Wednesday, December 28, 2022

we're on the other side!

you guys! we're on the other side - of the solstice and of the busy blur that is christmas - well into that fallow week between christmas and the new year. the days all blur together, though i did work on tuesday. was that only yesterday? it's that time when you look back on the year that's passed and look ahead to the coming year. 

so far, i've fallen for an ad for a free year of the balance app, so i just did a 3 minute meditation. or rather, i started it and then remembered that the header of the pages i published earlier was wrong in the way it came in from translation and so i ran to the computer and fixed it and republished during the 3 minutes. so much for meditating. at least the app is free for a year! and here's to starting somewhere. 

we're all feeling a bit under the weather. i think it's the grey, dreary, rainy weather, plus excesses of food and drink, late night card games and not enough rest or time alone. sabs and i just took some nyquil and we're headed for bed early because tomorrow we've got a  a long agenda. husband's picking up a spinning bike, then we're visiting a museum and doing a bit of shopping in aarhus before sabs meets her friends from boarding school for dinner. we'll go to dinner and maybe a movie ourselves while we wait for her. 

she's headed back to her life in sunny arizona very early on the 31st. she'll make it in time to ring in the new year with friends. her visit felt short, but it doesn't seem so bad, because she's coming home again in march for spring break with a couple of friends, so it's not that far off. we're finding the impending visit motivating, as we want to have the new bathroom and a bedroom ready for them. 

i know that on sunday, i'll feel like this in-between liminal week went way too fast, but for now, i'm just taking as it comes. and watching way too much real housewives of beverly hills on hayu...speaking of other instagram ads i've fallen for in recent days (49kr for 3 months of hayu - real housewives all the time!).

Saturday, November 19, 2022

dataspejlet opening

it's been awhile since i wrote about dataspejlet - an art project at trapholt museum in kolding. i submitted my embroidery and our weaving group submitted our woven length of fabric back in june. and today, the final artwork, imagined and created by danish artist astrid skibsted, and stitched and woven by more than 600 people, was opened to the public. it was a lovely day, with mimosas, speeches and plenty of time to see the work. i want to go back again when there are less people there and really experience it. the energy there today, with all the creators there, was amazing, but  the work needs pondering in a more solitary way to appreciate the significance of all the stitches and threads.  

Sunday, November 13, 2022

i learned a new thing today!

i went to a course today to learn løbbinding. i keep learning stuff in danish and then not knowing what it's called in english. i had to search løbbinding on pinterest and hope that it showed me some pins in english too. it did. they're coiled baskets. it was fun. 

first, you make a coil of fabric bound in some kind of fun yarn. i had a piece of an old duvet cover and i chose some glittery, hairy yarn for texture. you wrap it around, making a kind of rope of the fabric. 

then you choose some other fun yarns and start making the coil for the bottom of the basket. you wind the yarn around and use a large, blunt needle to sew it fast to the yarn underneath. you want a good, solid bottom.

my bottom. i imagine once i've made a few more, i'll look back and think this wasn't really tight enough, but it seemed pretty good to me today. and i loved the colorful, hairy yarn. yup, i'm gonna need more yarn. 

after some time, i changed to a different yarn to try out a different effect. i learned that it didn't look as good when you wrapped it around as it looked as the ball of yarn. but it was good to vary the design, so i used it anyway and let plenty of the sparkly hairy yarn i used to wrap the fabric show through. it had a pretty good effect.

i couldn't help myself and i took a basket of colorful yarn along, even though materials were part of the course. the last two rounds, i used some of it, to try out another effect.

i liked it! the pink was some kind of toweling that wouldn't be easy to sew, so i wrapped it around my base coil and then sewed it to the bowl with some orange thread that has a few sequins on it, for a bit more sparkle.

it's fun because it's perfectly ok to finish it off a little bit knobbly and wonky, and so i did. of course, i have loads of fabrics and yarn and other lovely things at home, so i can make more. this definitely seems like something i could easily work on while watching tv in the evening and would be a much better use of my time than playing homescapes.

everyone's baskets were so different, even though we all had the same starting point. i think you could see everyone's personality reflected in their work. and how different, diverse, colorful and lovely they all were! i can't wait to make more!

Sunday, November 06, 2022

the wrong stitches?

a fascinating aspect of the experience of sharing my great grandmother's quilts in an exhibition at my beloved little museum is the conversations with those who stop by. many of those conversations are magical, as i point out details on the quilts - like the light circle in the middle of this photo that has a dark circle of fabric on it, where my great grandmother sewed together a small piece of fabric to make up the circle - ensuring that nothing went to waste. or the fact that many of these fabrics were actually flour sacks that came in colorful calicos. here in denmark, people are a little incredulous at that, as apparently they only came in white or natural fabric here. 

a number of people i talked to, including the other person whose quilts are part of the exhibition, have expressed some surprising things. multiple people have said that we are showing the wrong side of the yoyo quilt above. we are most definitely not, as i know which side my grandmother considered the top side - and it's as it is above. the way that people tell me this is quite condescending, as if i'm a small, dull child who doesn't know back from front. and yet, this is the beautiful side of the yoyo quilt. 

the other surprising thing is how judgy people can be. there are four of these unfinished quilt tops that are perfect little 2x2-ish squares. they are completely hand sewn and they are the ones my mother remembers helping sew. her grandmother had had a stroke and couldn't get around, so she sat in her bed with piles of squares around her and sewed them together. and now, 80 years later, some danish ladies who otherwise know their handicrafts, inform me that she sewed them together wrong. they look utterly perfect to me, but her method was apparently a different one than the one they know, and so they characterize it as wrong, rather than being interested in a different technique. and it rather amazes me how much they seem to want to tell me this.

and it has me thinking about the slow stitch movement i followed back in the old bloggy days. they were that way too - very judgemental and condemning of those who did things differently than them. i wonder where the need to do that arises? why not just be fascinated by the way my great grandmother did it? why the need to judge it and deem it incorrect? why can't we embrace the amazing world of handiwork and appreciate the stories that we stitch into the cloth? why not be in awe of a woman who had had a stroke, but who could sit in her bed and stitch together small squares into perfect patterns. i know i couldn't do it. i love making quilts, but i need to lay them out and look at them and move the squares around and walk away and come back and move them around some more before sewing them together with my sewing machine. i am in awe of what she could do. and while i am interested in how she sewed it together, i don't think it could possibly be the wrong. after all these quilts and quilt tops are all still here after nearly 100 years, so she must have done something right.


Saturday, November 05, 2022

stitched stories

this is the text i wrote to go with the exhibition of my great grandmother's quilts.

these quilts and quilt tops were made by annie barnhart (1863-1946) of salem, south dakota. she was my maternal great-grandmother. i think she would be amazed to know that her rather prolific handiwork found its way to denmark with her great-granddaughter. 
my mother told a story from her childhood, of her grandmother, ill and bound to her bed at her daughter’s home in sergeant bluff, iowa, sewing away on these quilts. she had stacks of squares of different colors and she just spent her days, sewing them together. mom even said her eyesight wasn’t so great anymore, so the color combinations and the designs are even more amazing considering that fact. and i can’t even begin to count the number of hours that went into them. 

mom was born in 1939 and if her grandmother died in 1946, she must have been a small girl. she told me that she got to help do some of the stitching, so she had very fond memories of her grandmother working on them. i’m so glad that i know that and that she shared it before she lost those memories to alzheimer’s in her later years. 

i look at these quilts and i think of all the memories that are stitched into them that i don’t have access to. the stories behind all the old dresses and flour sacks that were cut into squares and sewn together by hand. some of the fabrics are surely 100 years old. i wish they could talk and tell of the occasions they were worn to – dances, parties, church, everyday life. i wish i could access those stories. 

sometimes, i feel like if i sit very still and i’m quiet enough, i will be able to hear them whisper their stories to me. i think one of the magical things about quilts is that they are very representative of their times – the fabrics used, the way they are stitched. they are quite literally the very fabric of their time. and they tell us a story even if we can’t necessarily hear the stories they tell. 

i feel privileged to share them all with you in this very magical place, across an ocean and a world away from where they were made. i hope that great grandmother annie is looking down and smiling. 

and i hope she likes the small mini-quilts that i made, using fabrics gifted to me by two friends, each with their own stories – mini quilts that i feel are a dialogue between me and those amazing women, continuing the tradition of telling stories through quilting in our family.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

pretty little companion

this little beauty went home with one of my colleagues today. when he came to pick her up, he sat with her for awhile on the couch, to get to know her. and she took to him right away, settling in with him and purring and relaxing and even closing her eyes in contentment. hollister is wandering around looking for her, but he'll be ok. i'm looking forward to hearing how they do together. having a lively little kitten, even if she is a bit shy, just might be a life-changing experience. she's a special one. 

Thursday, October 27, 2022

it was bound to happen

husband came down with the dreaded virus this week. i had my 4th booster a week ago on monday and felt pretty blah for several days afterwards, running a low-grade fever and generally feeling unwell. husband got his 4th booster last thursday and so when he felt the same tiredness and low-grade fever on saturday, we thought it was just the jab. alas, he got worse instead of better and by sunday night, he was pounding nyquil and had asked me for a scarf to soothe his sore throat. monday morning, his eyes were glassy and he was generally miserable and he tested positive with a home test. he'd been exposed at work two days before his jab to a colleague who was feeling fine, but tested positive in the evening after being at work all day. so far, i haven't shown any signs, nor have i tested positive. so fingers crossed, i will escape. it feels rather strange, after escaping it all the time that it's finally come to us. i think we were starting to feel a little invincible. and to be honest, i still am, though i hate to say that out loud. he's on the mend now and while he stayed home from work, he did actually get up and get dressed and even do a little building today. he says he feels like he's over the worst of it, but that his body needs to catch up. from what i read, he's still contagious, so i'm keeping my distance (i hung out in the kitchen and slept on the couch, which thankfully we moved out there). i really don't want to get it. i hope the timing of my jab will save me this time around.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

out of travel practice

after two and a half years of pandemic, i was out of practice traveling when i went to valencia the other week. lies. actually, i had done another trip to amsterdam a few weeks before. but still, i felt out of practice. when i went to amsterdam, i flew from billund, which seems like it doesn't count, since it's kind of not a real airport. anyway, i digress. this time, the trip started in copenhagen, which is still my favorite airport. 

since we were filming and recording a podcast, i had a lot of gear, so i had to have tickets where i could check two bags, despite flying shorter distances within europe. that meant that my ticket was business class. on air france. the very first time i ever flew business class was on air france, so i had good associations (that one was from atlanta to paris in about 2000, so a little different), but being out of practice, i didn't really know what to expect. and one hears so much negativity about air travel after the pandemic. 

and i have to say that air france has done nothing but up their game. the flight attendants were amazing, as was the smoked salmon croissant, the yogurt and the champagne. they were friendly, not snooty, very service-minded (topping off the bubbles, yes please!). it is amazing what great service and the feeling of being seen does for your stress levels. i was so relaxed when we arrived.

it was so fun looking out the window and being ahead of the engine. that's the mediterranean down there, as this was on the trip home, as we left valencia. i'll admit i feel a little shallow when i think about how much i enjoy being in business class. it's the same plane. we all get there at the same time. but the extra smiles and topping off your bubbles make a difference, they really do. plus, all the bags made all the flights and came off the belt close to the beginning. it just felt like luxury. and air france rocked it. i would never have expected that, but it seems they've really stepped up their game after the pandemic. too bad none of the other airlines seem to have done the same (i'm looking at you air canada and lufthansa).

the business class tickets even entitled us to the air france business lounge at charles de gaul during our four hour layover on the way home. what luxury! it was a great trip. and even if it's a little bit shallow of me, i really did enjoy flying business class. it had been too long. 

Saturday, October 22, 2022

watching the sunrise from a plane

i had the privilege of watching the sun rise over europe as i headed from copenhagen to paris (and on to valencia) last week. it went from purple to pink to purple again and pink again and finally, as we were coming in to land at CDG, i could even see the eiffel tower. and i felt consciously aware of the profound privilege of getting to travel again. the world is a wondrous place if we pay attention. and i'll admit it also helped my appreciation that i was in business class, even if it was a short flight.

valencia stole my heart

after two long pandemic years, it was so nice to travel again. and even better, i got to travel somewhere new! i went to valencia in spain. it was for work, but happily it coincided with spain's national day (they also celebrate columbus, apparently), so i had one day off in the midst of it. or actually, not really, since i sat at the hotel and worked for most of that day. which wasn't really that bad, because it's quite energizing to work from a different location. and at least i got to experience the festive atmosphere of everyone having a day off mid-week. and i ate some truly delicious food.

it was perfect weather - warm, balmy evenings, where a dress and sandals were enough and no jacket was needed. the food in valencia is incredible everywhere we tried. they have so much local produce, so it hasn't traveled to get there, which also makes it surprisingly affordable. the tomatoes were probably the best i've had since those from my dad's garden at the height of summer during my childhood. 

it also struck me that all this talk of inflation and a recession was really not in evidence in valencia. there weren't empty stores and restaurants and bars were full and stores were buzzing. it made me wonder how much that story is over-blown by the media. i do know that inflation is real (every time i go to buy butter and milk), but i'm not sure that people are holding back all that much. unemployment is at historic lows and it seemed like the economy was buzzing along in spain. i wonder what storylines we are being sold and to what purpose.

i wish i'd had more time in valencia. i'd love to have explored a whole lot more. the cathedral there claims to house the real holy grail and i didn't get a chance to see it. since it was work, we had some long days, but they were also great and on the whole, i felt that old feeling that i used to feel - that my batteries are recharged by travel and new experiences. i will definitely be returning to valencia, hopefully with husband and the child (who is actually a young woman these days) in tow. although i will never get to experience it for the first time again, seeing it through their eyes for the first time might be a close second. it's such a chill, laid-back, secure-in-itself city, that it's definitely worth another visit.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

what would great grandma think?

i have a stack of quilt tops that my great grandmother made. mom said she could remember, as a little girl, seeing her bed-bound grandmother, who didn't see all that well, sitting in bed, sewing squares together by hand. it's absolutely amazing to me that she could do it and keep the pattern of the squares perfectly if she wasn't able to lay it all out on a table or a wall or the floor. when i lay out a quilt, i have to see it, photograph it, walk away, move things around, do it all over again. but she could sit in bed, sewing away and make the most beautiful quilts. i'm so pleased to display them at my favorite little museum in connection the what we call "handicrafts days" at the end of the month. i wonder what my great grandmother from salem, south dakota would think of her quilts being in denmark, displayed in a rather alternative way - one that invites people to touch them and look closely. though i never knew her, i think she'd love it. and oh the stories her stitches would tell us if only we could hear them.

Sunday, October 09, 2022

rainbows are a sign of hope

i learned this week that a good friend, who i have seen way too little over the past couple of pandemic years, just got a cancer diagnosis. i visited her today, she is hopeful, as are her doctors and we had a really lovely visit. when i saw this rainbow on the way home, i felt like it was a clear sign of hope. that's my story, and i'm sticking to it.

* * *

i love this story on the library of congress website about lizzo playing james madison's crystal flute. they have the most amazing flute collection in the world and they saw lizzo, who is a very accomplished flautist, as a way to reach a whole new audience. well done!!

Thursday, October 06, 2022

pears and blueberries

it's been a good year for pears and blueberries. the apple blossoms all got hit by a hard frost, but the pear blossoms survived and our pear tree produced an abundance of beautiful pears this year. our blueberries down by the lake are very happy as well and produced more than ever before.

so after freezing some and making jam, i decided to cook them up together and try my hand at making fruit leather. the recipe is from my favorite river cottage preserves cookbook. it's the book i turn to again and again. 

once they were cooked down, i strained everything out and got this beautiful puree. it was such a gorgeous color. i put in some honey and spread it out on a baking sheet and put it in the oven to dry. i had enough for two pans. 

it was in the oven on a low temperature (50°c) for about 12 hours to get dry enough. and then i rolled it up, just like the fruit leathers we would get at REI as a kid. only so much more flavorful!

i cut them up into smaller pieces and put them in a jar in the fridge. now husband can take a couple along on his long bike rides for quick energy and i can eat some as a snack. i should really see if i can pick one more batch of blueberries (i've still got a basket of pears) and make one more batch before the season is over.