Monday, July 31, 2006

Storing summer

Summer treats:

I put some in the freezer as they are with just a little bit of sugar. We still have some left over from last year, so I didn't think it necessary to put more.

But I did do other things. I made a rum jar: berries, sugar and white rum; let it stand for three weeks, then can be used for months (or so the instructions say, I've never done it before).

And blueberry syrup. The recipe didn't say how much it yielded, so I guessed. I just wanted to make this one bottle (a bit more than 2dl/ about 1 cup) and just made 1/4th of it. As you can see, I got too little. What I licked from the stirring spoon was delicious ;)

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Summer lured us away from home once again and we spent the last three days visiting friends and family. It was, to put it shortly, lovely.

The above picture is the stitching project I had with me in China. I ran out of the yellow thread used for the moon and had to choose another one to finish it off (it shows, I know). The thread was hand-dyed (Six Strand Sweets) so I thought even ordering more would result in a color difference, so I just went with DMC and put the finishing touches on it on Wednesday. Now I just need to finish finish it into a needleroll. But first, I will tackle a project that has been languishing far too long and is now terrible overdue.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What I bought

Oh, don't worry, I'm not going to show you everything I bought in China, just the crafty stuff :)

Here are, first of all, the fabrics that were mentioned in the previous post:

Embroidered black silk for a skirt, gold silk for a dress, wool-cashmere mix for a dress and linen for a skirt (and now that I've listed them here, I'll actually have to do them).

In general, China is not the best country for a crafter looking for supplies to go to. There certainly are plenty of crafted objects to buy, but not a lot when it comes to the supply side. I did get a glimpse of a general craft store and visited a yarn store, both in Shanghai (but didn't buy anything as all were Italian yarns and most were what I could get from shops here). The cloth market really is the only place that I was thrilled with. The lack of craftiness is evident also in the book stores. Even the places with several large floors only had a shelve or two of craft books. Most of those were knitting books which I didn't get as a) they were all in Chinese, b) the patterns were not that great and c) they were so similar to what we get in the magazines and books over here. I almost got a book with crochet patterns (again, not Asian), but then decided not to as I really don't have the time to do any crochet. However, despite all of this, I did get home with four books in my bag:

The DIY Chinese knots book looks great. It's all in Chinese, but it has step-by-step pictures on how to make the knots.

The small Homespun Pleasures on the lower right hand side has small and cute, mainly western ispired designs, but it did have a few Asian things in it too, like these Chinese blouse key pouches. And the big plus with this book was that it had both Chinese and English instructions.

The Embroidery Patterns book on the left has plenty of patterns featuring western style cottages and villages, but also has some Chinese looking landscapes, like this one:

My absolute favourite is the one on top. It has the cutest ever things to do for a child. It has dresses (like the one on the cover) and other pieces of clothing, toys and pouches for storing things and these adorable finger puppets:

Again, it's all in Chinese, but it has the patterns and step-by-step photographs, so in theory it would be possible to make things from it. And I think I will, even if I don't yet have a child to make them to :)

Oh, and the individual pages were photographed on top of our "new" chest of drawers (remember this). It was a lot of work, but we love it now:

Monday, July 24, 2006

He who has not climbed...

...the Great Wall is no man at all. Or so the famous Mr. Mao said. I'm not sure I want to be a man (no, actually I know I do not want to be a man), but I did climb the wall!

Our first stop was Beijing, where we saw most of the major sights (but unfortunately not all of them): The Great Wall (which was definitely the highlight of our trip), The Forbidden City, The Summer Palace and The Temple of Heaven.

I love the detail in traditional Chinese buildings. Here is an example of a wall from the Forbidden City.

From Beijing we took a night train to Xian, where we saw the Terracotta Warriors which were impressive.

After a few days in Xian we flew to Shanghai and hopped on a bus to Suzhou, famous for its traditional Chinese gardens. And they were fabulous! Suzhou is also one of the silk centers of China and there was a wonderful silk museum there that we visited.

From Suzhou we took a night boat to Hangzhou, where we visited the famous West Lake. The day at the lake was, I think, the hottest day during our trip (and most of them were pretty hot). I had barely any energy to move and at times I wondered why I had traveled to the other side of the planet to look at an artificial lake when I could have looked at plenty of authentic ones in much nicer weather back home. But seriously, it was beautiful. The weeping willows and the rolling hills and the pagodas and the gorgeous bridges.

From there we were supposed to go to Putuoshan Island and we hopped on a bus to get to the seaside town where they leave. Only to be told there that because of the high winds the boats could not leave. So, we made the decision to go to Shanghai (which would have been our destination after the island). And we made the right one. The wind was furious for the next two days, so we couldn't have gone at all even if we had stayed and waited. Shanghai has a few great museums (Shanghai Museum and the Shanghai History Museum) and the Bund, but not many other sights. So we mainly just shopped :) We visited a cloth market and I had a cashmere coat made and DH some suits. Great bargains! I also got plenty of fabrics to sew some clothes at home.

We also spent one eveing at the highest bar in the world. Cloud 9 Bar is located at the 88th floor of the Grand Hyatt and the views over the Bund and all of Shanghai really were stunning. The drinks weren't cheap but they were good :) It was also nice to have a glass of wine (China really isn't a wine country and even at most of the popular restaurants you can only purchase them in bottles).

We had a wonderful time and will want to go again (though not in July!) as there's still so much to see. But now it's nice to be back home :)

My tips for those planning a trip to China: do not go in July if at all possible (it's waaay to hot to be comfortable and the Chinese also have their holidays then so all the sights are crowded), buy a mandarin phrase book (English is not that widely spoken and my tiny knowledge of the language came useful at times. We bought our phrase book in a book store in Beijing for less than 2 € and used it for words like boat, headache and post office) and bargain hard at the market places. Sometimes we were quoted prices that were 10 times more than what we actually ended up paying!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ni hao!

A quick photo-less post to say that we're okay and having a great time. Thus far we've been to Beijing, Xian, Suzhou and Hangzhou and tomorrow we're going to Putuoshan Island and then to Shanghai. China is full of people, superb sights and great food. Cultural differences abound, for better and for worse. Our biggest woe, though, is the intolerable heat. Will be back home a week from tommorrow and will post some photos then :)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

My bags are all packed

...and I'm ready to go!
We're leaving in less than four hours and I'm nervous and excited. I don't know whether I'll be able to post while I'm there, but I'll be back in three weeks. See you all then :)