Tuesday, 30 September 2008

September Deadlines !

I have been sewing flat out lately to meet the September deadlines for various swaps . I managed the Birthday Block swap and Kate's ATC Challenge with plenty of time to spare but only just made it with my FPC for Brigitte ! What I hadn't managed was to complete my Journal Quilt for the challenge I joined on Suzanne's blog some weeks ago and thereby hangs a tale !

The challenge was to make 3 journal quilts over 3 months all depicting 'Nature' - now I have never made a journal quilt, managed a couple of journal pages a while back, but not a quilt, so this became a double challenge! All was going well on a landscape I'd put together and was busily thread painting and near to completing it when disaster stuck in the shape of William

(innocently !) aided and abetted by DH !

One rule I 've always had is no drinks allowed in my sewing room other than water - until Disaster Day that is!! DH, thinking he was doing me a great favour appeared in my room bearing a cup of coffee and because I was engrossed in what I was doing, I said to put it down and thank you very much, meaning to take it out again once I'd finished!! What I failed to see was where he had put it down (next to my JP) and that I also had a second visitor - William! Well, we all know what happened next - Will jumped up onto the work surface , collided with the mug of coffee which promptly changed my landscape from a quilt in progress to a soggy mess and no amount of soaking or gentle persuasion made any difference to it , and into the bin it went !

My own fault you are saying for having the coffee there - and yes, I do agree with you as this is typical of what happens when you break rules !! It still didn't alter the fact that I was one JP short and running out of time. Having made my apologies to Suzanne and the rest of the Group thinking I would never get anything done in time, especially as I had no heart to try another landscape - I suddenly decided yesterday to change tack slightly and came up with this

Not quilted or bound yet ( but it will be in the next day or so) a little fun item to represent the bounty and colours of Nature. Raw edge applique and some TP, not quite what I started out to make in the beginning, but I am quite pleased with it and have managed to post about it hours before the deadline! Phew!!!
And before I forget yet again (!!) I must say Thank You to Jo in Tas for the lovely parcel of Christmas goodies that arrived last week after her give away! Christmas FQs, ric rac, buttons, bells and the smallest hanger ever ! I can certainly see an extra something in the stocking for one of the younger family members thanks to Jo !!

Blogger's done it again - turned the picture and won't space between the paragraphs!!!!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Working Overtime !

In spite of all the drama over the last few days, I have actually managed to get into my sewing room and finish off a few things !

Firstly, there is the Amy Butler 'Birdie Sling' which I had made a start on just before going to the UK.

This is a BIG bag! It was reasonably easy to put together in the end, and the fabrics were a delight to work with! It will probably end up going to DGD1 as she is 'in to' big bags at the moment.

Then my fabric postcard from Brigitte arrived , which I am ashamed to admit I had forgotten about (hanging my head !). Brigitte and I have been doing a little private swap for some months now and it all started off because we were the only 2 French residents in some of the Yahoo! FPC Groups taking part in the swaps.

My card from Brigitte is probably a better representation of 'Postage Stamps' than mine to her !

Being in a rush, the best thing I could come up with was to take a pic of an enamel wall plaque I have of an antique postcard, and turn it into a FPC using T-shirt transfer paper and a bit of FME , I only hope she likes it !! Don't now why the pic is so dark again !

Lastly, I was looking for some hand sewing to do whilst over in the UK , and came across Stitchers' Angels . Now I know the swap has been closed this long time, but I did like the little sewing bag that was on the Blog so I've decided to become an 'unofficial' angel , well at least for this bag !! Now it has been many a year since I used a needle to do anything more than sew down quilt bindings (!!) but I thought I could probably manage a bit of back stitching - Voila !!

I must say I enjoyed making it and in fact am considering having a go at the Noah's Ark
free stitchery BOM - fun to look at and nothing too big or complicated !! Well - its got to be better than watching repeats on the TV !!!

So all in all, quite a productive couple of days, and all that remains now is to clear up this mess before starting the next project !!

Thursday, 25 September 2008


I've learnt a new buzz phrase over the last couple of days -' in my power' !

Our problem card is with a UK based multi-national bank, as like most ex-pats, we maintain a bank account 'at home' to cover a number of occassions , spending money when we go back, birthday & Christmas cheques for the family, buying over the internet or what ever comes up. Over the last 2 days I have spent hours trying to get someone at this bank to talk us through what is happening with our account and this has got to have been the most frustrating experience in my whole life !!

I won't bore you with the full story, but just let me tell you about the start of the saga !!

I call the number left on our ansaphone (by an automated message !!)and spent the next 10 minutes pressing * or # as directed until I am told to key in my 3 digit security number - NO WAY as up to this point there has been no indication as to who(or what) I have contacted, so having refused, I hold as told and get disconnected !! 3 attempts later by sheer persistance I get through to a human - Hallelujiah !!

Human - Good morning! You are through to A Girl and in order to help you with your problem, please answer the following security questions !
Me - Do I have a problem then ?
A Girl - It is not ' in my power' to answer that question until you have answered.. etc etc !
Me - Well, before I answer any security questions, can you please confirm that I am connected to A Bank as so far this hasn't been established ?
A Girl - It is not 'in my power' to answer that question ......etc, etc !
Me - Oh Dear! We do have a problem then don't we - perhaps I should speak to your superior before we go any further ?
A Girl - Oh well, in that case I can confirm that this is A Bank ! (Duh!!)
Me - THANK YOU!! ( why isn't there a sarcastic type font ??)

Several questions later we established that I did have a problem as you all know, but being the nosey busybody that I am ,I wanted to have a little more information about this scam,after all it is my money here, and so off we went again !!

Me - Can you tell me.........
A Girl - It is not 'in my power'..........
Me - May I ask............
A Girl - It is not 'in my power'...........

Well, you've got the drift by now haven't you !! This went on for what seemed like hours and at the end of it all I still had zero information - but what really finished me off was that, eventually realising I was not going to get any sense out of this person, I decided to quit gracefully at which point she told me to "Have a good day, and please be assured that I have done everything 'in my power' to help you " !!!!!!!!!!

I have to tell you that I was not a happy bunny after this conversation and I am afraid I redialled A Bank (on a different number !!),in a very foul mood !! I was passed from department to department causing me to rant and rave even more ( Oh - I am sooo ashamed *VBG*) until eventually some poor unfortunate took the time and trouble to deal intelligently with my queries.

Is it me ?? Should this really have been necessary ?? Does the old saying ' the customer is king' no longer apply ?? Do I not have the right to be informed about what is happening to MY bank account ??

I can only hope that the ever present threat that "this telephone call may be recorded" was carried out and that someone, somewhere down the line will realise the need to deal with customers and their problems by providing the requested information, after all we help pay the salaries don't we ?

It would also be nice if this was done without being passed through multitudes of automated exchanges and staff members making supercilious remarks about 'power' ,or whatever the OK phrase of the day is, as all this achieves is anger and frustration, which does neither party any good in the long run !!

I do appreciate the need for security in this day and age, but should it be at the cost of good manners and understanding ?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

What a Welcome Home!!

Just back home after a lovely few days spent in the UK with DD & DGD ! The bank balance is looking a little sorrier than when I left (!) but is, in fact , even worse than we thought ! Within 30 minutes of getting home, just sitting down to a nice cup of coffee and the phone rang to tell us that there was a potential problem with our credit card ! Somehow, someone has got hold of our details and been on a spending spree !!

In some respects we have been lucky that it was spotted very quickly and as far as we know approx £250 has been used, but now we have the inconvenience of having our credit account frozen until the transactions have been investigated by the credit card fraud people, and until they are satisified that it is a genuine fraudulent transaction we will have to foot the bill !!

How do you protect from this kind of theft ? We only use this credit card for internet purchases, only use secure sites, never give our information to anyone, in fact this card never leaves 'home', but still its been hacked into by someone !! I feel particularly guilty about it all as I use it more than DH for buying my quilting fabrics !!

So now we start the painfully long-winded process of getting our account cleared and a refund against the amount taken !! All I can say is that I hope the person who bought a Nokia phone using my credit card gets a lot of pleasure out of it !!!

Welcome Home indeed !!!!!!!!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Long Weekend Away

How does the song go - " All my bags are packed........" (John Denver 1943 - 1997)

I'm flying off for a few days with DD and DGD in the UK, so no blogging for a little while , but will 'see' everyone this time next week !

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Another Mini !!

My Miniature Booty 2 mini arrived this morning from Australia and just before I leave for the UK !! It is just so pretty & delicate that you can't help but love it !! Thank You very much Kate it is great !!

The photo by no means does it justice, the colours are muted, but so much more definite in real life ! I tried taking a pic indoors and out and as neither of them turned out that brilliant (!) have posted the better one !!
And a couple of close ups

Thanks again Kate, and thanks also to Toni for her hard work !!

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Back on the Canal Bank !

The last time I wrote about the Nantes to Brest canal, we'd gone on a recce ready for our next cycle outing. What I didn't tell you was that we found that this lovely flat'ish' canal path suddenly started to go up rather a steep incline!! Not like the passes through the Alps that the Tour de France cyclists have to face (!) but bad enough for someone like me who's knees still turn to jelly quite easily!!

The canal climbs some 150 metres in 1 kilometre, and the water is controlled with a series of locks and holding ponds - quite an engineering feat back in Napoleonic times!! This is just one of the water 'ladders' that we came across consisting of 13 locks all within metres of each other - couldn't get them all in, but you can understand the theory of it all.

Having found this incline, and being the coward that I am, we (the Royal we that is!!) decided to change direction and head south from Josselin rather than keep to our original northward route !!

The weather has been somewhat kinder to us the last few days, so Friday we set off with our bikes to explore the new route ! Definitely flat (!) , the towpath runs along the river at this stretch rather than along a manmade channel , and is just so pretty!

We even found a working water mill, not very picturesque, as the original stone building has just about been dwarfed by modern additions

Back to the car park in the shadow of the chateau at Josselin

and while DH was putting the bikes back on the carrier, I spotted these on the opposite bank

I was too far away to make out what the creeper covering the conifers was , but don't they look
A very pleasant afternoon and a really bonus, as within minutes of getting into the car to drive home - this happened !!!!!!

Is that lucky or what !!!!

Big Stitch Quilting- cont'd

Ginger_Curls left a comment on my last post, but unfortunately she is on 'no reply' ,so this is just a short note in case she visits again!!

I don't know why my photos don't enlarge to be honest, I upload them according to instructions, but then I have never understood the perculiarities of Blogger or why certain things happen (or not as is the case !!)

So for Ginger_Curls and anyone else interested, please take a look at Patti's post about what she calls 'utility quilting' (yet another name !) and her photos can be enlarged I promise you !!! The other way is to Google 'Big Stitch Quilting' - lots of links to look at !

Friday, 12 September 2008

Big Stitch Quilting

On my wanders around Blogland lately , I've come across the term Big Stitch Quilting quite a lot, which really caught my attention as I have a dreadful hang up about hand quilting. I never have enough hands to do everything at the same time and it always seems a bit like trying to juggle with 2 left hands!! ( I know- practice! practice!! practice !!!) I even tried taking private lessons from a lovely local lady who does the most exquisite quilting, spent several afternoons with her , battling along with the (bleep !) hoop & thimble as well as the French language and at the end of it all I still couldn't manage it, but we had so many laughs trying it was worth the effort !!

Reading through various posts, it sounds to me that Big Stitch is the same as (or near enough) the quilting I tried some time back, but I know it as Naive Quilting and has probably been around for quite some time before I 'discovered ' it, can't even remember where now. Whatever the correct term, it was a blessing as it meant I didn't have to use a hoop :-)

This was before I got up the courage to try machine quilting and was fed up with 'tie-ing',
so - these are a few scrappy quilts showing my version of Big Stitch , not heavily quilted, but quilted !

It's feels good to be 'in the race' for a change instead of having to catch up !!

Breaking News !!! I've won a prize!!! Just received a message from Jo in Tas to say I've won one of the parcels in her 50th post Give Away- this is a 'first' I can tell you !!!! Which reminds me, I am nearing 100 posts, so in true Blogging tradition I will be having my own Give Away. As I've also just passed 3, 000 visitors it'll be a double celebration (!) and I'll be giving away two prizes but it won't be until I get back from the UK on 23 September !!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Bags & Birds and Whatnots!

I enjoyed making the bags shown in the last post, so much so that I splashed out on some Amy Butler fabric to try a couple of her patterns, and in the post this week I got :

I think I'll try this one and maybe this one , but when I'll get started goodness knows!!

I'm off to the UK for a few days on the 19th to spend some time with DD & DGD in Manchester, but before then I need to make the promised table runner to take with me for DD, at least think about my ALQS mini and get my September Birthday block finished and in the post !

The rest of the time will be spent shopping and making meals for one to stock up the freezer for DH as he's staying home this time to look after Megan & William - well, we girls need some time alone together every now and then don't we !!

One thing I have promised myself we'll make time for before I go is a trip to the cinema in Rennes to see the Original Version (with French subs !) of 'Mama Mia' and this is one time DH will agree to go without a murmur as he is a huge ABBA fan !!!

A photo I forgot to post on the Paris trip was this

I was amazed at the number of tourist in the square at Notre Dame standing with their backs to the Cathedral with their hand stuck in the air !! It seems that the latest craze is to entice the sparrows to eat out of your hand - and the birds were loving it !!!!!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Signs of Autumn

Although it is only the end of the first week in September, Autumn is making its arrival know in no uncertain way ! Whilst we haven't suffered quite as much as other parts of Europe , the weather over the last couple of days hasn't been fit for man nor beast - persistant torrential rain and gale force winds have been the order of the day.

This time last year was delight, all the trees turning into the most magnificent colours due to very warm mild warm days and very cold nights !! This year after the storms , we don't have many leaves left !

Even though there are still a few stragglers in the garden defying the elements

Most scenes are like this

...or this !

Part delivery of logs for the stoves , well at this rate you never can tell how soon we'll need them !!

Still as the old saying goes ' every cloud......' so at least this week some time to spend sewing !! My lovely friend Jeannie (no blog) has persuaded me to try my hand at a couple of other bags, so I found this and made this


The little wallet is a Lazy Girl Designs puchased pattern and not a freebie like this
This is the second one I've made, the first went to its new home and I forgot to take a photo ! They are just so easy to make and a great deal better than plastic bags ! France (like a number of European countries) actually 'banned ' plastic grocery bags some 2 years ago now , so here we are all used to taking along our own 'shopping bags' , and what could be nicer than this ! If you are looking for patterns by the way there's a good deal here .
Making a couple of bags doesn't mean that I have not done any patchwork - I have in fact finished putting my Tumbler top together and it is ready for quilting (don't ask when, it will have to join the queue with the other 5 that are waiting !!) and I've also chopped up my Layer Cake and made enough blocks for a boxed squares quilt like this , but I haven't had a chance to take pics of either of them yet !!
So all in all a good sign that things are getting back to normal at 'Chez Nous ' !!!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

One Day in Paris

We paid out first visit to Paris many moons before we ever dreamed of relocating to France, fell in love with the City there and then and ever since have tried to visit at least once a year. Like most tourists ,our first visits were a manic dash from landmark to landmark which resulted in very sore feet and being too tired to enjoy the whole experience. Now Paris is reachable by an easy train journey ,and, having grown older and wiser (!!), we make sure that we start with a very small agenda each trip, and use the rest of the time to sit back, enjoy, and watch the world pass by !!

The purpose of this trip was to visit the Basilica at Sacre Coeur , the one main attraction we have never visited for some reason, but before braving the Paris Metro to set off across the city ,
we called in at the Tour Montparnasse . Situated very conveniently just outside our arrival station, Montparnasse, it was just a case of falling out of the TGV, after another smooth and fast trip, straight into the Tower .
This was our second visit, but the first one in daylight, the last being on a dark and windy November evening nearly a year ago - 56 floors plus another 3 open to the elements, this is quite a high building for Europe ! The views at night were incredible with all the main landmarks picked out by floodlights and the Tour Eiffel sparkling with what seemed like millions of coloured lights and crisscrossed by laser strobes ! Day time was equally spectacular - there are not many buildings in Paris that look down on the Eiffel Tower !

I have a confession to make - I have NEVER been up the Eiffel Tower as I am afraid of heights, particularly over open spaces (!!) so Tour Montparnasse was a gift in many ways !Unfortunately, the weather was very overcast and cloudy so the photos haven't come out too clearly,
but the sun did make a feeble attempt to come out, and I am sure you get the idea !

and the 360 degree views of the city were still spectacular, well worth the 7 Euro ($10) fee ! I also managed a (very blurry) photo of our next destination well across the city

Sacre Coeur from Tour Montparnasse

and this is what the Tower looked like from the other end !

The Paris Metro is something else! In all my travels I've never come across anything quite like it-DH is always a little nervous about using it, but me , I think it is great !! I also love the older stations and their obvious Art Nouveau links

Aren't they wonderful !

Walking up from the metro we got our first view of the basilica ,perched above the rest of Montmartre in all its glory !

and the nearer we got , the more awesome it became

If you could bear to turn your back on it, this is what you could see

Paris laid out at your feet! Not quite the same scope as from the Tower, but impressive nevertheless!

Not that old, being finished and opened for services in 1891, but it is magnificent! Photographs were not allowed inside the building, rightly so, but here are a few of the outside

and people up in the dome too !!

We thought best to pass on trying that one, what with my wheezy chest and DH and his 'dicky ticker' - what a pair of old crocks !!!!

Lunch was a very leisurely affair in a small restaurant we found down one of the side streets, but who was in a rush !! Eventually, we tore ourselves away from Sacre Coeur and wandered though the streets of Montmartre taking in the wonderful fabric market of St Pierre and all the other fabric and embellishment shops lining the streets. I didn't buy anything other than a couple of zips (!!) though as there was just so much to look through and not enough time to do so, it really needs a full day all to itself !!

Back down to the Metro and a quick stop off at Notre Dame, one of our favourite places

A stroll along the Seine, passing the bateaux mouches plying their trade

to Pont Neuf to check if La Samaritaine has miraculously re-opened over night - no chance !! This wonderful Art Deco building is still closed for major renovation and refurbishment to make it safe to the public. As part of the LVMH (Louis Vuitton- Moet- Hennesey ) Group, one would have thought that money would be available for this task but - it will remain closed until at least 2011 !!

Nearing the end of a long, but very enjoyable day, we just had enough time left for an evening meal and a glass (or two !) of red wine before making our way back to Montparnasse, find our seats on the TGV and settle down for the journey back to Rennes ! I couldn't help but wonder though what the owner of this cycle thought when he came back to collect it !!!!