Friday, May 30, 2008

20 lbs

We picked over 20 pounds of cherries from our tree (some never made it into this trug). This is by far the most we've ever harvested. This is an old tree, perhaps an original orchard tree from before the houses were built in 1967. But wow, this was a bumper year for cherries.

We need a taller ladder. These are the ones we couldn't reach.

And if cherries aren't enough, here's a mouthwatering bowl of cherries with black raspberries and strawberries...also from our garden.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Lost in Transaction

My French magazines won't be arriving in the mail. I didn't need my French-English dictionary to understood the email message I received: "Suite à l'échec de votre transaction, votre commande n°239178 n'a pas été validée. Merci de repasser votre commande ou de contacter " It means there was a problem with my order and I am to try to order again or contact them.

When I went to the site, I saw what was probably the reason the order didn't go through - 2 of the 3 magazines are no longer available, including the one I really wanted, Idees Broderie et Couture. The other magazine they're out of is Fait Main because there's a new issue out, but it appears to include wedding clothes and since I know this magazine only has a few patterns per issue, I'm not too interested in this particular one. There is a new Elena Couture available (similar to Diana Couture but for larger sizes), but now I'm not so excited to get either Elena Couture or Diana Couture if that's all that's available. Fact is, I have not sewn a single thing from any of the foreign sewing magazines I have acquired over the last few years. I'm close though. I have a skirt cut out and another issue has a little knit top I'd like to make. The clothes in the "Couture" magazines are very simple and would be easy to make, even with the sparse, French instructions, but I don't really need the magazines.

The foreign sewing magazines are fun to look at and I do like the styles, but good grief, Burda shows up in my mailbox every month and I can't manage to sew those clothes either...and it's in English! On top of that, I also get Marie Claire Idées, so I have plenty of French craft stuff to read...and try to make if I had the time, energy, and no other hobbies.

Some knitting friends have graciously offered to find some sewing magazines when they're in Europe this summer. But I really hate burdening them with my silly obsession. It's bad enough I make my husband wait while I check every news kiosk and newsstand on our trips abroad. (But he now knows what to look for and brought me back an Elena Couture from his business trip to Quebec!) I also have a friend who lives near Brussels and she could probably get me quite a few and maybe even the highly desired Patrones magazine if I'd only ask her, but it's not like I'm starved for patterns.

So I will put this silliness behind and turn my energy toward sewing something. Now wouldn't that be a novel idea!

UPDATE!!! No, I didn't get my magazines, but I did find out what I think was the real problem. The credit card interface did not ask for the 3-digit security code on the credit card and that together with the non-English website of led my credit card company to deny the purchase and put a hold on my card. It's a seldom-used card so I didn't know they put a hold on it. I received a letter from my credit card company (took 2 weeks to get to me!) simply saying they were unsuccessful at reaching me (??), there was a problem with my account, and they put a hold on it. I called them and found out why - the attempted purchase. Oh and they couldn't reach me because they had an old phone number. I suppose if my French was better I would have contacted directly to find out why the order was n'a pas été validée but I just assumed it was because the magazines were out of stock. And now they are. Oh well.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cat vs. Cat

We have a bit of a dominance issue among our furry kids. For many years Ella ruled as "top cat", sometimes subtly (she is the one to make sure we humans remember to fill the food bowls twice a day) and sometimes through arrogance by ignoring the two youngest cats when she walks past them. But she never fought with any cats to be on top. Then one day we met Felix in the parking lot of Costco. He was hungry, dirty, not fixed, and needed a home. Life for Ella has never been the same. Felix wants to be king cat and Ella is not happy about this. Felix bullies the other cats and sometimes has all-out fights with Ella. I've tried the Feliway plug-ins (a pheromone) but it's an expensive solution at about $18 a bottle and the cost of electricity to run it. So I bought the book Cat vs. Cat to help find a better way to keep the fur from flying. On an aside, I also bought a Furminator, which is fantastic for removing excess hair and which will hopefully cut down on the shedding. I should have taken a picture of the piles of hair we collected from each cat. Enough to spin...if I wanted to do that but ew, I think not.

Having been owned by cats for quite a number of years, I didn't learn much that was new from the book but it did corroborate my own thinking and observations. There is a pecking order and it goes: Ella, Felix, Sergei, Abby...with Ella and Felix jostling for the top spot and Abby content to spend her life hiding from the world. When Felix gets upset or we've played with his white feet too much (oh, the white feeeeeet!), he beats up on Sergei or Abby. So we really need to be more aware of his feelings and not tease him, even though it's out of love but he doesn't understand that.

One thing I hadn't really considered too much was how the cats must divvy up the space in the house for their own territories. They have done a pretty good job of claiming the living room. We redid the room a few years ago and bought a beautiful leather couch for it and hoped to use the room for...well, I'm not really sure actually. The TV is in the family room so I guess the living room is for sitting. And curling up with a good book* But as soon as the paint dried and the furniture was moved back in, the cats took it back as theirs and now the new couch is covered with throws to protect it from their claws as they run across it and from the hair. Oh, the hair! Hopefully Furminator will help with that.

Here are three smug cats in their room, on their couch. The two tabbies are Ella on the left and Abby on the right and the white one is Sergei. Lots of nose-prints on the window too.

The book suggested providing more vertical space and a cat tree does that very well, and helps keep the cats off your furniture. We'd been planning to make one (being the do-it-yourselfers we are), but that hasn't happened so we opened our wallet instead. Although I'd like to have the tree in the living room to provide an alternative to the couch, the book suggests placing it where you spend time so that you can interact more with your cats, so it's in the family room. It's been fascinating to watch the interactions and the power struggles. All day yesterday Felix "claimed" the top and he's been scratch, scratch, scratching on the vertical pieces whenever he can. Ella mostly hangs out on a middle shelf and Sergei has come by to check out the "hidey-hole" in the very bottom. Abby never came out of her hiding place, wherever that is. This morning Ella claimed the top and you can see how grumpy they both look in this (really poor) photo I snapped. Even when Ella is victorious she doesn't look content - either it's her "tabby frown" or she's just very cautious that Felix might attack at any moment. And he might.

So will there be more harmony in the house with the new cat tree? I don't know but it gives them a new place to hang out and deposit their hair. I don't expect I'll be able to reclaim the living room couch but maybe they'll spend more time in the family room with us. Maybe Abby will get brave enough to come out and investigate and claim a shelf. One can hope.

*we are amused by people on the house hunting and redecorating shows (like HGTV) remark about a corner of the room or a window seat as a place to "curl up with a good book." As if. Eh, maybe they are big readers but I think it's something people would like to think they'll do.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Three French sewing magazines are (hopefully) on their way. I just navigated my way around and ordered these:

I'm most intrigued about the one on the top left, Idees Broderie & Couture, because I've never seen this magazine before. Searching on the internet, I've learned that it has both knitting and sewing patterns and I recognize the multi-size patterns peeking out in the top of the picture so it at least has some sewing. It looks interesting. The other two, Fait Main and Diana Couture, are ones I'm familiar with, having picked up previous issues during trips to France. Despite the high exchange rate and shipping costs, it wasn't too bad to buy them online...about $40 total. Cheaper than an airline ticket to France, although I wouldn't mind paying for a ticket at all if I had the time off right now to go. Well, actually I probably would balk a bit because airfare is so high right now. C'est la vie!

I was pleased with myself that I could (mostly) navigate the journeaux site without getting help from And now that I found a dictionary to translate French textile terms, I'm all set for when my magazines (hopefully) arrive in the mail.

*that's in French, in case you thought I forgot to add the "k"!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Happiness is...

a bowl of strawberries, picked from the garden.

Strawberry Bowl

And there are cherries too! I'm not real fond of cherries, at least when they're $5.99 per pound. But these...I'll eat these.

Ripening Cherries

Monday, May 12, 2008

Weekend Update

Lots of stuff over the weekend but I still feel like it slipped by.

In knitting news, I started a new project that should go pretty quickly during some TV watching. It's a scarf for a woman at work, in a ladder-type ribbon yarn from Lion Brand called "Trellis." I made a similar scarf out of Eros four years ago and when I wore it one day and showed it to her she exclaimed about it so much I almost gave my scarf to her right then and there. Maybe I should have, but I'm selfish and like the scarf a lot. But I did decide to surprise her with one of her own. It's not the same yarn but it should look similar. I hope she likes it. The color in the picture doesn't really come out. The yarn is a combination of gold and beige and cream. The colorway on the label is "champagne."

In sewing sewing this weekend but I did visit my fabric in the trailer. :-) The trailer is an enclosed cargo trailer we bought years ago for the purpose of hauling family items across the country and because we don't have a basement or room in our yard for a large storage shed, the trailer has proven to be very useful for storing materials during our remodelling projects...and for storing my fabric. I have a lot of fabric. At least I do know what fabric I have because it's all catalogued on index cards. I recently re-organized the cards by color and fabric type (rather than by the box they're in) because I think it'll be easier to pick out coordinating fabrics without having to look through every single card. Anyway, I ventured to the trailer to get some flannel to back a baby blanket I'm making for my husband's co-worker who is expecting their first baby. I make the blanket out of two 1-yard pieces of flannel. I round the edges using a quilter's template but I'm sure a plate would work fine as a guide. If I'm going to embroider the baby's name and birth information, I do that on one of the pieces first. Then I sew the flannel with right sides together, leaving a small opening for turning it right side out, and then I hand stitch the opening closed. Finally, I stitch along the perimeter of the blanket using a decorative stitch on the sewing machine. I've found that the flannel sticks together pretty well, so I don't need to do any stitching across the center, but I guess you could. That's it. Easy-peasy baby shower or new-baby gift. And personalized too!

As far as the rest of the weekend, we did lots of weeding in the backyard and cleaned it up some more. We haven't yet planted our summer veggies but hope to soon, although the weather forecast for later this week is calling for a high of 101. Yikes. Spring seems to have come and gone already. I ate the first ripe cherry from our tree, which, like the rest of the fruit trees in our yard, are showing signs of a huge harvest. I see lots more plum jam, peach preserves, and canned pears in the future!

After gardening we went for a long, leisurely bike ride of about 15 miles. It was great to get out on the bikes and also to exercise. It was a beautiful, sunny day and not too hot but the shade along the route was still welcome. I was a bit stiff later on but not too bad the next day. Love my bike!

On Sunday we ventured out to look at new cars. We've decided to purchase a Prius to replace the 2003 Saturn Vue we dislike (it's underpowered, loosey-goosey on the turns, big, and had mechanical problems at 50K miles). I know the Prius is a sought after vehicle and may "sell itself" but perhaps Toyota salespeople, at least the ones we encountered...or rather didn't encounter...shouldn't be so lackadaisical towards prospective buyers. Maybe they thought we were Mother's Day looky-loos, but we weren't just looking. We were ready to buy and we had to hunt someone down to talk to us. And when we did find someone, they didn't seem so interested in selling us a car! We went to three different dealerships and have experienced this lack of interest from Toyota in the past. If we weren't sold on the Prius' good gas mileage and interior perks (navigation and bluetooth in particular), we'd be shopping elsewhere. So, we don't have a new car...yet. Maybe later this week.

And finally, although I don't talk much about work here, I will say that my current project should launch (as in a real lift off from Cape Canaveral) next month and I'll be able to move on to the next project. This is good news because I'm ready to finish the old and start the new. Not unlike my knitting and sewing projects.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sewing (and knitting) in any language

Even though I have what many international sewers would consider a wealth of sewing patterns readily available and at bargain prices, I still covet the foreign sewing magazines like Patrones, La Mia Boutiqe, and Diana Couture, among others. I do have a subscription to Burda but I want more! Alas, there is one small problem (besides the obvious difficulty of obtaining these magazines in the US) - I am only fluent in English and have a little knowledge of French. But that doesn't stop me from seeking out the pattern magazines in Spanish, German, Dutch, Italian, and Japanese. I should be experienced enough with sewing to not have to rely on the instructions, but I do want to read them and I find it fun to try to translate them. I've scoured the internet and come across some translations of sewing terms from web sites and fellow bloggers to help figure it all out:

Sewing in Any Language:

Japanese from moving hands
Spanish from fehr Trade
Spanish from paco peralta
Dutch from Naaipatronen
More Dutch from Sigrid's Sewing Projects - the link for the pdf is on her post
French mostly quilting terms and it's in Canadian French
*NEW*French from
French to English and English to French comprehensive textile dictionary from Montreal Centre for Contemporary Textiles
German broad craft and needlework terms, but some sewing from Dreams of Lace
Italian - the closest I could find for Italian was a website that translated Italian and gave multiple answers, which could be helpful. The link I have here is for the Italian word for "sew" and you can see the variation in meaning.

For general language translation, altavista is pretty good.
And if you just need definitions of English sewing terms, here's an online dictionary.

While I'm at it:

Knitting in Any Language:

French from Chez Plum
More French from Tricotin
Norwegian from Pinnsvindesign
Japanese dictionary and charts from
Japanese knitting symbols from Fleegle's Blog
German from
This site from claims to translate terms from variety of languages but I haven't tried it out

Crocheting in Any Language:

French from passion crochet

I'd be happy to update this list with any other links to sources!

Monday, May 05, 2008

A little bit of France in Mountain View

I don't do restaurant reviews on my blog because 1) this is primarily a sewing and knitting blog and 2) we don't eat out much. Not that we don't like good food and restaurants, it's just that we tend to do our own cooking and don't make a habit of eating out. But Saturday night my husband and I had a very nice dinner at Le Petit Bistro in Mountain View and I liked it so much I wanted to pass on a recommendation to my local friends who read this blog. The food was authentic French and very, very good. For an appetizer I enjoyed two nice-sized lightly breaded patties of abalone and scallop with a tasty sauce and my husband had mussels, which he devoured. For a main entree I chose Coq au Vin in a burgundy sauce and my husband had New Zealand lamb. Both were delicious and well prepared. The vegetables were nicely done too and very good. We finished with desserts of chocolate mousse and apple tart and some espresso coffees. Yum, yum, yum. The atmosphere is quite laid back and you can dress up or be casual and fit in. The decor is ho-hum and dated but we were there to eat good food, not admire the furnishings. An added bonus was that I was able to practice my French because the staff are all French. And they were very warm and friendly. I know we'll be back.

Bon appetite!

I bought a bicycle!

Here's my new ride:

It's a Trek 7300, designed for women (can't you tell with the light blue and styling?) and made for riding on bike trails and trips to the store - like Hancock Fabrics, which is a mile away. The leather seat is nice and wide and the frame is designed for ease in getting on and off the bike. Comfort was the number one priority in this purchase because I have to enjoy riding the bike or it just won't get ridden. It's taking a little getting used to because it is very different than the last bike I bought, which was a ten-speed road bike...twenty years ago. The handle bars are more upright and the shifting is through paddles located on the handlebars. And there are a lot more gears - 24 of them actually. I'm getting the hang of it but don't really know when I'd use all the gears.

I hope to get out for some recreational riding on the weekends and also use it for short trips to local stores. I bought a nice bag for the back of the bike that will be perfect for a picnic lunch or when I pick up a few sewing notions or patterns from Hancocks.