Thursday, February 25, 2016

Smiling Snowmen and Argentina Trip Photos: Part One

Here we are nearing the end of February! Doesn't it seem like 2016 just started? I promised I'd have photos of my Argentina trip posted by the end of February and I hate to break a promise so, if you are interested, they're further down. I took more than 500 photos on our trip (don't worry, I'm not going to show you all of them!), so I've had to divide them up into three parts. This post contains the photos from the various neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. Part Two will contain the downtown area of Buenos Aires and our day trip to Uruguay (you didn't know I traveled there, too, did you?!). And in Part Three, I will share my Patagonia photos--by far, my favorite part of our South American adventure!

I know many of you only stop in to see anything stitching related so I'll fill you in on that part of my life to begin with. First of all, I want to thank you for your wonderful comments on my Flower Shop finish in my previous post. I worried about changing the flower shop sign so much, but I think you all feel that it was well worth the effort--especially since I plan on displaying The Flower Shop and The Bakery together.  

My first two Christmas ornaments are finished for this year and Mr. January is this sweet Homespun Elegance design called "Sampler Snowman." Before I began the stitching, I was very uncertain about the suggested thread for the alphabet, but since I had some of the Caron "Fiesta" thread in my stash, I gave it a try. And just look how it turned out--what a fun looking finish!  Yes, all those colors for the alphabet are on just one skein of thread--can you believe it? I sort of picked and chose what portions to use and tried to scatter the colors so there weren't clumps of just orange letters or just blue or brown. I'm really pleased with the final look.

I'm not sure what fabric it is stitched on--just a piece of mystery linen (32 ct.) from my stash. I kept the finish very simple because of the busyness of the design. After auditioning fabric after fabric, I finally hit upon this blue and gold star strewn piece to use for the backing. And after applying a simple gold cording, I had my January finish! What do you think?

Homespun Elegance "Sampler Snowman" finish

For my February ornament, I chose a Notforgotten Farm design called "Parson Brown." Just look at that cute snowman--don't you love him? So pudgy and huggable looking... To make this ornament-sized, I stitched it "over one" on 28 ct. vintage Country Mocha linen and omitted the bottom of the chart that said, "Parson Brown, 1847." Most of the colors were changed so they would show up on this particular linen. I actually only used the suggested colors for the black stitches and the color of the hat.

To finish this one up, I found a dotted fabric in a perfect shade of rust to match the snowman's hat and added a simple gold ric-rac around the entire ornament. Five rusty bells hanging from the bottom of the ornament completed the finish which is displayed by my little snowman helper.  So, two ornaments down--ten to go!

Notforgotten Farm's "Parson Brown" finish

Here is a closer look so you can see the finish a bit better:

Hmmm... two snowmen as monthly ornaments so far. Are you sensing a theme? Yep--I've decided I'll be doing a snowman a month this year. I noticed I had so, so many of the chubby white guys just begging me to stitch them, so I plan to stitch 12 of them throughout the year. Which one will be next? Stay tuned...

I recently received a darling stitched Valentine surprise from my friend, Gabi (no blog), in Germany. Isn't this beautiful? Gabi and I share a love of Prairie Schooler designs so she chose this pretty design from the PS "From the Heart" chart. It was one I had never stitched so I was very happy to receive it and promptly added it to my bowl of February pillows. Thank you so very much, Gabi--your finish is lovely and you are so sweet to think of me!

Valentine's Day gift from Gabi

And speaking of Valentine's Day gifts... look at this cheerful bouquet of yellow roses my husband brought home for me. They certainly brightened up my kitchen during this gray month of February...

I love yellow roses more than any other color--after 38 years of marriage, my husband knows me well!

So, that ends the stitching portion of this post. Feel free to skip to the end of my travel photos--I really won't be offended :)  But, if you, like me know absolutely nothing about Argentina, you may find these just a bit interesting and learn something new about South America...

"Argentina??!! Why??!!"  That was my first reaction when my youngest son told us he would be studying abroad for a semester in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires. And when my husband suggested going to visit him there, I had very mixed feelings. Argentina had never been on my "must visit" list like New Zealand and Peru (Machu Pichu) are! For one thing, it was so, so far away and, secondly, I was suffering with a severe bone bruise on the top of my left foot and honestly couldn't imagine doing all the walking. But, that was in September, two months before we would actually depart, so we took a leap of faith and booked our plane and hotel reservations. Thankfully, my foot was pretty much healed by the time we left for South America in late November. 

Following a two hour plane ride from Pittsburgh to Atlanta and an exhausting ten hour overnight flight from Atlanta to Buenos Aires, we landed, and after going through customs and collecting our luggage, we spotted our youngest son waiting for us. Oh, what a wonderful sight--he was just grinning from ear to ear, as were we when we hugged him. And just look at what he brought with him to greet us--alfajores! Argentinians love their sweets and these little cookies filled with dulce de leche are a staple there. So delicate and melt-in-your mouth tasty! The secret ingredient in the cookie part? Lots and lots of corn starch--who would have thought?

Alfajores--such a sweet treat!

After traveling to our apartment (more about that later) and unpacking, we headed off (somewhat groggily) to the San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires for the famous Sunday flea market which is held each week.  This is the oldest part of the city and is now famous for its artists and galleries.

San Telmo flea market

Don't you love the greenery on the balconies?

The flea market was filled with booth after booth of finely crafted items. Some of my favorites were:

Fancy fedoras
Brilliant bottles
Prismatic pencils
Lovely lacework
Tiny tot-sized tennies

And look!! We even spotted "Santa" doing some flea market shopping in preparation for his December visits! Do you think that is Mrs. Claus in front of him?

Was Santa picking up some stocking stuffers?

That evening, after a quick nap, we headed off for another of the many Buenos Aires neighborhoods: Puerto Madero. If I had to describe this area, the word I would use would be "trendy." Lots of loft living, interesting sculptures, a fabulous bridge... This is the neighborhood my son said he would choose to live in if he resided in Buenos Aires full time. A significant portion of it lies on the riverbanks of the Río de la Plata (River of Silver).

One of the highlights of Puerto Madero is the beautiful Puente de la Mujer (Women's Bridge) designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. 

Puerto Madero riverfront

It is a rotating footbridge in which the middle section rotates from the white concrete pylon. This allows ships to pass through as they navigate the river.

Puente de la Mujer

Giant cranes like this one line the riverfront of Puerto Madero; a kind of industrial art.

Massive cranes were once used to unload cargo from ships

I wish we could have seen this neighborhood in the daytime, but our time was limited and Buenos Aires is the second largest metropolitan area in all of South America!

Ships docked in the river are used for parties and as museums

Over the next few days we visited many parts of Buenos Aires. One of the most colorful neighborhoods  is La Boca--home of the famous soccer team, the Boca Juniors. The touristy area is bright and noisy, but the surrounding area is poorer and not the safest place to visit. When our tour guide was advising us not to go there at night, I noticed my youngest son looking a bit sheepish--yes, he had already been there at night ("Don't worry, mom--I was with friends!"). Just one of the reasons why I worry about him!

Argentina is so proud of its Boca Juniors soccer team

Probably the most colorful street I've ever seen!

Notice the characters hanging out on the balconies

That guy looks a bit disgusted with all of the tourists!

Look! It's the "Pope" giving a blessing!

We had hoped to see some of the famous Buenos Aires tango dancers on the streets, but had to settle for this painted mural...

Tango is huge in Argentina!

The Boca neighborhood is a painter's dream!

Our apartment for three days was located in the beautiful Recoleta neighborhood. This is a lovely residential, more affluent area filled with streets that look like they could be in a Paris neighborhood. Such pretty architecture... We rented our apartment through airbnb and had an excellent experience. The place we rented had three bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, laundry, and two baths--all for $270 per night. It was much cheaper than paying for hotel rooms for all of us and we were able to spread out and truly relax--we even did our laundry before we headed down to Patagonia!

Our apartment was on the third floor

Recoleta has many parks and green spaces

The Jacaranda trees were in bloom in November--lucky us!

A Recoleta street--very European looking

The most famous attraction in Recoleta is the La Recoleta Cemetery. Now, I have always loved cemeteries and this one was a real treat. I wish we could have spent a longer time there just exploring each little street of this "city of the dead." Set on 14 acres of land with over 4500 above ground vaults, it would take days and days to truly explore the whole thing... 

200+ year old ficus tree "El Gran Gomero" at the Recoleta Cemetery entrance

It is so big that wooden beams and little statues help support the limbs!

Entrance to Recoleta Cemetery: Requiescant In Pace

A miniature city of the dead

Some vaults were in excellent shape

Others had fallen into disrepair

So many intricately carved sculptures

This mother and child particularly touched my heart

The most famous resident of La Recoleta Cemetery: Eva Perón

Whew! This post took me over five hours to put together--am I crazy? I hope some of you are still with me--thanks for hanging in there!  I'll be back in March for Part Two: Uruguay and the city center of Buenos Aires. Hopefully, I'll have some new stitching to show you, too! I've been working a lot of hours and my sister and brother-in-law will be visiting for three days this weekend so I won't be getting much stitching time--but I can always hope! Until then, take care, my friends, and enjoy what's left of February. Thank you, as always, for your supportive comments and emails--they mean so very much to me! Bye for now...

Monday, February 8, 2016

A flowery finish and birthday goodies

I finally have a finish! My very first finish of 2016... What a s-l-o-w stitcher I've been so far this year. I'm not sure what my problem is, but it seems that the long afternoons peacefully stitching away in my favorite chair just aren't happening this winter... I want to stitch--I just don't seem to have the time for some reason. I've really been enjoying visiting your blogs, though, and admiring your finishes and new starts. 

So, can you guess what I've been working on for the past five weeks? 

Well, here are a few clues. Let's start with a wicker basket brimming with pink and white blooms all nestled on some crisp white lace...

Add some of my favorite blue hydrangeas in a pristine white pitcher...

 And a flower-strewn topiary...

Don't forget a pretty basket planted with miniature sunflowers...

And a charming tin watering can filled with pink posies...

I'll bet most of you have figured out what my first finish of 2016 is, haven't you? Yes, it's...

The Flower Shop!

"The Flower Shop" finish

"The Flower Shop" (Country Cottage Needleworks) like its companion piece, "The Bakery" (which I stitched last year), took so much longer to stitch than I thought it would. Of course, when you completely change some of the design and end up stitching that part twice, it doesn't help! The original design had an entirely different sign at the top. It was simply stitched with light green thread (you can see it by clicking here). I stitched it that way originally, and although it looked "okay," I really wanted it to match the sign that was used on "The Bakery" that I finished last year, which was done with black lettering and a white background. So out came the scissors and needle and I began pulling out each of those carefully stitched letters. I had to re-chart the sign to make thinner letters in order to accommodate the wide white background. It took a while, but I'm so pleased I took the time to redo it. Now I have two lovely coordinating pieces to be framed in black and hung by my kitchen door.

Two cute stitched shops--wish they would design more!

I made a few more changes to the design substituting a gray color for the shelving under the flower pots and a black bottom border instead of the suggested golden brown. I also used little yellow flowers rather than the charted blue in the basket on the top shelf to incorporate a bit more color--they remind me of miniature sunflowers. I am very pleased with the way they look together and can hardly wait to get them framed!

So, that's it folks--that is the only stitching I have to show you today. Well, of mine, that is!! I do have some delightful birthday gifts that arrived for my big day in mid-January that I want to show you... And yes, I know I was very spoiled. Such kind friends--thank you all so much...

From June, in England, came this darling little bird with a stitching basket filled with floss. June framed it and I now have it sitting near my stitching chair. She also included a 2016 diary, some buttons, and a chocolate recipes booklet. Thank you, my sweet friend!

Birthday gifts from June in England

From Lynda (no blog), also in England, came this pretty BBD chart called "Summer Iris." Thank you, dear Lynda--I look forward to stitching it as it has those lovely blues and purples that I'm so fond of!

Birthday gifts from Lynda in England

From Cindy, in Tennessee, came the most darling little PS church stitched over one. Cindy knows how much I love anything miniature and this will look lovely on my Christmas tree. She also included a great group of finishing fabrics. Thank you so much, my generous friend--I love them!

Birthday gifts from Cindy in Tennessee

From Nathalie (no blog), in France came a wonderful French magazine and a cute personalized stocking. Don't you love leafing through French stitching magazines? Such fun... Thank you, my friend!

Birthday gifts from Nathalie in France

From my long-time friend, Myra, in North Carolina, came a bag of Christmas trims from Victorian Motto Sampler Shoppe. The little bag was filled with all sorts of red and green ric-rak, chenille, buttons, charms, and bells! What fun I'll have with my ornament finishing this year--thank you so much, my sweet friend!

Birthday gifts from Myra in North Carolina

From Melissa, in Vancouver, Canada, came a darling little kit that I had never seen before called "Spools of My Thread." It is a design to make a little bag to hold your threads and I plan on sewing it to house the spools of silk thread that I own. Thank you, my dear friend--I love it!

Birthday gifts from Melissa in Canada

From Robin (no blog), in Virginia, came this sweet little rabbit ornament--perfect for my spring decorating! Robin said this is a Blue Ribbon design. She also included some chenille, a monogrammed notepad, fabric, pins, and a thread picker (not pictured as I was using it to pick out the threads in my "Flower Shop" piece!). You are always so thoughtful and generous, Robin--thank you!

Birthday gifts from Robin in Virginia

From Lois, in Northern Ireland, came a darling snowman pillow to add to my collection. Don't you love his smile? She also included a wonderful assortment of ribbons and buttons, a cute new chart and a trio of tiny notebooks. Thank you my long-time friend--it is always so special to receive a package from you!

Birthday gifts from Lois in Northern Ireland

And, finally, from my big-hearted friend, Mary in Pennsylvania, came a package brimming with lovely ribbons, a snowman cup and tray set, a pretty With Thy Needle chart, some tasty Piroulines, and a gift card to The Strawberry Sampler which I promptly spent during their Snow Blizzard sale in late January! Thank you so very much, my sweet friend--your gifts made me smile.

Birthday gifts from Mary in Pennsylvania

Several of you sent cards and email messages on my birthday, too, and I can't tell you how much they meant to me. Having a birthday so close to Christmas is difficult as it often gets "lost in the shuffle." All the presents come at once and then all the celebration is over for another year. I've often wished I was born in a warm month when you could have a fun picnic or barbecue for your birthday party. But, my family always does their best to make my January birthday special for me and this year was no exception.

My two older sons made homemade pizzas for my birthday dinner, which were delicious. They used this recipe for New York style pizza dough and it is so tasty! One was plain with just chicken and cheese (for me--the fussy eater!) and the other two had mushrooms, peppers, and spinach for my more adventuresome eating men...

Tasty homemade pizza for my birthday--thanks guys!!

To top it off, my husband bought this exquisite chocolate-mousse birthday cake. Oh, my!! Talk about decadent! It was so rich we could only eat a small portion, so I took the rest in to the library the next day and had another celebration with my co-workers.

If I had to turn a year older, at least I got an amazing cake!

It was the year of "plants" for gifts from my sons... From the oldest and his girlfriend, came a tasty "fruit bouquet" made up of chocolate covered pineapple, melons, strawberries, and grapes. He also gave me a gift certificate to 123 Stitch ("but, mom, you don't need any more stitching stuff"--HA--he doesn't know us stitchers very well, does he?).

Fruit bouquet from oldest son and his girlfriend

From my middle son, came a Joann Fabrics gift card and a "lucky bamboo" plant. 2015 was such a difficult year for me and he hopes that this little plant brings better luck for 2016. It is growing nicely and so far, my year is going well, too! I was so very touched by the card that he gave me, too. In fact, it may be my favorite card ever... With a quote from "The Wizard of Oz" on the front: "There's no place like home," the inside opens to this sentiment: "Wherever I go, I always know that I have someone hoping I'm safe, and making sure that I always feel loved... Thanks to you, mom." Aww... for you moms out there, I know you understand how very special a mom feels when she receives a card like this. It is a keeper!!

Lucky bamboo from middle son--let's hope
 it truly is my lucky year!

And from my youngest son, came this beautiful bouquet of hydrangeas. Blue hydrangeas, yellow tulips, and sunflowers are my favorite flowers and it was so nice to have a touch of spring during my winter birthday.

My favorite flowers--blue hydrangeas from my youngest son.

So, that ends another birthday round-up... I have been blessed with such loving family and friends throughout my life and I'm thankful for each one of you! You blogging friends have become as dear to my heart as friends I see in real life. Thank you all for your friendship!

I've not been sleeping well lately as I'm worrying about my youngest son who is setting off for a ten-day adventure in Nicaragua and Costa Rica this week. Yes, he is the same son who just got back from Argentina in December!! He loves to travel, but I get so nervous about his safety. This year, there is that horrible Zika virus being transmitted by mosquitoes that is becoming epidemic down in so many of the Central and South America countries, including the two he will be visiting. I sure hope he remembers to use his insect repellent (and apply his sunscreen--and watch out for pickpockets--and so on, and so on!). I guess a mother never stops worrying about her children, no matter their age, does she?

Well, I've come to the end of another way-too-long post! I can just hear you whispering, "Whew--thank goodness!" to yourselves...  Thank you for sticking with me to the end. And for those of you who ask me questions, please know I'm happy to try to reply to you, but you must include your email address in order for me to do so. I get so many questions, but have no way of getting back to you unless you include an email address.   Hope you all have a very Happy Valentine's Day on Sunday and thank you ~ truly ~ for each of your wonderful comments! They mean so much to me. Bye for now...