Friday, August 17, 2018

You Have To Remember...

...that I had to cancel my travel plans last summer and the summer before that due to surgeries. So when I tell you that I am at an art retreat -- after my other trips -- don't judge me too harshly. I've never traveled this much, so it feels a bit weird to me.
Judy is an incredibly generous teacher.
That said, I am having an amazing time at a quilting retreat at Woodland Ridge Retreat in northeastern Wisconsin with Joni, my dear friend from California. I have wanted to take a class from Judy Coates Perez for years, so I jumped when I saw she was teaching in Wisconsin.
We have spent the week learning to dye and print cloth with acrylic inks. Here is one of my dyed pieces:
This is what it looked like after stamping and adding Thermofax images:
Today we pieced quilts. Most participants are experienced quilters making large projects, but Joni and kept our quilts small so that we'd be ready to quilt tomorrow. This is my quilt top:
The black-and-white fabrics are commercial, but I designed the rest. 

Woodland Ridge is an amazing place. Nestled in the woods at the edge of tiny Downsville, it has luxurious rooms with whirlpool baths. Breakfasts and lunches are included -- and have been healthy and delicious. I am not sure I have ever felt so pampered.

Small as Downsville is, there is a darling coffee shop where Joni and I go for coffee every morning:
It is going to be sad to say good-bye to all our new pals tomorrow when the retreat ends.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

On Travel Knitting

I didn't get a lot of knitting done on this trip, partly because I had my daughter to hang out with and partly because I didn't make good choices in travel knitting.

I chose two sock projects, starting with Bonnie Sennott's Plumtree. This is a darling and well-written pattern.
But it has two 32-stitch repeats per round, so you really need to follow the pattern. It also takes more concentration than I wanted to spend on vacation

The second project is one I'd knit before, Helen Stewart's Winter Rose Socks, which I knit once last winter.
This one has a pattern that is easy to remember, but there are three plain rounds. I'm not good at reading my knitting, so I need to have a counter handy to keep me from knitting too many rounds. 

I will finish both pairs eventually, but it would have been nice to have come home with at least one finished sock, if not a pair. Next time, I'm packing some mindless knitting!

Monday, August 13, 2018

The MOST Amazing Wedding

As you may have noticed, I am back and catching up on my blog reading. If you haven't heard from me, you will soon.

I do have to share the wedding experience because it was so unexpected and spectacular.

This Ukranian wedding started at 11:30 a.m. on a Saturday and went until 4 a.m. on Sunday. Then it continued from 4 to 7 p.m. on Sunday. Rachel was a bridesmaid, so we were in the center of the whirlwind. Fitting her hand-made dress was one of the first things we did in Lviv.
This wedding took place in three cities, so the bride hired two buses to drive us around.

We started with a ceremony at the bride's childhood home where the groom bargained for the bride. He began by offering a bag of potatoes. The bridesmaids bargained on behalf of the bride, and they turned down this offer. At one point, the groom did not fall for the offer of this fake bride:
Once the bargain was struck, we were bused to a beautiful old church, Ukrainian Orthodox. The service was in English, which is the couple's shared language. Stacy is from Ukraine, while Robin is from the Netherlands.
Stacy lives in Miami, where she attends the University of Miami with Rachel. They are both earning Ph. D.s in sociology. Robin lives in Amsterdam. They have been on different continents for four years, so you know this couple is devoted.
Then we were bused to a bar for snacks and drinks before getting back on the bus to head to the Rixos Hotel, where the formal reception was held.
At this point, I cannot remember the order because this was more than a wedding. There was an excellent live band and lots of dancing. I'd forgotten  how much fun it is to dance like that. There were games and toasts and shows. Professional dance shows.
And I can't leave out the couple's amazing first dance.
At about 11 p.m., where were ushered outside for a second ceremony where the couple exchanged vows they had written. The entire group teared up when Robin did part of his vow in Ukrainian.
Did you notice that Stacy has a second dress for the reception? Yes, she is just gorgeous!

And while we were outside, there was a second dance performance and a fire show!
I headed up to bed at midnight, which meant I missed a performance by a famous Ukrainian rapper and a crazy machine that spewed out so much confetti that people were rolling around in it.

We had to be ready to get back on the bus at 2 the next afternoon to attend a traditional Ukrainian party at an outdoor setting. Halfway back to Lviv, a thunderstorm sent buckets of water down. Stacy and some of the four wedding planners immediately got on their phones and rearranged the entire party to an indoor location!

There was more food and drink, as well as a traditional band:
The party wound down around 6 p.m., and I have to say that I was ready to crash!

Stacy and Robin met as grad students at the University of Minnesota at Mankato, so there were many Minnesotans at the wedding. I can tell you that Minnesota Nice is a real thing. Everyone I met was so gracious and interesting. 

Of course, I am thrilled that my daughter invited me to share this amazing  experience with her.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

A Whirlwind Tour

I hate long travelogues, so I'm going to take you on a very short tour of Eastern Europe, starting with a view of the elaborate Parliament in Budapest, built when Hungary was part of an empire.
We toured the Jewish Quarters in both Budapest and Prague, which was pretty painful. The Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest is the 2nd largest in the world, but only fills for the High Holy Days. 
The most upsetting memorial for me were the cast-iron shoes placed along the Danube, where Jews were tied in groups of three and pushed into the river.
Budapest is known for its Ruin Bars, funky establishments set up in buildings that were allowed to deteriorate during the Soviet years.
Prague is just as beautiful as Budapest.
Rachel noted that St. Vitus Cathedral must have been the inspiration for some Disney castles.
I fell in love with the Italianate architecture in all three cities. This is Prague:
Lviv, in Ukraine, is less touristed than the other two cities, and retains some of the neglect that the Soviets bestowed on it. The car, for all my fellow Cold War peers, is a famous Russian Lada.
Lviv is known for coffee and chocolate. The Vienna Cafe has been serving both since 1829.
Of course, the best part was sharing the trip with my lovely daughter, who is enjoying a chimney cake here.
The wedding in Ukraine was almost beyond description. But that's another post.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Grand Old Cities

I am forever in debt to my daughter, Rachel, for inviting me to a wedding in Ukraine and thus inspiring this tour of Central and Eastern European cities. Budapest, Prague, and Lviv retain both grace from their pasts as melting pots that inspired great arts and deep sadness and shame from the years when the Nazis and then the Soviets devastated them.

I cannot manage a long post from my iPhone, but I do want to share a typical street scene from each city. They have a similar look and feel, much different from the cities of Western Europe.

This is from Budapest:

This is from Prague:

And this one is from Lviv:

Yes, it is tricky to get around in a country with a different alphabet but we are managing.

The wedding whirlwind starts tomorrow morning with the fitting of the bridesmaid’s dresses. I am glad to be the mother of a bridesmaid, which requires nothing more than going with the flow.

I hope you are enjoying summer and I can’t wait to share more of this amazing trip.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Travels and Knits

So I am back in Madison for one day before I fly to Miami to meet my daughter tomorrow. Then on Monday we head to Budapest. I won't have a computer to read blogs on, and I don't own a tablet. I just don't want you to think I'm ignoring you!

There was plenty of knitting Up North, and it's all in my favorite colors. Here is the beginning of a Sockhead Hat:
And here is the Free Your Fade Shawl nearing the end. I finally got to the dark blue. I should say that I've used this pattern more as a recipe, and I've adapted it to use all the gradient yarn, with the dark colors thrown in.
Both projects use Knit Circus gradient yarn. I just love this stuff!

I did a few sketches, not all successful. I don't have a lot of experience with landscapes. I was OK with this sketch made south of Grand Marais:
Here's one last look at our cottage on Lake Superior. 
I've had friends from the coasts who are underwhelmed by Midwestern landscapes, but I love the boreal forest, the deep greens, the shapes of the conifers, the accents of the occasional birch trees. In some ways, I'd love to live Up North, but it is SO far from everyone and everything else in my life.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Persians, Yarn, and Art

If you haven't been to Thunder Bay, Ontario -- and you probably have not -- then you are unlikely to know that a pink-frosted pastry called a Persian is the official food of this city on Lake Superior. We wanted to taste the best so we headed to:
I know, it looks modest, but this is one fine pastry. The frosting recipe is a closely guarded secret, but it is fabulous -- tastes a bit like strawberries.
The name for the pastry comes from General Pershing, not the Persia of the Middle East.
The pastry -- and The Persian Man -- fit this down-to-Earth city perfectly. It is very much a city of the Upper Midwest, struggling with loss of industry but scrappy and making a come-back. It has lots of fun little art galleries, which we toured. 

And then there is yarn!
Who can resist a store with this sign outside?
Olives and Bananas is named after the owner's children's favorite foods. Cute, huh? Definitely an unusual name for a fiber shop. This darling downtown store is filled with colorful yarns, but I wanted local yarn -- and I found it:
This is a Fire Fly Fibre Arts kit for a shawl designed by Fire Fly owner and dyer, Maggie Erickson. The kit contains the yarn for a Fringe Frenzy Shawl, which I fell in love with as soon as I set eyes on the store sample. Maggie lives and works in Thunder Bay, so this is perfect souvenir yarn -- and thus does not count as stash yarn.

On our way back to Grand Marais, we stopped at the Thunder Bay Art Museum, where we saw an amazing exhibit of the art of indigenous artist Christi Belcourt.
Her paintings are incredibly beautiful -- and reflect her deep love of her people and the Earth.
She is very concerned with proposed oil and gas pipelines that could affect waterways and has made some stunning banners to convey her concerns:
Do check out her website, which I linked above. I admire so much the way she has combined her talent with real world issues.

Now, to end on a sweeter note. I have a sort of obsession with candy bars you can't buy in the States, so we had to stop at a convenience store, where I picked up a few of my favorites:
You might guess that the Coffee Crisp is my favorite. I'm wondering why I only bought two? Calories? Silly me.

As we came back into the States, the customs agent asked us, "Are you bringing back anything purchased in Canada?

"Yes," I replied, "five candy bars and three Persians."

He had a good laugh.