Saturday, 19 December 2009

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum.....

I was recently amused to read Chantal's story about buying a Christmas tree. Yep, can relate to the ins and outs of that. Having grown up in England, I was used to having an artificial tree with a string of lights on and for me, that was really Christmassy. 21 years ago I moved to Austria where Christmas trees are the real thing, for goodness sake and you only bring them in and decorate them on the 24th, not put them up at the end of November and have them jollily twinkling away for the whole of the Christmas period. I always found it a bit of a chore to go and buy a real tree, transport it home, attach it to its base, remember to add water or else the needles would fall off sooner than they already did etc etc. Not to mention the fact that I always missed the date when you can dispose of your tree, so therefore had it forlornly hanging around outside for months. Oh, the memories of that uncomplicated, artificial tree. However, living in Austria and now in Switzerland, I felt it would be unheard of to mention the word "artificial" in the same sentence as the words "Christmas tree". Especially as some people in Switzerland (and I have experienced this) go to a designated area of the forest on a special date and CHOP DOWN THEIR OWN CHOSEN TREE. Imagine my surprise and delight, when, a few years ago, I went round to my ex-neighbour and good friend Monique's house for a coffee around the beginning of December and saw that she had a lovely artificial Christmas tree. Oh, how lovely, I exclaimed. Yes, she said, isn't it. We've had it for years now and always put it away carefully so that it looks nice year after year. No apologies for it not being real, no excuses about not wanting real candles on a tree with 2 small children around. Well, I thought that was my license to buy, so I went out a few days later and purchased an artificial tree. My husband was shocked (he is Austrian), but when we put it up again this year, he did comment on how nice it looked....And Monique? I met up with her last Saturday and asked her if she had her tree up. No, she said. After 18 years of an artificial tree, we thought it about time we got a real one!!

And talking of Christmas trees, how about this easy decoration to make with the kids:



Cut out a Christmas tree from corrugated green paper. Cut out a hole large enough to accomodate a Christmas bauble - our hole is a bit wonky, but you can maybe help with the cutting out. Cut a smaller hole above this hole. Take your bauble and 2 lengths of thin ribbon in green and red (or other Christmassy colours). Thread ribbons through the hook in the top of the bauble and then thread the 2 ribbons first from front to back through the large hole and then from back to front through the smaller hole in the Christmas tree. Tie the four ends of the ribbon in a bow at the front so that you can't see the smaller hole. Add star stickers to decorate if you wish. Pierce a small hole right at the top of the tree and add thread to hang up.

Have a great Christmas everyone. Back in the New Year!

Friday, 11 December 2009

In the interest of integration....

As you might know, we have recently moved from Basel to our present address near to Zürich. Keen to meet new people and integrate into the community here, I always say yes to any invites I receive and I never cancel. This week one of my neighbours had asked me if I wanted to go with her to Aquafit at the school swimming pool. As this is only a five minutes' walk and as I do like water etc, I saw it as a good opportunity to do a bit more, well, integrating. I thought it was going to be like keep-fit, or aerobics, in the water - you know something jolly and a little bit sporty. Instead it was extremely, excruciatingly embarassing. First of all, we had to put on what looked like a huge, black nappy thing, velcro strips and all, to help us stay afloat. Then the whole "lesson" consisted of jogging round the pool, with a couple of minutes of other exercises in the middle. Have you ever tried jogging in water? It feels a bit like that dream, you know when you want to run away from something, but you can't get away fast enough. Well, the others had all had 8 lessons, so knew the technique but I just ended up feeling self-conscious and ridiculous and wishing I could get out. We spent a good half an hour going round the pool, jogging, I should say, in a figure of eight and had to criss-cross with other people in the middle. Well, I was almost always too slow and consequently constantly missed my "gap". The crunch came when, for one part of this figure of eight circuit, we had to take 2 polystyrene floats, wedge them under each arm and, well, flap with them whilst still jogging. I have no idea what the point of this exercise was, I just knew that I was doing it wrong. As soon as I "flapped", my whole body catapulted upwards and out of the water like Superman or something. But, get this - when the others did it, their bodies stayed in the water. How weird is that? I'm actually having delayed hysterics writing this! No, not my thing. The lesson to be learned here? Integration is good, but there are limits:/

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Don't judge a book by its cover and CELTA, I'm in!

Actually, that's just what I normally do. So when I received this book from my Uncle Brian I was bemused to say the least:



To me the cover promised Mills and Boon romance, definitely not my scene. Anyway, I gave it a go and it was actually a good read. It is set in France and America, with the main character, Mischa, returning to France in later life to conquer his demons.
BTW Santa Montefiore is Tara Palmer-Tomkinson's sister, just FYI.

I also recently read this book:




This was terrific. If you like Dan Brown, you'll love this book. A real thriller, faster-moving than the Dan Brown novels. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Anyway, that may be the last of my leisure-reading for the moment, as I am busy ordering books on teaching English as a foreign langauge. Yes, I made it onto the CELTA course in January, so my reading matter will be more theoretical for a while. The interview went well and was not as scary as I thought it would be. I've got to complete and pass the course now - keep your fingers crossed for me.....

Thursday, 26 November 2009

This is for Juanita!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I went to a party this week with my husband and children. I got talking to my husband's newest male collegue and the inevitable question arose. "What do you do?", he asked. My heart sank. All too often I've said I'm a stay-at-home Mum to see people's eyes glaze over and it's also a complete conversation stopper. At this point, may I say, if you are guilty of your eyes glazing over when faced with this reply to your question, please learn a couple of useful sentences to get yourself over this, something like "Yes, well that's a very worthwhile career" or "I bet you could tell us a story or two", or something like that. But, I digress. So, yes the dreaded question had been asked. This time, quick as a flash, I told this chap that I was a Domestic Engineer. He was suitably impressed. "Oh, oh, yes, I see," he said. Then a frown formed on his face. "What is that, exactly?", he asked. "Well", I said, "you are probably more familiar with the term Hausfrau". At this point he laughed so much that I thought he was going to spill his drink. And I had to laugh too. And Juanita? See her blog and more specifically her profile. Thanks for the tip, Juanita!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Recycling rules OK!

I was invited to a party last night with my husband and children. Fortunately I had a fairly new top to wear, but it needed a necklace. As I had to pop into Wintherthur (Winti) on Monday morning, I thought I would quickly stop by the Bead Shop and pick up some beads in the colour of the top and make a necklace. Not so. Both the Bead Shop and the Craft Shop in the same street are closed on Monday mornings. Duhh! Probably to compensate for being open on Saturday and, anyway, who on earth wants to buy beads on a Monday morning ? Apart from me, that is. So I came home and rummaged in my bead stuff and found a necklace which I had made some time ago, but never worn, as I found it too purple in the end.



However, I did like the pendant on this necklace and had made it by re-using the amythest nugget and chips from something else and reworking them onto sterling headpins and a large sterling silver jumpring. And the stones were just the right colour for the top. So I just detatched the pendant and added it to a ready-made cable choker and Bob was my Uncle, if you see what I mean...et voilà:

amethyst choker necklace

That all took a couple of minutes - quickest piece of jewellery I've ever made..

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Jewellery Organiser


I'm always looking for ways to organise my stuff and have finally got round to finishing off this necklace/jewellery holder. It is hanging on the inside of my wardrobe door:


Not that it was rocket science or anything - just that anything involving sewing causes me to break out in a cold sweat - I'm actually a bit scared of my sewing machine - I have to psyche myself up to use it. First of all I found a coat hanger, the kind which you can hang trousers over, like this:



I then took an IKEA cushion cover that I no longer used, cut it down to size and hemmed it (is that the right terminology) from the wrong side around all 4 sides, leaving a big gap to turn it to the right side and then hand-stitching the "gap" from the right side. I think it's good to use a thickish material, as this cushions your necklaces from banging against the wardrobe door when you close it. Next, decide which side should be the front and fold the top over the bar of the coat hanger. I added a velcro "spot" to each of the top 2 corners and 2 more spots a few centimetres underneath to be able to "fold" the top few centimetres over the coat hanger and fasten. You could also sew it on. After this I hand-stitched some old-fashioned hooks and eyes onto the front part. I used the same colour thread as the cushion cover for this, but it would also look great in a contrasting colour. You have to play around a little bit with the position of the hooks and eyes - if they are too close together or too close underneath each other your necklaces will not have enough room to hang without getting tangled up with each other. The final stage was to decorate the upper part of the coat hanger - for this I used buttons, press-studs and glass stones that I had in my stash.



I then used a self-adhesive hook from TESA to hang it inside my wardrobe door.

Obviously, pieces of jewellery made from silver or other metal which could tarnish should be kept in air-tight containers, but this is fine for jewellery made from wire, cord etc.

The total cost was a few Swiss francs for the hooks and eyes -all other materials I already had. So now I can take my jewellery out of the shoe box I have been keeping it in since we moved house - hey, maybe I can use that shoe box for something! Watch this space.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

CELTA interview

I have applied to do a CELTA course at the beginning of next year. CELTA is the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. Having now been a stay at home Mum for nearly 9 years, I feel it is high time to edge my way back into the adult world and I am hoping that this qualification will enable me to teach English here in Switzerland on a freelance basis and so fit in with the school schedules of my children. My application for the course consisted of a fairly lengthy pre-interview task - grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation questions, a proof-reading task and a 500-word report. My application has been successful and I have now been invited to an interview this Friday, which will last for 4 hours (!) and consist of general information on the course, a group task and a one-to-one interview with a tutor to discuss the pre-interview task I submitted. Getting an interview does not mean that I have a place on the course. I have worked out that the last formal interview I had was in 1995, so naturally, I am feeling a little apprehensive, let alone the fact that I don't have anything really suitable to wear - obviously can't pole up in my normal "uniform" of jeans and a fleece! So, wish me luck and, if anyone has any comments, information or the like on the CELTA course, I would be really interested to hear them.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

New necklace

A few weeks ago I spent a very pleasant day in Zürich with my friend Jennifer, whom I know from Basel. Zürich is a throbbing metropole, with shops everywhere. In fact, I felt that my head was on a swivel, I didn't know what to look at first, and that was even before I'd got out of the railway station! I need to get out more! Anyway, alot of chatting was done, quite a bit of walking, several minutes admiring the lake, a nice lunch and then a wander around the narrow streets. It was there that we chanced upon the Bead Box bead shop and thought we might as well pop in (well, it would have been rude not to). A few beads were purchased and this is what I made with them.

cord necklace



I have been meaning to make something like this for a while and thought that knotting a bit of cord around a few beads would be mega straight-forward. But, actually, it was quite fiddly, as I kept thinking of things to add and then having to undo all the knots I'd made. Duhh! Still very enjoyable though.

You can see what Jennifer made with her beads here.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Hunting


I'm posting this story (apologies to those who have heard it), as it is typical of the sort of thing that happens to me. As you may know, we have recently moved to a new area. A few weeks ago, we invited the neighbours round one Saturday evening for drinks. We just invited our "row", which was the lady next door and the couple from the other "end" house, with their 12 year old son, so very small. I knew the man at the end house was something to do with hunting as, having been in their house briefly, I have seen they have antlers hanging on the wall etc. So I asked him if he had a hunting lodge (Jägerhütte), knowing this would fascinate my son Alex. BTW I thought a Jägerhütte was one of those things on stilts that hunters observe from. Anyway, yes he had a Jägerhütte and after the first drink he invited us all up to the Hütte the next evening to do some shooting (!?). He also mentioned he is often called out when deer are hit by cars and has to look for the deer to put it out of its misery. Bear in mind that we are now in Züri Duutsch (Swiss German, but Zürich area Swiss German) so I am not sure if I am getting the right end of the stick. So the invitation was accepted and times were arranged etc. I was beginning to feel a bit apprehensive about this shooting thing and also if it was suitable for children. I thought we might have to dress up in plus fours and camouflage etc, not that I have any plus fours, but you know what I mean. So, next day, late afternoon the neighbours came round to check that we were ready and said they just had to get the guns ready etc! CRIPES!! We set off in convoy, drove around 7km down country lanes and through sleepy villages before arriving at the hut in the forest. It was a proper Hütte, a little wooden house with benches in, a kitchenette etc. So now to the shooting part. Imagine the look on my face when 2 tables were set up. One for us to sit round with drinks and snacks and the other one with the AIR RIFLES ON, with little targets set up in the space in front of the Hütte......

The moral of this story - although I have lived in Switzerland for over 8 years and think that I am quite proficient at understanding the language, I still don't always get it!!

I was pretty relieved tho' ......

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Castles and Cakes

The children are on the second week of their Autumn half-term holiday and we have quite a busy week planned, as it is my son's 6th birthday on Thursday. We are off into town today to spend his birthday money - when I asked him what he wanted to spend it on, he cooly replied that he would see what he could get for that amount! Logical really. Then tomorrow we are making the Birthday Cake for the party on Thursday. Now, as I have mentioned before, I am not naturally domesticated and things like making a birthday cake can, quite frankly, send me into a flat spin. This time last year was a good example. I asked my son what kind of cake he would like for his birthday, thinking along the lines of chocolate or carrot. "A Knights' Castle one", he replied. Aha. So I thought about it for a while and reckoned I only had to make 2 loaf cakes to make a castle with 2 towers. I had got the 2 cakes in the oven when I had a horrible thought. I had cleaned the oven the day before and realized now, when the cakes were beginning to rise, that I had forgotten to clean the stuff off the oven door!!! Well, that was that. I couldn't use those cakes and risk poisoning 8 children. So the cakes were dumped and the oven door was scrubbed to within an inch of its life. Now, at this stage, a normal person would have just gone out and bought 2 loaf-shaped cakes, cut them up and decorated them. However, 2 of the children coming to the party had a wheat allergy, so I had to make the cakes again myself using non-wheat flour. Duhh!! It took me until 11pm and then I spent the whole morning decorating the cakes to make them ressemble a castle of sorts.



After all that, my son, over-excited by his presents and his friends, barely gave the cake a second glance. And the wheat-allergy kids? They didn't want a piece of cake. I can assure you that this year's cake will be a simple affair with 6 candles...

Monday, 12 October 2009

Back from our hols

We have just come back from a fabulous holiday. Did we go to the Med., Disneyland or do a sophisticated city break? No, we went to the Bregenzerwald. Booked true to style just 2 days before going, the Bregenzerwald is a mountainous region situated in the Austrian province of Vorarlberg, which is the western-most province in Austria. Less than a 2-hour drive from home, we had booked accomodation on a farm. This was a first for us, as I have always imagined these farm holidays to be pongy and rather dull. NOT SO! It wasn't pongy, but peaceful and it wasn't dull, but delightful. Our accomodation was a very comfortable apartment on the first floor of the farmer's home. These were the views from the apartment:

Bregenzerwald
Bregenzerwald

Our Bregenzerwald card (included in the price of the accomodation if you stay for 3 nights or more) entitled us to ride free of charge on various mountain lifts (cable cars and chair lifts), so we did and marvelled at the spectacular views:

bregenzerwald

Every evening there was "children's entertainment" in the form of watching the cows being milked in the modern cowshed and feeding the calves and pigs. Bliss for our 5-year old son. Plus we watched cheese being made, went to see how traditional wooden tiles are made to insulate the houses and dangled from ropes in the trees in a specially build adventure playground. Dull? Definitely not!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Am I missing the point?

Do you ever flick through a magazine, see a piece of jewellery and then the price tag and wonder how an earth it can cost that much? I don't mean the pieces crafted from gold and precious stones, but things made from plastic, wool, cotton, wood etc. I was looking for a tutorial on how to make a ribbon necklace when I stumbled across this from Jessica in her blog Happy Together. Basically Jessica spotted a ribbon and pearl necklace in a magazine for $1,320. Well, I'm sorry if I'm missing the point, but how an earth can a couple of lengths of ribbon and 4 pearls add up to that much money? Unless the pearls were really valuable? Anyway, in the tutorial, Jessica makes more or less the same necklace for just a few dollars and it looks great. In fact, her blog is really worth looking at for the diversity of creative ideas up there. Right, off to find some ribbon now...

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Obsessed with Constance


One thing we hadn't considered when we bought this house is the proximity to Lake Constance. It's a half hour drive. As we haven't had a seaside holiday for a couple of years, that water has become a bit of a magnet to us. The lake is bordered by Germany, Switzerland and Austria and is Central Europe's third largest, after Lake Balaton and Lake Geneva. It is 63 km long, and at its widest point, nearly 14 km wide. Lake Constance (Bodensee in German) provides fresh water for many cities in south Germany.

There are lots of things to do there. So far we have taken a pedalo out on the lake, wandered around the narrow streets of the town of Constance, taken the ferry across the lake to Meersburg, taken the speedy catamaran

Katamaran

across the lake to Friedrichshafen

Friedrichshafen

where we visited the Zeppelin Museum and, most recently, swam in the Thermal Baths which are fabulously warm and situated directly on the lakeside. When you swim out of the indoor pool into the very heated outdoor pool, you have the sensation of swimming out into the lake and you can watch all the sailing boats and pleasure boats go by. BTW we didn't do all of these things on the same day!

As far as domestic matters are concerned, we are still trying to furnish our new living room, which is a funny shape and a bit tight for size. For weeks now my husband has been saying we should move our largish sofa over to the other wall. I have repeatedly pooh-poohed this idea, coming up with a host of reasons why we shouldn't. At the beginning of the week we consulted an expert in a rather nice furniture shop and presented him with a plan of our living room and a little paper cut out (yes, really!) of our sofa. Imagine the look on my face, then, when his very first comment was that we needed to move our sofa onto the other wall. Duh! Well, we took his advice and moved everything round as soon as we got home and it has really opened up the room. Said husband tried (and failed) not to look too smug after this. At least he didn't say "I told you so"......

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Parents are usually right....

My parents insist on carrying 2 different credit cards - in case the first one doesn't work. I have always scoffed at this - why should a credit card NOT work? Well, I was made to eat my words the other day. I had a free morning and the car and decided to go to a shopping centre I had spotted on the outskirts of our new local town. Not a fan of shopping centres usually, but I needed kids' clothes, toiletries and food and all that was available under one roof, with parking underneath and I reckoned I could do all of that door to door within 2 hours. Not so. In the first shop I stocked up on all kinds of toiletries and went to pay with the (ONLY) credit card I had brought along. It was refused 3 times. I knew I had paid the bill off in full, was not therefore over my credit limit and that I had informed them in writing of our change of address. I was really embarrassed and ended up using all of my cash to get out of the shop with my purchases. As I had no other means of payment on me, the only thing I could do was go home, fuming, where I had to raid my swimming bag for a few coins to go to the local shop to get some stuff for lunch. What a palaver! An irate 'phone call to the credit card people shed light on the matter. It was a technical fault which would be sorted out by early afternoon. AARRGGHH. The moral of this story? Always carry 2 different credit cards, IN CASE THE FIRST ONE DOESN'T WORK!!!

On a more light-hearted note, I made this card yesterday for a friend who wanted our new address, but who wouldn't be fobbed off with an email or a text message containing that info. No, she wanted a good, old-fashioned card. As most of my craft stuff is still in boxes, I was a bit limited, but managed to come up with this:



I have to admit, it is much nicer than an email and I had fun making it - spot the copycat - have copied the design my daughter did in her art lesson at school.

Right, off to cook the kids a gourmet lunch - joking, obviously, more like rustle something up in the kitchen that they will actually eat....

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

When in doubt, ask a man?

Hmm...not my usual tactics, but it worked for me today. After having moved house 13 days ago, I thought it about time to go and fetch the new license plates for the car. Those of you in the U.K. don't have this problem when you move house, as the number plates stay with the car, but in Switzerland, if you move Kanton (which is like a county or a state) like we have, you have to have the appropriate car number plate displaying the relevant Kanton. Having enquired what I needed to take along on the Internet and on the 'phone, I felt relatively confident of being able to get it sorted. Obviously, crucial to the whole process is the act of giving in your old license plates. Before I left I had a quick look at them and had no idea how to remove them from the car. Well, that's obviously because it's fairly dark in the garage, I thought to myself. Guided by the lady in our navigation system, I found the office with no problems and then set about the removal of said number plates. But even in very bright daylight I could not see how to remove them. As I have said before, and will say again, I can be a bit slow at times. Never mind, I thought, there's bound to be some kind soul inside who knows the solution to this small but crucial problem. However, inside there was a very long queue and numerous counters, non of whom I felt I could approach with my "problem". So, feeling more than a little conspicuous, not to mention defeated, I slunk outside again and decided to go home, with my old license plates and ask someone for advice. Seeing as how I don't really know anyone in my new village and my husband is away on a business trip, I'm not sure whom I thought this "someone" would be. As I was pulling out of the car park I noticed a woman trying, to no avail, to work out how to remove her license plates!! I quickly re-parked the car, jumped out and promptly accosted said woman (nicely, of course) about how to get them off (if you see what I mean). She also had no idea and was completely baffled. At this point, initiative was called for and, noticing 2 young men out of the corner of my eye (being mid-40s, any man under 30 is a "young man"), I called them over to help. In the blink of an eye (well, about 30 seconds) they removed both license plates. Just like that!! I had failed to notice some slidy bit which you have to, well, slide??!! Duhh. Thanking the 2 Young Men profusely, I dashed over to Baffled Woman and triumphantly showed her the slidy trick. To cut a long story short, I now have the correct license plates and feel quite proud of them too.

Still lots of boxes to unpack, kitchen half-finished, lamps to connect etc - beads have been located but at the moment I am more concerned with making sure the children are settling in and working out how I can get more adult conversation into my day. Our local town is really nice and has a bead shop and a craft shop in the same street - for future reference.....

The only creative one at the moment is my daughter - I was amazed when she brought these cards home from school the other day, made in her craft lesson...



The photo is a bit flat, the cards look much more 3d in real life. I'll be copying this design myself for sure.

Back soon!

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Book reviews and blog-resting

It's been a while since I posted - the reason being our imminent relocation. It's been a painful process, coming to terms with moving away from everything and everyone here, but I think I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel - and it's not the train! We finally found a house, after 6 months' searching and, although it is not the dream house I imagined we would be buying, it is very practical - near to the schools, shops and train station, so I am hopeful it will all turn out OK. We are having a wall knocked down to make an open-plan living area, so that is quite exciting...

A couple of book reviews

good book
This was a really easy, light read - perfect for the beach, if you are going.


And this one was a brilliant read. Not the kind of book I usually choose - normally I am put off by the word "spy" in the title, but it was full of suspense and had a twist at the end that I didn't see coming, but I can be a bit slow at times! Anyway, I can recommend it and will be looking out for the sequel by this author.

Due to my preoccupation at the moment for all things removal-related, I have absolutely no desire (or space in my brain) to create things. I will therefore be "resting" my blog until after the move and will hopefully have some things to show in the Autumn. Have also got my eye on an Art Clay Silver course in my "new" local town:) I got my tools out one last time this week (before I pack them safely away in one of the many boxes that our house is "growing") to do a couple of repairs and make a new bag charm for Cathy, as she was visiting this week and kindly helped with a fair bit of packing.



Thanks to everyone who has been reading my blog so far - comments always welcome.
Back soon!
Vicky

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Look at this!


Isn't this just fab? It was given to me yesterday by my friend Martina as a leaving present (more about leaving another time). She bought it from a shop called "Eigen Art" in nearby Rheinfelden. The owner, Anita Klaus, makes much of the jewellery herself -you can look at the shop's website here (go to "Schmuck" to see the jewellery) and she also sells pretty accessories. Think I will have to check it out in person. No time to create at the moment - kids off school now, then it will be nose to the packing boxes...Back soon!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The Other Side

Always try to see the other person's point of view, especially when the other person is 5 years old! I had a situation a few days ago, where it was the end of a long day, husband away on business trip, 2 children to get ready for bed, kitchen to sort out, 2 pairs of roller blades plus knee, elbow, hand pads to put away, lawn to de-clutter of toys and "tools" - I'm sure you get the picture. When I came into the house, I found the living room covered in Lego "projects" from one corner to another. "And this will all have to be put away", I barked, non too sensitively I might add. "But I need it", wailed said 5 year old son. "Well, tell me which bits you need and we'll put the rest away", says I, quite reasonably I thought. "But I need it ALL", was the answer. Voices were raised, tempers were lost, hair was nearly torn out etc. When we had calmed down, I got to thinking - how would I like it, if I was in the middle of some beading project and someone told me I had to put it all away!? Well, I wouldn't be too pleased would I? So, I left all the Lego out thinking that if a messy living room was the price I had to pay for a contented, happy 5-year old child, then so be it. And I left it like that for several days. Who cares if the only way to get onto the settee was to launch myself, Superman-style, to avoid treading on the Lego train track circling the coffee table? My son was happy, that was the main thing. In the middle of all this chaos I managed to make this:



I've also been dabbling in making paper beads - more of that another time. TTFN.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Comments

I have been a bit down lately over the lack of comments on my blog. I realize I need to get more pictures of jewellery up there, but am on a go-slow at the moment in most areas of my life, for which I apologize. I'm sure it will pick up. Hopefully sooner rather than later. That aside, I did get to thinking about the act of leaving comments on peoples' blogs and I realized that I too have become a bit lazy about this. I used to be much better, actively proffering my comments and (most importantly) encouragement wherever I could. Now, those of you who read blogs but don't write one will not necessarily know how important your comments are to us bloggers. Without them you begin to wonder if you've got a cyber form of B.O. or if your waffling really has a future. So, to all you blog readers out there, sign up for your free Google account asap - this enables you to leave those all important comments. You can sign up by clicking on the comments link after this post and then clicking on the link to sign up. Happy commenting !

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

How our lives change.....

It'll be 9 years this Autumn since I gave up work - by work, I mean "paid employment outside the home" of course! I was reminded how much my life has changed by a phone call I received a couple of weeks ago. The nice lady on the phone said she was ringing about the trailer I had ordered. I couldn't think what she was talking about and, seeing as I had been surfing on e-bay that morning, wondered what I had done now. Bear with me, as this call was in a foreign language and sometimes I am a bit slow to catch on. Ahh, now I remembered. The lady was from a toy shop in town and was talking about a very specific toy trailer which I had ordered for my 5 year old son. She was just ringing to confirm the price and the fact that one lying down cow was included. At this point I had to stifle a giggle and those who know me will know that that can be tricky for me at times. Heartily, I joined in the conversation and said I was glad to hear that one lying down cow was included, as it was important that the accessories were the correct scale. As I worked in tourism prior to having children, my phone conversations used to be about double and single rooms, meal plans, cancellations, prices, contracts etc. But thinking about it, I think I would rather talk about toy trailers and lying down cows. I think I need to find a job. Soon.
BTW I have been tagged by the lovely Sam of Saffie's Blog. Will get my 8 things together and post them here asap !

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Uncle Brian

It's great having an Uncle Brian. Not only does he pass on loads of books to me, sometimes with witty notes in the margin, and send me silly jokes by e-mail, but he also provides me with EASY RECIPES! I'm not a whizz in the kitchen and anything with more than a handful of ingredients makes my eyes glaze over, so the following recipe is right up my street:

Uncle Brian's Caribbean Chicken

1 tablespoon oil
2 chicken breasts, skinned
1 onion, chopped
1 green or red pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons of flour
1 small tin of pineapple chunks (watch out, these get very hot, take care when eating)
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
2 teaspoons curry powder
half pint of chicken stock (stock cube is fine)

Heat oil and fry chicken until brown. Transfer to casserole dish. Fry onion and pepper. Transfer to casserole dish with the chicken. Mix rest of ingredients, add to pan and bring to the boil. Pour over chicken, onion and pepper and cook for one and a quarter hours at 180°C. Great served with rice.

And why am I telling you all this? Because it's his birthday today.
Happy Birthday Brian!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Book review

As you know, I am a bit of a bookworm. I've just finished reading this book, which my Auntie lent me during my last visit to the U.K:

Birdcage

I'd never read anything by Marcia Willett before and I must say, it is a really good read, very well written and one of those books you keep wanting just to read a few more pages of to see what happens (cursing yourself next day for not going to bed earlier!). The story revolves around Lizzie and her search later in life to find her mother's former lover, who became like a father to her, but who ultimately went back to his wife. It is set for the most part in Dunster, a picturesque village on Exmoor and this was a bit of trip down memory lane for me too. As a child, we used to drive down to North Devon from the Midlands for a week each Summer. As we set off during the night, we used to have a breakfast stop in Dunster and I can still picture the Yarn Market. What a lovely surprise then, this week, with the book still fresh in my mind, to receive a postcard of the Yarn Market, Dunster from my Auntie and Uncle who are on holiday in Devon this week.

I'd be interested to know if you find these reviews useful/interesting :) Off to find a new book now.....

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Purple

In the end I made a casual necklace - here it is:

Purple suede necklace

I faffed around quite a bit with it, before leaving it fairly simple. The large amethyst stone and the amethyst chips on the dangle (which you can only just see) have been recycled from an old necklace, so feeling a bit green as well as purple...

Monday, 11 May 2009

New Features

Rhine Falls
Hope you all had a happy Mother's Day ! We went to the Rhine Falls in Schaffhausen. A bit smaller than Niagara, obviously, but stunning all the same. We took a boat ride right up to the Falls and felt the spray - very refreshing on a hot day !

I have added 2 features to my blog to let you keep up to date more easily. The first is the "subscribe by e-mail" feature, which you will see to the right of this post. Just enter your e-mail address in the box, press subscribe and you're done. Scroll further down and again, on the right, you will see the "Subscribe in a reader" icon. Both features are quick and easy to use and mean you are notified each time there is a new post on my blog.

I have made a start on the purple jewellery I mentioned last week, so should be posting that soon.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

An Important Subject

How To Recognize A Stroke

Here is a translation of an e-mail I received recently. Especially as many of us have elderly relatives, this could be important:

During a BBQ a friend stumbled and took a little fall - she assured everyone that she was fine (they offered to call paramedics) and just tripped over a brick because of her new shoes. They got her cleaned up and got her a new plate of food - while she appeared a bit pale and shaken up, the rest of the evening passed without incident. The woman's husband called later to say that his wife had been taken to the hospital - a little later she died. She had suffered a stroke at the BBQ - had they known how to identify the signs of a stroke she may have been saved.


----- A neurologist says that if he can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he can totally reverse the effects of a stroke...totally. He said the trick was getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed and getting to the patient within 3 hours which is tough.

RECOGNIZING A STROKE

3 steps. Read and Learn!

Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke.

Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:

1. *Ask the individual to SMILE.

2. *Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.

3. *Ask the person to SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (Coherently) (i.e. . It is sunny out today)

If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call the emergency services immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

*****************************************************

I also found these criteria from the American Stroke Association:
Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

If you or someone with you has one or more of these signs, don't delay! Also, check the time so you'll know when the first symptoms appeared. It's very important to take immediate action. If given within three hours of the start of symptoms, a clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) can reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke. tPA is the only FDA-approved medication for the treatment of stroke within three hours of stroke symptom onset.

A TIA or transient ischemic attack is a "warning stroke" or "mini-stroke" that produces stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage. Recognizing and treating TIAs can reduce your risk of a major stroke. The usual TIA symptoms are the same as those of stroke, only temporary. The short duration of these symptoms and lack of permanent brain injury is the main difference between TIA and stroke.

**********************************************************************
I, for one, had no idea how to recognize these signs, nor that time is paramount when seeking treatment. I'm making every effort to commit these steps to memory.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Making boxes from old greeting cards


Check out this tutorial - it's a great, recycling idea.

Clothes

I'm not very good with clothes. By that, I don't mean that I walk around like a scarecrow - it's just that I never know what suits me. Being short, I tend to feel frumpy and dumpy in everything. Then there's the question of colour - do I need to go for pastels, cool black and white, brights or pattern ? Hmm. I often try on half of the shop and non of it is any good. So frustrating - is it just me I wonder? Anyway, no-one was more surprised than me, when, the other day, I managed to buy 8 tops in one morning! Yes, 8. And 7 of them from the same shop. According to all the magazines (well, OK then, Marie-Claire) we should be going for bold blocks of colour this season. Good job then, that a number of my tops fit this bill. Phew ! Usually, by the time I've got the message what might be in fashion and psyche myself up to go out and buy it, it's out of fashion. I must say that I am well chuffed with my purchases and this little spree caused me to go through my jewellery to see if anything would go with the new clothes or if I would have to make new pieces! Surprisingly, I had necklaces to go with most of the things, except for the 2 purple tops I had bought. So next I got my bead stash out and this is what I found:



Come back soon to see what I made.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

And the winner is....

Thanks to those who left comments for the giveaway earrings. The winner is ...Heather!! Could you drop me an e-mail on swissside.jewellery@tele2.ch with your full name and address and I will mail you those Lemon and Lime earrings asap :)

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Lemon & Lime Earrings Giveaway

We popped over the border to Germany a couple of weeks ago (like you do!) and I remembered that the town had a little bead shop. "I'll only be 10 minutes" I told my husband and children and left them finishing their ice creams in the town square. By the time I got to the bead shop I only had 5 minutes left (duuh), but managed to spot some lemony, limey round beads before I thought I really should be getting back. I've been in this shop once before and know the owner is struggling to stay solvent. It seems that she is selling her stock off now. Standing to pay for my few beads, the owner said "Oh, just stick those in your pocket dear !". I couldn't do that, so I left the money on the counter and in true Arnold Schwarzenegger style said "I'll be back (when I've got more time)". So where is this tale going I hear you ask. Well, this is what I made with the beads:

Lemon & Lime Earrings Giveaway

They are quite dainty as they are only about 3cm long including the (sterling silver) ear wires. I actually made 2 pairs, so, to celebrate getting to over 25 posts on my blog, I am giving one pair away. If you would like to receive these earrings, please leave a comment after this post telling me which of my posts you have found most interesting/entertaining/useful AND/OR which piece of jewellery I have featured so far that you like best. I will put the names of those who leave a comment into a "hat" and pull out the winner next Tuesday, April 28th. Right, off to rustle up something for dinner now. Hey ho!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Revamping

Italian glass earrings
I like these earrings. With beads bought in Italy, I made them when I had just learned a few basics and following the method used by my local bead shop where I did an evening class. Basically, they make earrings by threading a piece of beading wire through the loop in the ear wire, then folding the wire double and passing the double wire through the beads, then finishing with a crimp. The method is quick and easy, but I never felt happy with the crimp at the bottom of the dangle. Since I've discovered headpins (!), I've moved on from the above method and now that I can make ear wires from sterling silver wire and bash them to work-harden them, I thought it was time to revamp those earrings. This is how they came out:

Italian glass earrings
Apologies for the naff photos, due to too much sun (not really complaining) and having to use my old digital camera which doesn't like photographing small objects ! Mind you, these are the second pair of ear wires I made. One of the first pair flew off when I decided to cut off the headpin and add a second bead. I have not seen that ear wire since and, as I work at the dining table, I am slightly concerned that it will end up sticking in one of the children's bottoms, when they are playing Lego on the floor. :(

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Hammers

A few weeks ago I said to my husband "I need some hammers". "We've got hammers in the cellar", he said. "Yes, but not the sort I need", I said. He probably rolled his eyes at that. But it was true. When following wire-work instructions, I always had to ignore the bits that said "now work-harden on your steel block" or "now flatten with a chasing hammer". Duuh ! Anyway, my 5-year old son was very impressed when Mummy received a parcel from Beadsisters, containing 2 hammers and a steel block. And since then I have been able to bash things (metal bits, I mean!) and very satisfying it is too.

hammers

I have been sensibly using craft wire to practise, and, as you can see from the photo, this is very wise, as it takes a few goes to get the shapes right and also to find out which lengths of wire work best. Never thought I would buy myself a hammer, though......:)

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Ups and Downs

I've had an up and down couple of weeks -which is why I haven't posted. Ups have been provided by my friends and their positive support and the laughs I have with them and also by the funny things my children say. Downs caused by the sheer uncertainty of the months ahead due to our relocation, the fact that we still have not found a house, the negotiations on the house we wanted not having been successful and by doubting the whole sanity of moving 2 children and myself from somewhere we like for the sake of one husband's job. All this and a mega dose of PMT and I'm sure you get the picture. When I read this I feel ashamed, as there are so many people with far worse on their hands. This kind of mood completely blocks my creativity - I just don't feel inspired. I have read so often that people use creativity as a kind of therapy - I wish I could learn to do that. Anyway, enough of this. The last 2 days have been glorious weather-wise and, clichéd as it might sound, I have been cheered up by the sight of things starting to grow in the garden and the fact that yesterday it was so warm we didn't need to wear socks ! I also managed to get this finished:

spring jewellery

I was also surprised and cheered up to see that my blog is being read in several different countries. As well as the U.K and the U.S (thanks to all of you for reading and also for leaving your comments), and my friends in Italy, Switzerland and Austria, I see that I have readers in Thailand, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Tunisia, France and Belgium. I'd love to hear your comments too !

Right, feeling better already. Back soon.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Austrian Jasper


This is one of my favourite pieces as it goes with everything and has a story.
My husband is from the south of Austria and on a visit there a couple of years ago we visited the Turracher Höhe to take the children down the Summer Toboggan Run. By chance we discovered a shop / museum of gemstones - alpin + art + gallery. Gemstones from all over the world are displayed inside and outside and have been left in their natural state, made into jewellery or sculptures. It was difficult to have a good look round with 2 energetic children with us, but before we left we bought the above 3 beads - red jasper and rock crystal, all found locally. I had all kinds of ideas what to do with the beads, but in the end just strung them on a deep burgundy leather cord. I have worn it lots, but alas, the leather is now beginning to look a bit worse for wear - I have plans to restring those beads - watch this space....

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Awards

award
I'm feeling rather chuffed, as I have received 2 awards this week ! The first is this one, the Marie-Antoinette Award, from Ali at All About the Beads. According to some information I found, the award is for "regular people posting about their everyday life". Crikey ! Ali's was one of the very first blogs that I read - I was blown away by her jewellery and find the other "bits" really interesting too. Ali was also kind enough to give me tips on good online bead sites, most of which I have subsequently used. Thanks Ali !

The second award, the Lemonade Award, is from Kristin at K.S. Jewellery Designs.

lemonade award

Kristin nominated me along with 8 others for having, as she put it, "a positive attitude towards others and their blogs". Wow - I am really thrilled, as I have only been blogging since November, so this is a real boost. Thanks Kristin. I am, of course, keen to pass these on.

Here are the rules for the award:
1.Put the logo on your blog or post
2.Nominate at least 10 blogs that show great Gratitude and/or Attitude.
3.Be sure to list and link your nominees within your post.
4.Let them know they have received this award by leaving a comment on their blog.
5.Nominate your favorites and link to your post

Here are my nominees, for the reasons listed above, but for also being a constant source of inspiration, motivation, entertainment and, at times, amusement:

Debora - Beadin' by the Sea

Leah - Michon Jewellery Blog

Contrariwise ramblings

Ali - All About the Beads

Jo - Daisychain Designs

Magriet - Babushka Jewellery Design

Veryan - Beady Pool

Lesley - Coburg Crafts

Manda - Jewellery Craft / Silver Storm

Heather - Bumpy Beads

Barbara - Wildberry Jewellery

Back tomorrow with a jewellery pic.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Happy Birthday to Me !!

Yes, I'm 44 today :) I must say, I celebrate my birthdays enthusiastically. Who cares if I'm one year older, as long as I'm happy and healthy. I've had a lovely birthday so far. My husband baked me a cake late last night, with a little help from the children and we sampled it this morning for breakfast, candles and hundreds and thousands and all. Then my friends took me out for a little retail therapy and a coffee. Not only did they egg me on to buy some (much needed) shoes, but they also gave me this lovely bead for my Pandora bracelet:

Pandora glass bead
Thanks to Kim, Lou and Jennifer for all that.

Back at home I found a present waiting for me from Cathy in Turin:

Turin

Funnily enough, I got out some green beads yesterday afternoon, but decided they were too dull to make anything with. No excuse now !

And finally, a very rare picture of me, because it is my birthday and because I have washed and dried my hair, am wearing a smidgen of make-up, a nice necklace and a top which doesn't have any spots of spaghetti sauce on it:



Off to have a glass of wine now. TTFN.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Gotcha !


How cute is he ? One of a pair of goldfinches that visit our bird table daily. Before we had the bird table I could just about identify a blackbird, so that just shows you're never too old to learn. Kids back at school and Kindergarten now, so I'm enjoying the peace and quiet in the mornings. Still loads to do re moving, but, we have found a house !! Not quite doing somersaults yet (more kind of forward rolls) as the price is over budget and the bank have to approve it yet etc, but a girl has got to have hope :) Have a good week.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Snow Time


We're back from a week's skiing in a tiny Swiss resort called Mörlialp. This photo was taken on one of the runs down. Beautiful, isn't it ? We hadn't planned on having a skiing holiday this year, then friends offered us their lovely apartment there (thanks, Kim and Andy for that). Mörlialp is situated about 40 mins from Lucerne, at the top of a 12km windy road. You literally can't go any further and all the accomodation is right at the bottom of the slopes. There are 2 restaurants, but no shops, not even a supermarket, so our week consisted of skiing and eating ! Oh, and due to no computer or Internet, I got to read this book:

It's a good read, really funny.
When we went to hire our skis, we had to give our weight to get the bindings set up right. I was rather indignant to discover that the ski shop's scales showed my weight as 3.5 kg more than my scales at home !! However, I was wearing boots and carrying my bag when I weighed myself. When I got home, still feeling a little bit ruffled, I decided to weigh said boots and bag. Brilliant. (You can just imagine me doing this, very surreptitiously I might add). Anyway, these added up to 1.6 kg, leaving just about 2kg "unaccounted for". I reckoned I would ski this off anyway. And the moral of this story ? Always weigh yourself on the same set of scales ? Don't bother with scales at all ? Take your pick. Needless to say I have not weighed myself since coming home:{
Another thing I noticed - after 4 days my 2 children can ski more effortlessly down a steepish slope than I can after 20 years ! Kim would say it is all to do with their centre of gravity....
It's taking me ages to write this as I keep getting called away to play knights and castles - kids have this week off school. This, plus the fact that we are RELOCATING (aaagghh!!) means that time for jewellery making is a little thin on the ground at the moment. Yes, we are moving from Basel to Zürich, so still staying in Switzerland. Good job that, or I would have had to think up a new blog name...So at the moment we are feverishly looking for a house to move to around the beginning of July. We will be leaving behind some very good friends and neighbours, so it will be a bit of a wrench, but we will hopefully find our feet sooner rather than later.
This has turned into rather a mammoth post, so TTFN.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Fasnacht




This is what the villages all around the city of Basel look like at the moment - all decorated ready for Fasnacht (Carnival). It is a mega event and I couldn't even begin to explain about it here. The Fasnacht of Basel will take place this year from the 2nd to the 4th of March and in the surrounding villages next weekend. For the children the Fasnacht starts this Thursday afternoon, when they take part in a parade in their villages, all dressed in costumes they have often made themselves at Kindergarten and school. My son's Kindergarten will be owls this year and they have been working hard on their costumes. The parents don't get to see the costumes until perhaps one day before the parade, when they proudly bring them home for a final fitting. For my son it is his first Fasnacht parade, for my daughter her fourth - in the past she has been a flame, a mouse and a penguin and this year she is going as a witch. I'll be posting some pictures of the event at the end of the week. Take care til then:)

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Messing around...

It's been a bit quiet on the jewellery making front recently, but I managed to grab half an hour last week and make this pendant:

silver pendant
I did it freehand by bending the wire around a marker pen and was amazed that it came out the right size for the Swarovski and glass beads. The downside - as it was only a practice piece, I made it with craft wire and I'm now kicking myself I didn't use my sterling wire. Still, that gives me a little project for next week :)

Still on the theme of hand-made ear wires, I tried this:

hand made ear wires

I love looking at dangly earrings and I love them on other people, but when I wear them myself I feel self-conscious and, well, dangly ! I remembered the pearl earrings I bought for my wedding were this style, with the ear wire coming directly out of the pearl and therefore not so long (bet there's a proper name for that !), so I had a go. They are really comfortable to wear.

Finally, I made this for my keyring



This just needs a silver charm hanging from the bottom to finish it off, but not bad for half an hour, eh ??

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