02/04/2015 14:54

We are now proud grandparents! Tobias was born on March 23, 2015 at 9.15AM, 4.080 kg and 52 cm tall!

Obviously we have not seen much of him yet but we have both held him while he and his mother were still in hospital and we also saw him sleeping in his little cot earlier this week. We are wishing him and his parents all the best for the future. A future which sometimes frightens me, but I suppose that is normal. When we were young, we did not think of dangers either, but I think there are so many more dangers now-a-days, especially when I think about the internet. These are dangers we did not have when we were young. But than, I suppose, this generation grows up with the internet, mobile phones, etc. 

Anyway, all this is still far away in the future and for the time being we are just going to enjoy having him.




Two and a half kilos of tantrum

02/08/2014 09:29

She weighs only 2.5 kg but she knows exactly what she wants and what she does not want. We have had her now for five months and we love her. She is about  two and a half years old but still has a lot to learn. The first two years of her life she lived with an elderly lady in Leeds and we suspect that, except from a walk around the block to do her business, she did not go outside a lot. OUR TUPPY! 

She loves being outside but is not much bothered with the garden. She wants to go there where all the nasty (interesting for her) smells are. When she tells me that she wants to go out she does that in no uncertain terms by running around the table, comming up to me, not wanting to sit down and when I do not react, start barking at me. When I get up and walk to the garden door, she sits down, looks at me and turns around to sit at the top of the stairs (our front door is downstairs) and waits for me to go down with her. Sometimes, when I am not quick enough, she goes down on her own and expects me to follow her. Once outside she never seems to be in a hurry to do something. It has to be at the right place, turns around a few times and lifts her leg. Yes, she is a girl but I have also seen her lifting her leg against a dustbin after sniffing it for quite a long time. Obviously her aim is not very good but she tries her best!

She does not like getting up in the morning and after coming back from our morning walk she spends most of the time in her basked resting from a tiring night's sleep. However, at 12.15 she gets up and tells me it is time to prepare lunch. She does not get her food until later but you never know, there may be some titbits falling off the table. After our lunch Alan and I have a cup of tea in the living room and watch the news. As soon as I want to sit down, she tells me it is time for her to go out. It is no good trying to ignore her - she does not give up so I give in and take her out while my tea is getting cold.

Sometime between 3 and 4 PM she tells me it is time for her food. When we got her she had no problem eating the biscuits. She gobbled them up in no time. Now, when I only put dry biscuits in her bowl, she has a look at it, picks one up and spits it out. I have tried it out but she rather goes without food for a few days then eating dry biscuits. Obviously she would not starve. In the end she does eat them but she does not enjoy them. So she has won and I always mix something else with her biscuits - some leftover bits of meat or whatever. It does not have to be much but the biscuits have to be mixed well and smell of whatever meat is mixed with it. Then she eats the lot!

At 6 PM she tells me again that it is time for me to go to the kitchen and start the food preparation. I normally do. I prepare the food but may leave the cooking for another hour or so. After our meal when we go in the living room again to watch TV and have a cup of tea, the same thing happens as after lunch - as soon as I sit down she tells me she has to go out. And this is in summer when our garden doors are open most of the time!

On normal evenings I watch TV sitting on a two seater sofa and Tuppy lies next to me. Sometimes, however, I feel like putting my feet up and the sofa is really large enough for the pair of us. No way! I might touch her or the cushion she is lying against and that's it. There is not enough space. She is really annoyed and shows it. She jumps off the sofa, runs a few times around the room, jumps into her basket, attacks the blanket in it and settles down for a while. Then she comes back to me, jumps on the sofa, realizes that it is still not large enough for the pair of us and the whole thing starts all over again!

On normal evenings, Alan and I watch TV and go to bed between 10 and 11. On one particular evening Alan wanted to watch a special programme later in the evening but it did not interest me so I decided to do some more sewing. Tuppy did not ike that at all, that was the time we should have gone to bed! She followed me into my sewing room and started barking at me. I ignored it for a while and then told her off which made her really mad. She took off on a run, ran into the living room, jumped on Alan, who did not really wanted her at that particular time, jumped off him, ran to the place on the sofa where I normally sit and started attacking the quilt that covers the sofa. After a while she stopped, came into my sewing room and laid down in her basket uner the table. For about five minutes and then it started all over again! After the third time I decided to take her out and when we came back in she settled down until we went to bed.

Yes, she runs rings around us, she gets real tantrums and we love and spoil her!


Early morning walks

15/04/2014 09:54

This was the coldest morning since we are back in the Alsace. I should have worn some gloves on our early morning walk but I do not like wearing them and also, I wanted to take some pictures because it was gloriously sunny although the north eastern wind was very cold. In the shade there were still some patches of frost. Fortunately the fruit trees in the garden do not seem to have had any problems with this. The cherry blossom is nearly finished, the apple blossom out in full and the plums on the way back. So, hopefully we will have some fruit this year because the freezer is running pretty low now due to the fact that we had nothing last year! Normally, when we come back to the Alsace in early April the mirabelle trees behind the house are in full bloom - this year they had finished flowering already! Last year everything was at least six weeks late - this year they are a few weeks early!

Since we are back we have been able to take Tuppy out for a long walk every morning - no rain! She particularly likes the first part where we walk up from the house to the field. There is always a lot of scratching going on and grass and soil is flying all over the place. This is probably where all the smells are of the animals that come around during the night like badgers (you can see the track where they come down) and probably some other night creatures like house martins. I know these little creatures live arounf here and they have cost me a small fortune: I had to have a special ultra sound device put in my car to stop them eating through the cables. Further on in the field you can see where wild pigs have been rooting and of course there are the deer. 

This morning I had to take my camera with me to take some pictures:

Alan standing in front of a pear tree gone wild.

Tuppy, curious about what I am doing.

All the yellow patches in the field are cowslips. It is too early for the dandelions to be open and there do not (yet) seem to be many buttercups.

Tracks of a tractor.

Patches of wild orchids. (15.04.14 I now know the name of this orchid: harlekijn in dutch or green winged orchid in English -

I would love to know the name of this orchid. Every year there seem to be more and more patches of these orchids although the field has less wild flowers than when we first came here. Artificial fertilizer was used about ten year ago. I think it was used only for one or two years but it has taken a long time for the wild flowers to come back again. When we first moved here I could pick armsful of wild flowers and decorate the whole house with them. Now, more and more fields are used for agricultural purposes.

I do not know the name of these little blue flowers but there are patches all over the field.

I know the German name for these: gewöhnliches Seifenkraut.

View of the village.

Violets under the trees bordering the field

as well as these little white flowers. Can anybody let me know what these are called? In spring you find them all over in the shade of trees.


08/03/2014 11:14

When Aischa died she left a great gap in our life which we wanted to fill. Not to replace Aischa, which would not be possible because she was such a great little thing and gave us so much love and pleasure, but to fill the empty space she left behind. I suppose just like the empty nest syndrome when the children leave home. 

I looked on the Internet and found a lot of puppies but because we will be leaving for France at the end of March we were very restricted in our choise. You cannot leave a young puppy overnight in a (still) strange car on the ferry and you cannot take any dogs into your cabin. We found out from Aischa and Krümmel that the kennels on the ferries are very stressful, even more so than being left in a car they knew. Also, because we are travelling a lot by car, I did not want a large Yorkshire terrier, not more than 3 kg when fully grown and it had to be a bitch. So when I found this ad about a 2 year old Yorkshire terrier bitch in Leeds, we called to find out why they had to get rid of the dog and were told by the son that it was his mother's dog. His mother was 85 years old and had been in and out of hospital since Christmas and he did not have the time to look after the dog.

The next day we went to Leeds to have a look. As Leeds is about a 3.5 hrs drive from where we are in the Scottish borders we set off early in the morning. It turned out to be an even longer drive than anticipated. We were stopped by the police just before the english border and told that there had been an accident further on and that the road would be closed for at least another 2 hours. We had to make a detour which put more than an hour onto our trip but I did enjoy it and saw an area I had not seen before - the Kielder water. A huge lake in beautiful surrounding but with mostly secondary roads! 

With the help of my newly installed Tomtom on my iPad we reached the address in Leeds and saw the dog. A little beauty, very sweet tempered, still very playful, about the size of Aischa but a different colouring. There was no way that we would leave without this little treasure. 

When we came home that evening and put her on the grass for a weewee I could foresee problems with long walks because her legs looked very short and I also thought that something had been done to her tail because I could not see it porperly. The next morning, however, she looked completely different and I realised that she was keeping her tail between her legs and crouches down when she is frightened.

That morning we took her for a longish walk around some fields and there was no problem of her not following or not wanting to walk. She loved it! Only when a particular  scent was too strong she was more interested in that than in us. She took to walking like a duck to water. I don’t think she got a lot of proper walks up to now but was used to being a lapdog. She has a beautiful coat more silvery than Aischa and Krümmel had. 

We took her to the vet yesterday where she got a thorough health checkup, part of the injections she needs, a microchip, etc., all she needs for cross border travelling.

She can jump higher than Aischa could and has no problems finding the best places for a nap in the house. She follows me all over. When I get up and think she is asleep she is already standing behind me. At the moment she is curled up behind my feet so that I have to be careful getting up-



02/03/2014 10:16

Aischa, our great, couragious little Yorkshire terrier left us on February 27.

I went to France for only a week and when I left on the Wednesday she still looked okay. However, thinking back her deterioration started already on the way from Ireland to Scotland and probably even before that. When we spent the night in a B&B before taking the ferry the next morning in Belfast, she did not want to eat. I thought this was because I only gave her the biscuits and not the home cooked food, which she normally had. She also started drinking more than she used to do.

As soon as we arrived in Scotland we took her to the vet because she had been coughing for quite a while. She got antibiotics and cortisone and stopped coughing very quickly. She still did not eat as she normally did but we put this down to the medication.

Coming back from our morning walk and while we had our breakfast we used to give her a few of her biscuits which she normally ate very quickly but did not want to have the two days before I left. However, she wanted her bits of banana, which she always got from Alan.

While I was in France, Alan told me that she was getting very weak and he would take her to see the vet. The next time I talked to him he told me that they had found out that she had kidney failure und had put her on a drip. When he picked her up on the Saturday she was much better but on the Sunday she was deteriorating again.

When I got back from Edinburgh airport on Wednesday late afternoon I was picked up from the bus stop by Sheila, our next-door neighbor. She told me that Aischa had become so weak that day that Alan had taken her to the vet to put her to sleep. There they told him that they would put her on a drip again so that I could say goodbye.

As the vet surgery is more or less next door to the bus stop I went there immediately. The surgery was already closed for the day but they let me in to see Aischa. As soon as she saw me, her front paw came up so that I could tickle her tommy and when I picked her up she clung on to me.

Alan had arranged to pick her up the next morning and talking to the vet he advised me to enjoy the next day with her and have her put to sleep late afternoon.

When we picked her up she was not too bad. Coming home and putting her on the grass for a wee, she started sniffing about and was interested in what was going on around her. Once inside and put into her bed, she jumped straight out again and went to the kitchen to have a drink and Alan gave her some food, which she all ate. She even started following me when I went into another room.

We took her into the garden later on for another wee, but she did not want to sniff around any longer. We carried her through the garden, showing her all her favourite places for a last time.  After that she was fading very quickly and at 3 PM, when the vet came she was very weak. Then it all went very quickly and I suppose we did the best for her but it was very difficult to let her go.

While I was in France, Alan had already made her little coffin and we buried her on Friday, in the rose garden in a beautiful sunny, privat little corner. She wore her little Crinch vest, which we bought for her in November. Sheila was with us and afterwards she invited us to her place for a celebration of Aischa’s life.

For non-pet owners all this may sound a bit over the top but she had been a part of our life for nearly 10 years and it was good to talk about Aischa and Krümmel, what they did, liked, their funny traits, etc. Afterwards we all felt better even though it still hurts thinking about her. Also, the flat feels very empty and I still keep looking down to see if Aischa is in front of my feet, especially in the kitchen where she was always hoovering the floor.

2013 in review

31/12/2013 14:56

Casting my mind back to what all happened in 2013 I must admit that there were some very sad moments. First of all my mother died in February. Not unexpectedly, she was nearly 95, but it still comes as a shock. However, I was happy that I managed to be there with her. 

Than, in April, Krümmel, one of our Yorkshire terriers, died. Also, not unexpectantly as he was nearly 16 years old. Still, he had been a part of our family for a long time and is still missed. This also brings home the fact that Aischa will be 15 at the end of January. I hope we will still have her for a few years but I also realize that it could be next year.

On the positive side - I started my bag making business and have been quite successful. Not that I could make a living out of it, which I do not need anyway, but all in all I have sold about 30 bags since I started end March 2013, and I enjoy what I am doing.

And than of course, to crown it all, Mark, my youngest son, got married end of August and they had a fantastic wedding party. Two of his nephews came from Holland with their partners and of course David, my eldest, came from Australia and stayed with us for a week.

So, I think I can say that all in all, the positive and the negative kept in balance.

The bliss of having a secondary home or holiday cottage.

05/12/2013 17:32

Have you ever dreamt of having a holiday place of your own? Be careful what you wish for – you may get it!

No, it is not as bad as that. There are times when it really is bliss. You can go there whenever you feel like it and you can do in it what you want because it is yours. However, this is only true when you have lots of free time and the holiday place is not too far away. On the other hand, you always go to the same place and if money and free time is not available in abundance, it may be difficult to spend your holidays anywhere else. On top of that, there are always things to do, like fixing a dripping shower or tap, a leaking roof, painting the woodwork, the outside, the inside and if you have a garden, it is even worse! Whenever we come back the garden is a jungle because the soil is so fertile. We can only tame the growth with a powerful strimmer. We have been trying for years the get rid of the montbretias, which are beautiful flowers in their own right but have compeltely taken over the garden.

Do you want a holiday place to go fishing? Go to a hotel or B&B. Do not buy a cottage, because you just will not have the time to go fishing, unless of course your time and money are limitless. There are too many things to do in the house and garden.

We are the lucky ones! We own a small cottage in the south west of Ireland and we are retired. Alan bought it in the early 70s and has been renovating it ever since. When he bought the cottage there was no water, no toilet, no heating. There was electricity – two sockets in the whole house. He bought the house because he likes fishing. He used to go fishing years ago but has not done so for many years now.

There were times when we arrived at the cottage, tired after a very long trip and found that there was no water. Alan had made the water supply himself by laying a plastic (or whatever) tube in the stream that runs past our cottage, high up the hill. He explained the whole process to me but I am not very technical. All I know is that after 20 years of working perfectly we suddenly started arriving here and finding that the water supply had dried up. We had to get buckets of water from the neighbours until Alan found the break in the tube, which meant that he could be walking and standing in the stream for days on end. In the end, we had a well drilled and at least that works – unless there is a very severe frost, which is seldom in this part of the country.

Last year, after a few very wet years he had to open the front door with the help of a piece of wood and a sledgehammer because the door had expanded due to damp.

We arrived here again last Sunday. After a tiring ferry crossing from Liverpool to Dublin (getting up at 4:30 AM), we arrived here at 12.30 after having stocked up at our local supermarket. When putting the key in the lock it did not turn! After trying several times, even with the help of a wrench, which bent the key, it was clear that we could not get in through that (only) door.

Alan managed to open an upstairs window but even from the inside, it was not possible to unlock the door. A different and more destructive method was called for.

We never leave many tools here because when the house is empty everything gets damp. Therefore, when we go to Ireland the car is always packed to the roof (and we have a big car!) and there is just enough space left for Aischa, our Yorkshire terrier.

As the tools are the heaviest part of everything we take with us, they were at the bottom of the car so that nearly all the luggage had to be taken out, before he found the tools he needed. We were lucky that it was a dry day because our possessions were strewn all over the garden!

I tried to stay invisible and not to come up with any suggestions or even asking ‘are you sure the door is locked’ because a neighbour had switched the dehumidifier on the previous day which meant that he had come in! Aischa and I stayed in the car under a nice warm throw and I even managed to get some sleep!

At 4:30 PM, I was told that the door was open and I could start putting the luggage inside.

After having fixed the door and doorframe Alan is now replacing the lock so that tonight we can hopefully get a good night's sleep with both our eyes closed instead of only one and get rid of the axe which has been decorating our bedroom.

However, things have a habit in coming in threes! After all the work Alan had done, we were ready for a cup of tea (funny British habit but we love it). However, the electric kettle did not work so that we had to boil water on the gas ring and that takes ages!

I tried to get connected to the internet on Monday but did not manage to get it. I had been using a Three dongle for quite a few years and never had any real problems so I decided to try the new IT shop I noticed when we drove through town and am now the proud owner of mobile Wi-Fi also from Three and it works great. Faster than the dongle and I can even use my iPad! I am thrilled!

So much for the bliss of having a holiday house of our own.




I am NOT going to be dictated to ...

28/11/2013 11:03


... by a less than 3 kg heavy creature! But, of course, we do, at least, most of the time. However, I draw the line at going to bed at 9 PM!

When Aischa tells us at about 9 PM that she wants to go out for a wee, I take her outside so that she can do her business. And she does, at least when it is not raining. When it rains, I might have to send her back two to three times before she finally gives in and goes to do her wee. However, when we come back in she knows she will not go out anymore that day so she is ready for bed. Which means our bed but it also means that she expects us to go to bed as well as she will not stay there on her own. Of course, we cannot give in so in the end she settles down. However, it is the same every night. She keeps on trying.

In the morning, at least when we are in Scotland, we take her out for a walk at 8 AM. She does not like to get up. When we get up, she crawls under the duvet and when we are ready to go, we have to drag her out of her little hole. When we put her on the floor, she may or may not, want a little drink and then she will hop in her nearest basket (in Scotland we have two). Most of the time I have to carry her down the stairs because she will just be dragging her heels and try to postpone the whole procedure. When we get outside and I put her down she will wee and either try to run back to the door or just stand there and watch us. In the end, she knows she will have to follow.

We used to go straight into the field and this was fine as long as the grass was dry. However, after the frost and the rain we realized that for a small creature as she is, it may not be great to be dragged out of bed and then get your belly wet as soon as you are outside. Therefore, we decided to walk down the drive and then turn into the fields. By that time, she should be wide-awake. However, Aischa had a different idea. In the afternoon, we just walk her around the block so at the end of the drive we turn right but to go to the fields, we have to turn left. Aischa was not having this; she wanted us to go right. The first few days we had to carry her to the field before she accepted the fact that she had reached the point of no return. After a few weeks of going this way, she has now at last accepted the fact that this was the way.

On the way back she is normally pretty quick because she knows that she will get her reward when we come back home. Last year we found out that we had to change her food from home cooked meals to hard dog biscuits instead. She was not having it. She, who loves food, was not eating. In the end, she got her way. It is a compromise from our side. She will not eat the biscuits when I put them in her bowl. However, when we come back from our walk in the morning she gets a small handful of the biscuits and gobbles them up in no time because this is a treat! In the late afternoon, she gets her home cooked meal but less then she used to!

She was at Sheila’s when we went back to France for a week and she spoilt her rotten. She got used to Sheila’s new throw! I had to buy her one as well! When I sit on the sofa, she likes to sit on it as well and that used to be fine. Now, when I put her on the sofa she just sits there and looks at me as if she wants to say ‘Is that all? Where is my throw?’ As soon as I out the throw on the sofa, she gets hold of it and builds herself a little nest but goes barmy until she has it just the way she wants it!

There is something, however, that I have still not understood. She loves to come with us in the car and she is fine when we are driving at a speed of over 70 or 80 km/hour. As soon as we slow down, like driving in town or over narrow winding country roads, she starts moaning. Or, when we stop! I remember the time that we were looking for a hotel in France and our navigation system had taken us to a very rundown part of that particular town. We were trying to find our way on the map as well as trying to phone the hotel. She was moaning on and on and did not stop until we started driving again. At that moment, I could easily have wrung her neck.  

Chance encounters

14/11/2013 15:12

Yesterday we had to go to Galashiels and on the way back, we stopped in Selkirk. Somebody had told me about the Borders Scrapstore, which is a charity shop. This shop collects, sorts and redistributes surplus materials from industry, which are safe to use creatively for art, craft and play. Entering the store was like walking into Aladdin’s Cave. It was difficult to know where to start. In the end, I walked out with two different tweed fabrics, cotton tartan, lining fabric to go with the bag I am in the process of making and many zippers.

When we left the shop, we noticed a mill shop in the building opposite and had a look in there. I was not quite sure what to find but they were selling beautiful tweed fabrics, which were woven in their mill. We were the only people in the shop (which was above the mill) and we had a very interesting conversation with the mill owner who told us all about tweed, wool, weaving and weavers, etc. 

I must have sounded very naive thinking that with so many sheep in Scotland they would use the wool from these sheep. However, that did not seem to be the case and thinking about it later, it made a lot of sense. The sheep in colder and wetter climates produce a different, coarser fleece than sheep living in a dryer and warmer climate. Their wool is a lot finer. In the old days, the coarser wool of the local sheep was used to produce the woollen cloth but as time went on and people had more money they wanted the finer quality. The wool of local sheep is now mostly used in the carpet industry. Apparently, for Harris Tweed they still use wool from local sheep.

We had a very informative and interesting morning.

Driving home the weather was fantastic and the forests looked particularly glorious in all the colours between gold and green.

I do love the Scottish borders. Having grown up in Holland where the highest mountain is less than 200 m above sea level I still marvel at mountains and hills. I love the Swiss Alps but could not live there. It gets too depressing after a few days and they make me feel too closed in. I have always loved the Jura and still love living there but the hills in the Scottish borders are different. They are more rolling; in a way, they are softer. You do not even have to be too high up and you can see miles of rolling hills. 

When we first came to the borders, I did not know much about Scotland. I was always under the naive impression that Scotland, Wales and England were the same (North Ireland was different because it was on a different island) and used to talk about England when I meant any of the three. Never having lived in the UK and having obtained British citizenship through marriage, I used to call myself English, which is wrong. I now call myself British. I have also learned to be extremely careful to make a distinction between Scottish and English when I am in the borders.

I also did not know that Hawick used to be and still is to a certain point, the capital of the cashmere industry. Companies such as Hawick Cashmere, Hawick Knitwear, Johnstons of ElginLyle & Scott, Peter Scott, Pringle of Scotland, and Scott and Charters, all have had and in many cases still have manufacturing plants in Hawick, producing some of the most luxurious cashmere and merinowool knitwear in the world today. 

In the time we have been here, I indulged myself in buying cashmere wear. It is beautifully soft and warm.

After having bought some tweed fabrics I am planning to make some bags specifically for the next Presents Galore fair in Kelso and market this as locally produced cloth for my bags. Anyway, that is still a long way off. I have to first think of my summer 14 collection. The tweeds will be for my winter 14 collection.




26/09/2013 15:49

I know, I have not been writing much on this website and seem to be doing more on my blog: I have not even had much time to read all my emails except for the very personal ones. I have been using my time on trying to find out the best way to promote and market my bags. It is very interesting to find out how all these social media work.

In the week before leaving for Scotland I did not have much time to do any advertising on my Facebook page or on Pinterest and looking at the Facebook page graph the drop in visitors was quite dramatic. Also, if I do not put a lot of pictures of bags or jewellery on Pinterest, I can see an immediate drop in visitors to my ETSY shop!

This means, of course, that I have to spend more time on social media. But, on the other hand I need my time in making bags and jewellery. I wonder how other people go about that. In fact, I should have somebody to do all the advertising etc. so that I can concentrate on creating the products I want to sell. Talking about needing somebody - I would also need somebody to do the cleaning, escpecially after finishing a projet.

Of course, there is also the photographing. I want to spend more time on doing that and really getting the hang of a camera, which is still trial and error for me. I am even now thinking of going to a photography course. Migros, in Basel should have something! And of course writing. I should be able to write better descriptions for the products I am selling!

Anyway, at the moment I am concentrating on the Presents Galore show in Kelso, in the Scottish borders on October 7 and 8 (see my blog, and after that I will concentrate on the rest.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 >>