We're almost half-way through September already--can you believe it? It's been a strange month weatherwise. Tons of rain and very cool conditions last weekend have changed to heat and humidity. How has your month been so far? I'm a bit worried about those of you who are near Hurricane Florence and hope you all stay safe. I loved reading all of your comments on my last post and I hope you're looking forward to my next Panama trip installment later on in this post. If you love hiking and nature like I do, I think you'll enjoy it... But, first and foremost--what have I been stitching?
Well, I'm happy to say, I finally have a bowl full of bee stitching to share with you today. I began stitching these in May and now that summer is coming to an end, it seems like a good time to put the bee stitching to rest until next summer. I've really enjoyed it, though, and am looking forward to adding to my bee bowl next summer (and for many summers to come!).
My first finish is a freebie from Sub Rosa Design called "The Bee's Reverie" which you can find right here. I love Eszter's designs and when you visit her site you can check out her other charts, both for sale along with many lovely freebies. I stitched this on 40 ct. Country Mocha Newcastle (which seems to be my go-to fabric lately!) with DMC threads. I did change a few threads from what was suggested so the colors would look better on my chosen fabric.
|The Bee's Reverie by Subrosa Design|
I think this design has such a sweet old-fashioned look to it so I chose my finishing materials with that in mind. A bit of lace, some buttons, and a brown mini-print fabric turned this design into a charming pillow. It is the largest bee pillow that I've done this summer as you'll see when I share all of them in a minute...
|A new finish for my bee bowl|
I forgot to take a "before" photo of my next finish--Prairie Schooler bee from Book No. 54 called "Garden Beasties." This stitched up very quickly on 40 ct. country mocha Newcastle. I did change a couple of the colors--used pink DMC 223, gold 729, green 3052, and ecru. Well, I guess I changed all of the colors except for the bee and the stripes in the hive! I thought a black button would look cute as the opening for the hive along with the black pins and ruched ribbon trim on this circular finish. Since I had no black pins, I simply used a permanent black marker to "paint" the pin heads... It worked like magic!
|Prairie Schooler Bee from "Garden Beasties" booklet|
So, here are the five bee pieces I stitched throughout the summer of 2018. Which is your favorite? I think "H Is For Honeybee" is mine, but I'm very pleased with all of them. The best part? I had all of these patterns in my stash and didn't spend a cent on bee charts.
|My quintet of bee finishes for the summer of 2018|
I finally got my "bee bowl" set up and on display yesterday and I love it! If you look closely, you'll notice that there are six pillows in the bowl... Well, the one on the far left is a Homespun Elegance piece that I stitched four years ago. If you would like to read about that particular finish, you can click here to find more information about it. My bowl is a long, thin one that I picked up at Kohl's a few years back--I like it because the designs can sit side by side and don't cover each other up like in many other bowl displays. The two framed bee pictures in the back are ones I found online, printed off, and framed. I thought they made a nice backdrop to my bee bowl and I really love having the display on the sideboard near my kitchen table!
|A bowl full of buzzing bees now sits in my kitchen|
Would you like to see a couple of close-ups?
|I tried to coordinate the colors in all of the bee-themed pieces I stitched this summer by using mostly pink, pale green, black and gold|
Thank you all for your sweet comments and support on my bee obsession this summer! I quite enjoy "themed stitching" and I'm glad you've come along with my on my journey to "stitch all the bees!"
|I wonder how many hours of bee stitching I did this season?|
So, on to fall and Christmas stitching... I've been working on a larger Prairie Schooler piece which is almost done so I'll share that with you next time along with my monthly Christmas ornaments for August and September.
Panama (Part 2): Hikes and Nature... Are any of you hikers? I really love doing at least one hike whenever we visit a new part of the world and in Panama we were lucky enough to hike in four different locations. Well, lucky with three of them, that is! The fourth is an experience I'd rather forget... But, I'll begin by telling you about the three enjoyable hikes and sharing some photos of each with you. These are not all my photos (unless they are marked with "Stitching Dreams," they were taken by one of my sons who have much better cameras than the one on my iPhone).
Soberanía National Park... We chose this 55,000 acre park due to the reported "abundance of birdlife." There are supposedly over 500 species of birds there. Um... would you believe we saw exactly one bird. Very disappointing! Were we in the wrong part of the park? Was it too late in the day or the wrong time of the year? Should we have gone with a guide? Were the birds just being camera-shy? We did have a nice hike, saw some other small creatures, and enjoyed it, but it would have been much better with bird sightings.
|Into the woods we go|
|The lone bird we saw on our hike that day|
|A shy turtle tries to hide under the leaves|
|The rain held off until around 2 PM, just like my son predicted! It's the rainy season from mid-April through November in Panama and it rains nearly every afternoon until dinnertime.|
|The water was a fascinating milky-blue color in the streams and waterfalls in this particular park.|
Parque Natural Metropolitano... This 573-acre park is set right in the heart of Panama City! Imagine a rain forest within a city and you have an idea of what this unique park was like. If you love to sweat while you hike, this is the place for you... It is nearly 90° or above all year round in Panama with high humidity. Me? I hate to sweat and I never sweat as much in my entire life as when we hiked in Panama! But, if you just ignore your wet, frizzy hair, soaked clothing, and dripping face, you'll do just fine :)
|A family of coati scrambles up into a tree. The coati are closely related to the raccoon.|
|A coati posing for a close-up in this darling photo taken by my youngest son|
|A tiny frog in detail captured by my youngest son's camera.|
|I'm not sure if this tree has a fungus or just what those pointy things are!|
|A fairly large spider waits for his prey|
I think the creatures that captivated us the most on our hikes were the armies of leafcutter ants. Look closely below--many of the ants are carrying pieces of leaves that they have carefully cut off and are transporting them to their nests. They can carry 20 times their body weight and were just fascinating to watch as they marched on and on. It is said that, after human beings, these ants have the most complex animal society on Earth and their underground nests can be as wide as 98 feet!
My youngest son shot a brief video of the leafcutter ants at work:
|Panama City as seen from the Parque Natural Metropolitano|
Ancon Hill lies in an area that was used by the United States for administration of the Panama Canal until 1977. The 654-foot high hill leads to the highest point in Panama City. It is not really a hiking trail--you just walk up a steep road, but the rewards are some gorgeous views of the city. We were so hoping to see a monkey or a sloth since this was our last day in Panama... A few of us were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a lone monkey perched high up in a tree near the top of the hill. Sadly, I was not one of them...
|The sprawling metropolis of Panama City as seen from the top of Ancon Hill|
|My daughter-in-law took this family photo of the four of us... We sure missed our middle son!|
|A view of Casco Viejo (the neighborhood where our Airbnb was located) off in the distance.|
|The Panama Canal as seen from Ancon Hill|
|I love this photo of my youngest son admiring the city that he called home for six months. I wonder what he was thinking...|
|Some of the unusual flowers, mushrooms, and greenery that we saw on our hikes in Panama|
Santa Fe / Bermejo Falls... Okay--cue the ominous music! The "hike from hell" is about to get underway... But, first a little background. We wanted to get out of the city and experience more of the countryside of Panama so we decided to take a five hour drive to the mountain village of Santa Fe and spend the night. The tiny hotel we stayed at was charming--only four rooms... and we slept under mosquito netting--which was a first! It had such lovely vistas of the mountains and for those of you who have read my blog for a long time, you know that the mountains are my "happy place." As soon as I gaze out over those peaks and valleys, I feel immediate relaxation (a bit like what happens when I sit down to stitch!). As you can see, it was a misty, cool afternoon when we arrived and we spent our time just relaxing on the porch, playing card games, and lazing in the swaying hammocks.
|The misty mountains that greeted us in Santa Fe|
|I got up early to see the sun rise the following morning. Little did I know that the day would be all downhill from that point!|
After looking through the hotel's binder of suggested activities in the area, the staff put us in touch with two local guides to take us on a hike to three waterfalls in the Santa Fe National Park area. We met with the guides ahead of time asking them about the length and difficulty of the trek and they described it as a leisurely 5-hour hike to see the flora and fauna while seeing the waterfalls in the area. We specifically asked them about getting wet as we had not brought water shoes or swimsuits with us and they assured us that "aside from spray from the one waterfall," we would be fine. Well, let me tell you this... don't believe everything your guide tells you!
To get to the starting point of the hike we took a bumpy truck ride up a mountain and were promptly given hiking sticks. (I learned that I love using a hiking stick--the one good thing to come out of this hike!).
|We should have known we were in trouble when the guide pulled out his machete. It turns out the hiking trail was so dense and overgrown in places that he had to whack a path for us to even walk through!|
|We were still in one piece and smiling when we reached the first waterfall. This is me, my husband, and our youngest son--the reason we were in Panama!|
|After the first waterfall, things deteriorated quickly... the jungle became more wild and thick and the path grew narrower. My oldest son is looking like "Do we really want to do this?!" as the guide waits for us to catch up.|
|Huge rocks, rushing water, and fallen trees gave the landscape a wild, untamed look. We crossed many of these smaller streams by scooting or crawling across the rocks. They were just too slippery to stand on.|
|At the base of the third waterfall, the guys took a little dip in the cold water while my daughter-in-law and I attempted to dry out.|
And then it began raining... and the rain turned the "trail" into a clay-like mud that practically swallowed our shoes with each step. And the stones turned into slippery, slimy pieces of rock. And the falling began in earnest. I can't even tell you how many times I fell over the 8 hours that we hiked. It was truly amazing that I didn't break a bone, given the fact that I have osteoporosis; a miracle in my mind! But, I did manage to twist both ankles and my left knee so severely that I had to hold on to the guide's arm or hand for the last two hours making the hike even slower for everyone! Each painful step felt like a knife was stabbing up my leg into my knee.
At one point I fell on my bottom smack dab in the mud and just wanted to stay there. My legs felt like quivering jelly and I had almost nothing left to give. Thoughts of headlines screaming "American Family of Five Dies in Panama Jungle" started going through my head. I truly thought I was going to die... But, somehow, I managed to struggle to my feet and began trudging through the rain and mud while asking the guide every ten minutes, "Are we almost there?" He just looked at me with sad, brown eyes and shook his head. When we finally saw that muddy cow-pie filled field I was overjoyed because I knew we were close! Who thought I'd ever be happy to be walking through that stuff?! And when I glimpsed the rusty truck waiting to take us five exhausted, sopping wet, mud-covered Americans back to the hotel for what surely would feel like the best shower ever, I simply said, "Thank God."
After showering, we couldn't wait to get back to civilization and when we saw a McDonald's in the next town, I practically screamed! We are not ordinarily fast-food eaters, but I've never had a meal taste so much like home as that juicy Big Mac, "world-famous" fries, and hot fudge sundae did that night. Comfort food in every sense of the word. It was exactly what we needed...
During the 5-hour car ride back to our Airbnb, I think we were all in a state of shock as to how the day had unfolded. We agreed that we should have stopped and turned around after the first waterfall. There were warning signs... The guides tore down a fence at one point so we could continue on our hike. Was it being blocked because it was too dangerous? The guides wanted to be fully paid before the hike... I think that should have raised questions on our part. Our emotions ran the gamut from anger to betrayal to relief to numbness. To be honest, I have had difficulty sleeping since that hike--I keep playing it over and over in my head and realizing just how lucky I was to come out of it relatively unscathed. The soreness in my legs and upper arms (from using the ropes to pull myself up and down hillsides) was unbelievable for a few days. I can't imagine how bad it would have been if I weren't a regular exerciser. My body was covered with bruises that have, thankfully, faded away.
The moral of my story is this--trust your gut and learn when to say "enough is enough." Other countries are very different from the United States and have few, if any, standards for guides in the tourism industry. Outside of Panama City, it was a bit like the "wild-wild west." Anything goes so to speak! We know that some day, we'll look back on this story and laugh and shake our heads. It will be one of those tales that becomes part of our "family folklore," that's for sure. But, for now... I'm still feeling very thankful to be alive and living in the United States of America. ♥♥♥ There really is no place like home. Oh, and by the way--did we see any animals or wildlife on that horrid hike? Just one small snake resting on the side of a tree...
So, this post has taken me many hours to put together (yes, I am crazy, but I want to put everything into words to read when I'm old(er) and gray(er) and can no longer recall our travels in such detail). I look forward to writing the final portion on the arts and history of Panama--I think you'll enjoy it! Until then, thank you all for your wonderful and thoughtful comments. They really mean so much to me. Enjoy your weekend and I hope those of you in the path of Hurricane Florence stay safe. Bye for now...