Friday, June 14, 2019

Trip Wrap Up

Our last stop was Venice.  By this time, I was tired, and ready for the cruise to be over and done with.  But it wasn't.  I am so glad we chose the excursion that we chose!  We began with a water bus to the island of Murano, home of the famed glass blowers.  There, we watched a demonstration of a Master at work.
 After seeing the skill needed to produce a bowl, we were invited into the Master's Gallery, to shop.  Everything was well out of our price range, with all of these asking 100's or 1000's of euros.
 It wasn't until we were almost ready to catch our waterbus that we realized there was more for sale downstairs, that was more affordable. 

From there, we went to St. Mark's Square, and hiked a bit to catch our gondola ride.  It was quite reminiscent of Disneyland.  I don't know if you can see (click the picture to make it bigger), but the gondolas were stern to bow to stern to bow as far as you could see.
 It didn't really matter.  We were in Venice!  In a gondola!  :)
 On our way back to the waterbus, we stopped for a few pictures of St. Marks Square.
By this time, I was exhausted.  It was time to return to the ship for one last amazing dinner, where we were serenaded by gondoliers.
 Fast forward to last week, when I finished another little seascape.  I think this brings me to the end of the half-done littles that were on my design wall.  yay!
 There are a couple of lines of beading and French knots on the piece.  I do the French knots first, then fill in with beads.  This picture is a bit blurry, but it gives you the idea.
 I've basted the four baby quilts, which are ready and waiting for quilting.
Unfortunately, I suspect it will be a while before I get them done.  We are expecting a house guest for the next two weeks, so I've cleared all sewing accoutrements from the sewing annex.  Where did I put them?  I stuffed them into the "studio," which is once again the Dump.  sigh.  Maybe one of these days I will be able to sew myself out of this mess.

Then again, each time I begin, I get distracted.  Witness what I have up on my design wall.
yep.  That is more that enough to keep me busy for a month of Sundays, let alone all the quilts that are currently basted and waiting to be quilted.  Let us hope that the next time I check in, I've quilted something!

Goals are good!!



Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Croatia, and some sewing

 After Montenegro, we traveled to Dubrovnik, Croatia.  For those of you who are Game of Thrones fans (personally, I've never seen it), this scene should evoke squeals of delight.  Or so we were told.  GOT gear was everywhere.  If you're not interested in it, well, there's always a Croatian soccer jersey to spend money on.

I found Dubrovnik to be disappointing, probably because we arrived a few minutes before the beginning of a marathon through the city.  There's not a lot to see when the streets are roped off for the runners.  The rooftops were clear, and the sky a gorgeous blue.
 Our guide definitely shaded my impression of Croatia.  She spent a good portion of our time talking about the war with Serbia/Montenegro.  Though she insisted people need to forgive and move on, she also says they will never forget, and Serbia and Montenegro, well...she had lots of opinions as to what should be done with them.  I guess this is what happens when one grows up in a war zone.

There were bay leaves around the town. We were told they symbolize peace.  I think they also ensure that they never forget.
We went to an "authentic" home, where we were served a Croatian meal by a woman in traditional dress.  She was on the move, so I didn't get a picture of her.  However, I did get one of a street vendor, who was working on her wares as people walked by.
 The items were pretty, but I did not buy anything.
Fast forward to this past week, when I've been sewing up a storm.  My "studio" is in an awful state.  I can't get to anything.  There are piles of this, that, and the other thing everywhere.  I decided to cut the pulled fabrics for baby quilts, instead of stashing them then pulling them out again later.  In the past 10 days, I pieced 4 tops, plus part of one for veterans.  Here they are, waiting to be basted and quilted.
 In a mystery box, I found this Xstitch that I hadn't touched since 1995.  It needed a few hours of backstitching to finish.  So I finished it, and it is now at the shop, for framing.
 This little quiltlet is kind of an inside joke.  I sent it to a talk show host because I lured him into talking about quilting several times before and after Best of the Valley Quilt Show.  At one point, he said that he'd talked so much about quilting, "Those quilters should send me a quilt!"  It's not a big one, but it's a quilt!  hahaha!
And other than that?  Well, there are still other projects that are moving forward, as I try to get them off my table or off the design wall and back into production.  It's definitely a challenge.  As I think I said, it's out of control.

Thanks for hanging in there until the end.  I have one more day of cruise pics to share.  After that?  Hopefully I'll have some quiltie things to share as well.  Happy Stitching!

Saturday, June 1, 2019

After Corfu, Montenegro

Have you ever heard of Montenegro?  I may have, but never paid attention.  I never once thought, "Oh, I'd like to visit Montenegro."  And then we did.  It was amazing.  Our ship was able to park right next to the street.  Not a dock, a street.  There is a deep deep water-filled gorge that accommodates cruise ships in Kotor.  Incredible!
 I think I took this next picture from the top of the ship, looking across to the city below.  You can see the old city wall, which has been there for centuries.  The entire town is surrounded by huge mountains, with another wall at the top, so it is quite protected from invasion.
 We took a bus tour up the mountain shown behind our ship in the first photo.  As we gained altitude, the weather changed from grey to foggy to pouring rain.  We had the misfortune to be sitting in the front row of the bus, so we could see how close we were to the edge of the drop off.  This narrow road had 25 hairpin turns up the mountain.
When we got to our stop, they offered us wine, at 10:30am.  I was so rattled by the ride, I took it!  This is the little restaurant where we snacked on wine, prosciutto, homemade bread, and locally made cheese.  Delicious!  As you can see, we've risen above most of the weather.
 Here you can see how far up the mountain we are.  Our cruise ship is that little arrow, way down below.
The drive was quite informative.  The other side of the mountain has a completely different climate, and it is there that most of their agriculture takes place.  We got back to the ship, ate some lunch, then went back to the old city.  My husband had heard of a climb, to the ruins at the top of the mountain.  He suggested, "We can try it, and if we don't make it, we can try it again, an hour later."  I told him we get one shot.  If I can't make it a first time, there's no way I'd make it a second time, especially in the same day!!
 It is 1350 stairs to the top.  I've marked with arrows how far I was able to make it, and how far hubby went.  He made it to the flag.  I did not.  The walk/hike was actually quite lovely, which you would never guess from a distance.  The walls are overgrown with iris and other greenery and blooms.
 Here is a midway point, where we stopped for air.  I think it's 3000' or something like that?  At this point, my memory is hazy.  He loved it, and had no problem setting a brisk pace.  Me?  Not so brisk, but I kept plugging along.
 Here is a picture of the ruins at the top.  He made it to the red arrow.  I stopped here, where I took the picture.  I probably would have stopped on the steps below this landing, but that would have been rude to the steady stream of climbers, heading to and from the top.
One thing we did not realize was that after climbing a bit, there is a gatekeeper.  It was 8 euros to continue past him.  Some people turned around, not wanting to spend so much.  But really?  How often does one get a chance to go to Montenegro and climb this?  It was totally worth it, though once we got back to the ship?  I wasn't good for much else.

Montenegro?  I highly recommend it!  The people were friendly and welcoming to tourists.  I think one of the most fun things was the number of people who saw hubby's hat and said, "Nice hat!" as they walked by.  Good memories, yes, indeed.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

More from the Cruise

When last I left our cruise narrative, we were leaving Rome.  Instead of another day of touring, we had a day at sea.  We went through the Straits of Messina, which historically is a hazardous crossing, but the deep lanes are well marked, and we were accompanied by pilot boats through the straits.  It was so windy, the open top of the ship was roped off, so I have no decent pictures of the event.  oh well.
 After a day at sea, we docked in Corfu, a Greek island.  Corfu was EXACTLY what I had imagined a Greek island to be.  The weather was a perfect 78 degrees.  It was Orthodox Good Friday, so the streets were quiet as many people answered the morning call to worship.
 After we were introduced to the port town of Kerkyra, our bus took us to the tourist destination of Paleokastritsa.  The water was clear turquoise, and the morning was just beginning.  We had a bit of time to hike up the hill to get another view of the water, then it was back on the bus, up the mountain, and around the island.
Our next stop was a tiny village, high above Paleokastritsa, where we had a snack of prosciutto, olives, cheese, and wine or ouzo.
 There were olive trees everywhere.  Apparently you can cut them for the wood, and they keep growing, making more wood, and always fruiting olives.  Many are 100's of years old.
 The one thing that was unexpected was all of the graffiti.  I took this picture, because it was in Greek.  :D
Up to this point, Corfu was my favorite.  It was relaxing, the weather was delightful, and I finally made it to Greece!  I did not know what to expect for the rest of the cruise, but after this?  I was more than satisfied.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Sewing Interlude

I have more cruise photos.  Of course I do.  But we've been back for 3 weeks, and I've finally found myself in the "studio."  When I walked in, I was appalled.  It had been months since I went in there hoping to sew anything.  It's taken weeks to clear off the sewing surface to be able to sew.

Okay, so I admit it.  I cleared off the surface by dumping everything into a bin.  But I was desperate, doncha know?

I needed to put together the pattern for the guild Block of the Month, for June.  I chose square-in a square-in a square, inspired by the floor of the Sistine Chapel.
 I was pleased with the response to the previous month's pattern.  Judie won a lovely regatta.  I neglected to take a picture, so I was glad that Hallie was on the ball.  Aren't they cute?
 Back in October, when I taught the little seascapes class, I put together this sunset.  Over the weekend, I stitched down the turtle, trimmed the quilt, and bound it.  It has already arrived at its new home.  I think it turned out pretty cute, if I do say so myself.
And, finally, I'm back to sewing baby quilts.  We have two grandchildren currently in utero, as well as several friends expecting this year.  One of the babies is already 7 weeks old.  Little Hannah will get her quilt, as soon as I can sew it together.  It's all cut out and awaiting its turn patiently.

And that's what I've been up to since we returned.  Happy quilting!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

After Florence, Rome

During the night, between the ports of Liverno and Citievecchia, there was a medical emergency aboard ship.  Not only were we battling gale force winds (again) and 12' swell on the bow, we had to turn around and head to the nearest port.  The captain said we made it to Elba by 2am, and it took until 5am to unload our critically ill passenger into the hands of the coast guard.  Our expected 8am arrival in Rome was delayed.  We arrived after 1pm.  The passenger remained in the hospital, in critical condition, throughout the remainder of the cruise.  I'm glad we stopped!

The Destination Desk quickly reworked the tour list and we had our choice of four.  We chose Panoramic Rome, thinking that at least we could ride the bus around Rome and take a picture or two.
 We lucked out, in that the storm had blown itself out for the day, and the sky was extraordinarily blue.  We rode the bus 90 minutes to Rome, 90 minutes around Rome, had 90 minutes to explore Piazza del Popolo, then back on the bus, and 90 minutes back to the ship.

We spent our 90 minutes searching for the Pantheon, but could not find it with the map we had been given.  We found this lovely column, and The Spanish Steps, which were so covered with people we could not see them.
 For the most part, it was shopping and more shopping.  We weren't in a shopping mood, so we took a picture or two, and rushed back to catch our bus.
When we got back to the ship, we discovered that because of weather, we were not going to make our next destination of Pompeii.  Instead, we spent the night in Citievecchia, and our canceled tours for the day were back on schedule the next.  That meant that we were again signed up for Panoramic Rome... and Vatican City, which we missed on the first day, due to lack of time.

I was excited to see the Sistine Chapel.  I have to say that it was the biggest disappointment of the day.  A highlight was the successful hunt for the Pantheon.  So cool!!  Unfortunately, we did not have time to go inside.
 On Day 2 in Rome, we also found the Trevi Fountain.  It is as beautiful as its publicity.
 The most frustrating thing for me was the people.  people, people, EVERYWHERE.  It is easy to understand how so many people end up with their pockets picked.  One couple lost their passports and all ID except for their ship card, in Rome.  They were taken back to the ship, packed up, and taken to the US Embassy.  What a disappointing way for their cruise to end!!
Vatican City was as crowded as Rome, if not more so.  The Sistine Chapel reminded me of a pen stuffed with cattle.  It was noisy, hot, crowded, and miserable.  I did not have enough room to even look up, and if anyone wanted to pick a pocket, this place was ideal!

I was ready to leave, but they said, "Now we're going to see St. Peter's."  Did I even want to?  I didn't think so.  It was incredible!  I had no idea!!
 This may look crowded to you.  Not so, compared to the Sistine Chapel.  Look at all that space between individuals.  If you reduce it to everyone touching, you've got an idea of what the Chapel was like.
 I had seen this stained window before.  I had no idea it was from St. Peter's.  none. at. all.  I guess we didn't cover that when I took Art History.

But the most breathtaking experience of the day?  Had to be walking into a curtained alcove and seeing the Pieta.  Absolutely stunning.  How did Michelangelo see them in the marble?  I understand quilts talking to a person, but a chunk of stone?  Awe-inspiring.

We were the last tour group to return to the ship that night.  We were greeted with champagne and the ship's orchestra.  Within 30 minutes, we were underway.

Pompeii remained on the list for future exploration.  Instead, we had a day at sea, chugging through the Straits of Messina and on to Corfu.  Again, the weather was aggressive.  The highly touted experience of the Straits ended up being noses pressed to the window, as the upper deck of the ship was closed due to high winds.  At one point, I opened our balcony door, to take a picture.  I thought I might get blown overboard.  Scary!  I scurried back inside, more than happy to quilt a bit, nap, and wait for Greece.

If nothing else, this cruise was an adventure!!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Florence & Pisa

Florence and Pisa were on our original tour list.  On Day...4?...we finally took one of the tours we had originally signed up for.  Florence was terribly crowded.  My camera battery was near dead, and photos?  Well, I just didn't take many.

Florence was the center of the Medici patronage.  Firenze!  Florence!  The home of Dante, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci...it was the center of the Renaissance.  The churches are incredible, the use of marble is gorgeous.  From a distance, we saw the golden doors of the baptistry.  It was heart-wrenching to hear that the Arno flooded in 1966, rising 15' through this cultural center of art and beauty.
 I believe the name of this basilica is Santa Maria del Fiori.
 The dome is enormous.   I think our guide said it weighs something like 39 tons?  And it's a dome within a dome.  I remember thinking that if that thing ever collapsed, it would leave a crater.

We were able to enter Santa Croce, the Church of the Holy Cross.  This is where all the "famous" people are buried.  Or used to be buried.  Our guide said that when the flood came through, many of the crypts were disturbed.  a disturbing thought.  It's been cleaned and restored, after all, it's been more than 50 years, but signs of the flood are still visible.
As we left, we stopped to get a last look at Florence.   We were only there for a couple of hours, so we did not get the chance to see David or explore any of the museums or much of anything, really.  We did enter Santa Croce, but that was it.  We will have to go back again, when we have some time to really explore.
We were scheduled to visit Pisa, but the rain had begun coming down in torrents.  Our tour group was of the elderly variety.  We were the youngest on the bus, by at least 10 years.  Several of them rebelled, and said they had no interest in Pisa.  I really wanted to see that leaning tower.  I mean, I've heard of it forever.  Imagine being so close, and not going to see it?  Luckily people spoke up, and we continued to Pisa as planned.

There is not much to do there, as we did not have the time to climb it or visit the baptistry, but wow.  It is quite impressive, and I was surprised by how beautiful it was.  Perhaps it was the grey of sky that made the marble glow.  I loved it.  At this point in the trip, it was the highlight.
I guess it is built like a banana.  By the time they got to the third floor, they realized it was sinking.  They decided to combat the tilt by building at an angle, trying to make it straighter.  Through the centuries, it has continued to sink.  In the 1800's, they dug down and tried to shore up the foundation.  Our guide said it should be good for another 300 years before they have to do something else to keep it from tipping all the way over.

Next up:  Rome.  Stay tuned!