Saturday, August 30, 2008

Baby knitting & Sunshine

Yes! Summer in London (at least one day of it....)! At 25 degrees Celsius and with just a few fluffy clouds in the sky, M and I just had to go out and sit in the park.
Equipped with the left-overs of last night's pizza and some coffee, as well as our new picknick blanket (finally premiered on actual grass under a sunny sky), current knitting projects, finished baby knitting projects, and a camera, we settled down next to the Thames River and a bare chested Italian gentleman who was obviously catching up on all of last week's phone calls. Just to annoy him I didn't take a picture of him, especially when he started whistling different tunes and trying a few other interesting moves to catch our attention after spotting the camera....

But really - it was a very lovely and peaceful day, and my skin might even have made the transition from greenish white to eggshell off-white. Here are some of the FOs that have finally been caught by the black box:

Saartje's Baby Bootees (Cashsoft Baby DK, Rowan)

Stripy-Baby-Trousers (Organic Cotton, Blue Sky Alpacas)

Coffee&Cream Baby Trousers (Organic Cotton, Blue Sky Alpacas)


Friday, August 29, 2008

A lot of words

What words do we use most in our blogs.... an interesting question.This is dots&yarn laid out in a wordle: a graphic representation of all the words we use. I know, I write most of the entries lately - but G gets to read (and correct!) them before anyone else can see them. Since I have a dislike for stating the obvious at times or I get carried away for whatever reason and my mind is already in the new paragraph while I'm still writing the previous one. I wonder, though, if anyone of you would recognise us in those words...?

Unlike in German (where I have several favourite words like fürdahin which doesn't seem to translate) I wasn't aware which words I used most; apart from really which gets used in every language in the house - even in Portuguese thanks to a weird moment of watching parts of Shrek in Portuguese.

Some words seem to be quite prophetic like 'got sewing' which G definitely did do over the long weekend. We still need to put up the pictures of proof, but this will definitely be the topic for another entry - maybe tomorrow if we're lucky.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Paris for the day

Finally we did it! We went to Paris, just for the day so don't get too jealous here. It was a fantastic day, though. Right from the - very early - start to the - late - end of it. We managed to meet up with our good friend (and former house mate) H who had finished playing for a masterclass and stayed on for half a day to see us.

After the 4am start and journey on the Eurostar from London to Paris, our (second) start of the day was a breakfast at the riverbank of the Seine, then (after some walking around) lunch at my favourite restaurant - my family has been going to this place since 1978. We spent some time around Sacre Coeur which as you can see in the mosaic (below) involved some knitting and buying very cool materials for sewing (pictures to come soon). A coffee stop on the roof terrace of the Printemps gave us enough time to recover (see picture above - took some time to merge my 5 photos in Photoshop!) and a quick jump to the Champs Elysées finished our trip.
Sunday we were barely able to move! But G's tried out the sewing machine and finished her felted bag adding a lining and a shoulder strap. More sewing is planned for the weekend as well as my final sprint for the Olympic Sock - 35% still to knit - that should be manageable if no disaster strikes. G has finished hers, so she's allowed the sewing and taking pictures of the FOs.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympic Weekend

And we're off! Friday night we watched the re-play of the opening ceremony on France2 (one needs to brush up one's languages from time to time) and cast on for our Olympic challenge. The really cool thing was that France2 managed to get the Chinese educational attaché (I think) from the Chinese Embassy in Paris - always referred to as "mon cher Wang" who explained the symbols and history of China (as represented in the ceremony) with great enthusiasm and depth. Words are (almost) wasted to describe this wonderful ceremony, one needed to see it: the drummers and the dancers and the 'run' at the top of the bird's nest to light the Olympic fire - amazing, miraculous, mind-blowing ideas carried out to perfection!

Watching this, G worked out an Olympic pattern which we immediately tried out - and about 1 hour later frogged the whole thing because it didn't work well with the character/colours of the wool. This obviously meant that we restarted the Sock almost from the point go on Saturday morning. (Disaster no1)

I'm leaving out the minor disasters of Saturday morning: upset stomachs of house mate and house guests as well as the return of a jacket for house guest by very pregnant friend of just mentioned house guest who then (as it turned out Sunday afternoon) went straight from us to the hospital to deliver the baby! (Talk about planning out your chores for the day...)

We had planned some knitting time during the day and made our way to Stash Yarns to visit the lovely D. Walking up towards the shop we got caught in the sales.... And then disaster no 2 hit us - rain or as they say here drizzle. This is the understatement of the century! It basically means you get soaked to the bones within minutes by a light, relentless rain. It might have helped to know the exact location of shops around Upper Richmond Road (which we didn't) and so we did get really soaked. (leaving out a lot of grumpy words) Buying clothes in the sales has its advantage: it meant that we could change into something dry when we finally made it into the shop. We had some enjoyable time knitting and chatting to the people in the shop before we made it home (via a hairdresser appointment) - in a dry spell.

Sunday disater no3 struck in the morning when I sliced my thumb on the side of a package of pain killers (I see irony), but an Elastoplast Spray Bandage (bought some time later) made it possible to knit again. Sunday, as can be seen in the picture taken above, had some very rainy spells and the most beautiful rainbow I've seen lately. I managed to make a panorama image in Photoshop from two picture I took while hanging out of the window. Should I take this as a positive sign that we'll make our Olympic challenge?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Ravelympic Oath

"In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Ravelympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a knitting without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of knitting and the honour of our teams."

PS. Does coffee count as a drug?

For Tigerduck: the yarn - Cherry Tree Hill Peacock Supersock, the trainer and a woolly teammate

For Tournesol: the yarn (Handmaiden Cashar), the trainer and a woolly teammate)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Gratitude Take II - Memories

During the last week, working like a dog, I thought it might be good to take a leaf out of the Yankediva's book and write some more about gratitude to keep my positive attitude up.
The plan was to say that I'm grateful for good friends who sacrifice their weekends to help me work/share their food/are an endless source of musical inspiration - until about 30 minutes ago. While being on Skype with G, I suddenly realised which day it'll be tomorrow:
08.08.08 - this would have been the 100th birthday of my first singing teacher Clemens Kaiser-Breme who shaped my life more than anyone else.

I was 15 when I went to see him for an audition; he was 80. I was a stubborn teenager, he a famous singing teacher. I came armed with 5 full opera scores which I could have sung from back to front, impersonating every character if asked to do so. I declared I hated Lieder, they were boring: therefore I wouldn't sing one for him. I really had nerve!

For 7 years, until the doctors forbade him to teach, I went to his house in Essen up to three times a week for lessons. He promised my parents he would take my musical education in hand and so he did.

Having been born in Dortmund in 1908 Kaiser-Breme was the second of three children. His father worked in the town administration and would only remember the birthdays of first and last child by counting it out from his second child - a source of great laughter in the family. In the 1920s Kaiser-Breme went to Berlin to study with Albert Fischer whom he lovingly called 'der dicke Fischer' (the chubby Fischer). He used to be invited for coffee to Max Friendlaender's house, where they would make music together for hours, and he saw Benjamino Gigli and Feodor Chaliapin on stage and was blown away by Chaliapin's Mephistophele in Gounod's Faust. He saw Richard Strauss rehearse and worked with lots of other famous musicians who are long dead now. He also could tell lots of stories about the world wars (both of them, including the occupation in-between).

After practicing on stage how to ask a women to marry him (as Mandryka in Strausses Opera Arabella) he dared to do so in real life - 'Carölchen' as he called her - she was eight years older then him, not usual in those times! She had already known him when he passed his A levels. I won't say childhood sweathearts, because both of them remained adamant that they were just friends at that time. Whenever they tried to separate something made them reconnect. She moved to Berlin shortly after him, working as a librarian if I remember correctly, and could only find a flat in his building. She was very worried about what people would say 'at home' about this fact. A couple of years later he decided to find out if he could live without her, suddenly not speaking to her for a year (without informing her he'd do that). At the end of this year she nearly ended up marrying his brother! (This might have been the trigger for him to finally pop the question....) She was still furious about this event when I got to know her.

I remember the note from his parents in his Arabella score congratulating him (finally) to his engagement. This was one of the few things that survived WWII, almost everything else he owned, including his house, burned down in one night. When we worked on Arabella, (arias or duets) he asked his wife up to the studio at the end of the lesson for a mini concert whenever we had done a good job. He was a brilliant pianist and always played himself for all his lessons.

Struck by a mysterious illness he nearly died in his mid thirties (I think). This left him paralyzed for some time and he had to re-discover his body. He never got the full use of his legs back and walking was agony. Since opera performance was now mostly out of the question for him, he started a career as lieder and oratorio singer, he did research about singing for the Max Plank Institute and was an outstanding teacher and coach to numerous world stars. For years he was Professor for singing at the Folkwang Hochschule.

What I'm most grateful for is the discipline I learned from him, not only for learning music, but for all areas of life. Even during the hottest summer he'd wear a suit for hisf lessons, politely asking if he was allowed to take off the jacket. In contrast, he always wore slippers, I suppose real shoes were too painful to wear. He drilled discipline into my body and brain and that was the best that could have happened to me. When I fell ill, it saved me from drowning in self-pity. He wasn't the cuddly nice person you'd like to have as a grandfather, he commanded the room. I remember that I absolutely hated having to call him, because he always appeared so very distant on the phone. He admitted it was a trick he acquired from his father to keep off the annoying callers, but I wished he would have warmed up a bit to the people he knew.

He died in 1997 shortly after his adored wife. He had always said that if she was gone he wouldn't want to live any more. She had great heart trouble at the end of her life and there was more than one moment when we thought she'd left us already. So, his funeral was actually ... happy, as far as funerals can be happy. The priest had been a guest at the Kaiser-Breme house for years and knew him very well, and we all felt Kaiser-Breme wasn't really gone.

While writing this so many memories and stories come back to me. He always refused to write his memoires, saying that people would find it too boring. I found it fascinating. In my lessons I transformed into a sponge soaking up everything he said. I don't own at picture of him (this one here I found on the internet). I was too shy to ask if I could take one. What I have are numerous tapes of my lessons, which I still listen to from time to time . G lately tracked down a recording of him on iTunes, but most of his recordings were destroyed in the Dresden inferno at the end of the war (he was convinced all of them were gone).

I wish I could say to him how grateful I am for everything I have learned from him, especially because some things only proved useful years later, but I hope - wherever he is - he knows it anyway.