm not the best cook in the world - by a long way - and my other half tends to do most of the cooking.  But he's away for a couple of days so I'm flying solo and I usually try to cook something I like, but he probably wouldn't.  And I do love soup although, no, I'm not too good at that either.  I know, what could be easier than soup?   Well if you're culinarily challenged, brain surgery is easier.

I saw  this recipe for Black Bean chowder on Posie gets cozy and thought it would make a very nice tea.   I was not phased by the fact I had no black beans, as living in Czech Republic I very often don't have all the correct ingredients (yes, this could explain some of the failures - more of that  another time).  But I did have red kidney beans and white beans, and a few left over chickpeas and sweet corn.   No problem.    I used chillies that I grew myself last year, and substituted them for the jalapenos.    I'm not sure how hot chowder is supposed to be, not how hot jalapenos are, but my chillies are apparently very hot and so is my chowder!   Also I realise now that it's almost the same as the chicken n bean casserole we regularly cook for supper!    I thought that was quite funny, and as I had no-one to tell, I thought it might make a good post.   I did tell the dogs, but they were sulking because they didn't get any chicken!

Update:   Having boiled the soup almost dry whilst writing about it, I have revived it and just finished a huge bowl.  It was delicious and not toooo hot

07 February 2011

Hello, good evening and welcome.....

I’ve been agonising for months now whether or not to start quilting. One half of me is really excited at the prospect, but on my other shoulder is the gremlin who says “you’ll never have time” “you won’t keep it up” “no-one will read it”. I read on one blog that the writer committed to writing one post a day for a month. I think I might try this – seems a good way to get into the swing of it.

Why do I want to do this? Mmm not sure really! I think it’s about being part of something. Also I see so read so many blogs where the writer gets so much pleasure in looking back over the past year(s).

What am I going to blog about? Well my hobbies are quilting, knitting and crocheting (winters) and gardening (summers). My husband and I moved to the Czech Republic from Herefordshire, England nearly 6 years ago, and I really should have started something like this then, to record out adventures here. So maybe I can go back over some of our successes and failures. I also love bloggers who link to things they like – books, patterns, pictures, photos, shops etc. I’ve learnt so many things doing this. I also like to see lots of nice colourful photographs, but I’m going to have to improve my photography skills (and learn how to get them onto the blog).

Why Quiltova? Well, all women’s names here in Czech republic end with “ova” and when I was looking for something snappy, my husband came up with this.

My other commitment is not to make each blog too long. So
that should be enough for now. I hope you will enjoy reading my ramblings.