16 June 2008

Completion of The Artist's Way, Textile Passions and Soccer Madness

The last couple of weeks have been really great; flying past me incomprehensibly, but none the less good. There has been a lot going on, but at the same time not really much at all. But I am going to tell you about it - that is why you visit this blog in the first place.

The End of an Era: Completing the Artist's Way and Textile Passions

After twelve weeks of journaling every morning and taking myself on a weekly 'artist's date', I have finally completed the Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I can only recommend it for anyone who has creative inclinations but does not know where or have the courage to begin.  Not only did I work through some long-festering, deep-seated issues that I had no idea were affecting how fully I have been able to live my life, let alone stunting my creativity, I also surprisingly discovered other creative passions I had long forgotten.

Over the last several weeks, I have become acutely aware of an absolute passion for textiles and sewing. I guess that knitting was the spark to ignite the fire. I wrote in my morning journal about this; wondering how I would be able to combine it with my writing endeavors and how I would begin perusing this. Well, as the life would have it, the universe hit me in the middle of the forehead with an answer.

Matthias and I have been trying to sell his motorcycle in Canada (we weren't able to import it because North American bikes have lower emissions standards than European ones. We would have had to completely rebuild the bike). Two Saturdays ago, we were out looking for a replacement bike. I also had my list of local yarn shops and after unsuccessfully looking for one, I walked past a charity shop window and saw a dress form...in my size. The dress form cost 20 GBP (around $40). 

The whole thing was like a slow motion scene from a film.  I walked past the shop window twice after seeing it. On the third approach, Matthias told me I had to buy it. I had just been talking about wanting a dress form the night before. It was fate. We carried Lisl, the German equivalent of Lizzie, to the car in two pieces. At home we checked how much brand new dress forms cost. To our delight, we found that they cost almost three times as much as we paid. Now all I have to do is buy a sewing machine and learn how to sew...

To the left are a few pictures of Lisl: one in her birthday suit and one in which she sports the front panel of the sweater I am knitting at the moment and that is a never ending project.

Writing is going really well. I submitted my first story pitch to an online knitting magazine, Knitty.com, and am patiently awaiting a response. I am also celebrating my first paying writing gig for a small London marketing firm that specializes in search engine optimization. It isn't my aesthetic preference, but it is a resume/portfolio builder and a couple pounds in the old pocket. I also have a few other prospects on the horizon which I may have to do some pro bono work for, but you have to pay your dues, right?

Saturday was World Wide Knit In Public Day and a group of us chicks with sticks descended upon one of the main squares in Manchester city center. I made some carrot cake cupcakes to share, packed a blanket to sit on and a thermos with tea and took the train down to Piccadilly. To my surprise, around twenty of us showed up and it was a real opportunity to get to know other knitters, advertise our knitting groups and get the latest scoop on new yarns and shops. It sounds cheesy, but that is what knitters do when they get together. It was good fun and I even met two other American expat knitters!
Here are a few of the gals in action:

Maureen and her bear Alice. She and a friend are the 'traveling bear ladies' who seem to have a small cult following in rural England.

Charlie is getting an early start as a yarn goddess. Rachel is a freelance artist and fan of all things German. 
Polly (left) is due in one month and working on an afghan. Katie (far right) brought a friend who was visiting from Indiana.

Soccer Madness

Soccer has taken Casa Breu by storm. The European Championships, the second largest tournament next to the World Cup, started nearly two weeks ago. Night after night, Matthias and I have been watching three hours of soccer. Thank goodness the group rounds are almost over and the knockout quarterfinals are starting soon. Germany is playing its final group game this evening against cohost Austria in Vienna. The Germans were the tournament favorite, but have made an incredibly poor showing  in their first two games. If Deutschland loses tonight, we will be out. So, Auf geht's Deutschland! (Let's go, Germany).

I hope you are well and enjoying your summer no matter how miserable the weather and the economy seem to be. Remember, there is always another way to look at it.

03 June 2008

Writing Exploits, Bury Market, Rainy Day Snail Tales

It is practically unfathomable that it is already June. Time has flown by since Matthias and I moved here in mid-February. We must be having some fun. Even the last week and a half are just a blur in my memory. I can't seem to differentiate days or what I did with them. But I do know and I thought you might like to as well.

Post-Birthday Recovery: It took me a couple days to recover from the cold I caught and all glorious upheaval that was my birthday:  a visit from best friend in Glasgow, numerous phone calls, emails and Facebook messages wishing me well; surprise flower deliveries from my German in-laws, a gift certificate to Yarn Market from Mom, and drum roll, please, my Dad standing outside my front door! Yes, he was in London on business and had booked his return flight out of Manchester. He and my husband had conspired for months to plan the birthday ambush. Dad and I both started wailing as soon as I had registered what was going on. I then spent another hour pacing back and forth in the living room, reeling from the shock of it all. We spent another couple days together, cooking, eating and showing him around our lives here in Manchester. Other than the initial moment of surprise, the highlight of the Dad's visit was probably our trip to Scout Moor, a gigantic wind park with 26 turbines being built by Matthias' company just north of Manchester. Here is what it looks like from a few miles away.

Scout Moor Wind Park

We donned safety gear and were taken around by the site manager in his pickup. Then he even let us into a turbine that hadn't yet gone live. It was mechanical heaven for Dad and Matthias. To top that, we had fish and chips with mushy at the local chippy. Those pieces of fish were monsters. The waitress got a good laugh at Dad and Matthias who ordered like they were at Ivars. They couldn't finish their plates. What a cultural experience.

Freelance Writing: I spent last week finishing up the editing of my first article submission with the help of my two best girls, Alexis and Lisa. Big thanks to them for their useful and constructive advice. The article became much better because of their suggestions and I am confident that the article has a good shot at publication. Now I am on to generating new article ideas and even querying the same article idea with other publications.

Finally I have come to the twelfth and final week of Julia Cameron's The Artist Way. I can hardly believe that I have been doing this program for three months now. Time really does fly. Doing the program, I have made some significant steps toward creative recovery. Journaling every morning before I do anything else is a huge asset not only to my writing and creativity, but also to my own sanity. My morning pages help me sort out any mental funk which in turn enables me to be still and present enough to pick up on creative quickening and not drive myself crazy with a bunch of egoic crap playing on repeat. The Artist's Way has also helped me hammer out a faith and persistence in what I am doing and where my dreams lead me. It hasn't always been easy to allow myself to undertake this mission. But with a little faith, anything is possible. Remind me if I forget that.

Cheesy Self-Reflection

I also have been blogging like a madwoman. I decided to refocus the theme of this one, mainly as a journal of what I am up to over here in jolly ol' England so that, should you so desire, you can keep up with the life and times of Britt Breu. I have since started a knitblog, so I don't have to bore unwilling readers with the details of my obsessive stitchery and all my explorations of the knitting universe. Finally, I have set up a blog that solely exists as a shameless plug for my writing talents. I did this so that prospective clients can check out where I have been published and the spectrum of styles I employ. Now all I have to do is get published and list those!

The Bury Market: Not too far away from the Scout Moor Wind Park is the Bury Market, named Britain's Best Market. I don't know about you (except Alexis), but I love markets. Not only are the a welcome assault to my senses and a fantastic opportunity to do some people watching, but they completely reflect the local and national culture. Along with the wife of one of Matthias' colleagues, Henrietta, I went to the Bury Market on Saturday with basket and camera in hand.

Bargain Bunches at Bury Market

The Bury Market has over one hundred vendors. British markets are a combination of a farmers market and a department store. Sometimes there is even an element of flea market thrown in - what Britons might call a boot sale. It is a yard sale/flea market out of the back of your car. I have really only ever associated markets with the likes of those in Germany and the farmers market in the States. It is an interesting twist to see vacuum cleaners, watch makers, seamstresses and haberdashery, and granny pants (large women's undergarments) thrown into the mix. Here are just a few more impressions:

Panasonic Hoovers

Courteously Qeueing

Cheese Choices

Watch This

Produce Pleasantries

Matthias' Delight

I ended up with a whole basket of goodies: freshly baked bread, local, in-season green asparagus and strawberries, fresh cream, white cannelli beans from an Italian deli, some slices mortadella and blood sausage with tongue slices for the big guy (I know, it's gross, but he loves it) and some freshly made chili and old English sausages which we ate up the next day. 

Snails Tales: Hen and I had some real luck with the weather on Saturday morning. In fact, it was the nicest day we've had in the last two weeks. It has been totally dreary and even stormy: we had gale force winds the weekend before last! One upside to all this rain is the fact that I get to see all my little slimy friends after a good pour. My fondness for them has become something of a love-hate relationship, especially since I have planted a garden of my own. I've just found about six of those little pesky bastards buffeting on my Josephine clematis. Here are a few frequenters around our place:

Queen of the Gardener's Scourge

Even Small Snails Leave Trails

That is the latest from Mancunia folks. I hope you are as entertained reading this as I was writing it. Thanks for reading.