Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lisbon Must-Dos

Europe in the off season is one of my favorite places to be. While you may need to wear a coat, nothing beats having big sites to yourself and having restaurants and shops filled with locals. Lisbon in particular also has an air about it that is very different from other European cities. It still feels a bit undiscovered. Walking around, even near some of its most important sites, you get the sense that people still live there and you're visiting their city.

If you're heading to Lisbon, and I highly recommend you do, here are some things to be sure you put on your must do list.


Standing at a counter for a coffee and a pastry.
Don't sit at a table, stand at the counter with the locals and have your tiny, strong coffee and one of their delicious pastries.


Get a Viva Viagem card and use the Metro.
Public transportation in a new city quickly immerses you. In Lisbon there is the added bonus of art in all the subway stations. Download the app for the Metro system before you leave and you can find out about the art in each station while you wait for your train.


Get used to graffiti.
It doesn't mean you're in a bad neighborhood, it just means you're in Lisbon.



Try goose barnacles.
A delicacy in Portugal, we were told more than once that people risk their lives to forage for these. If your waiter asks if you need instructions on how to eat them, say yes. If you've never had them, then you need instructions!


Taste Portuguese wine. 
Portugal was once known only for its port, the export and growing of which was highly regulated by the English, while non-fortified wines were made mostly for local consumption. Wineries are now expanding into the US wine market, and are very affordable. Many little wine shops in Lisbon have small bars in them for sampling, or for stopping by for a glass. Try as many as you can, as many brands are not exported and many grapes are unique to Portugal.

If you're more into wine and want to learn more about Portuguese wine, consider a wine tasting guided tour. We would recommend Francisco from Venha Vinho tours.


Get lost in the Alfama.
Most attempts to find where you are on a map end up not mattering, as you are very quickly lost again in the narrow, winding streets. Laundry billowing out people's windows and kids running between houses, all in the ancient streets built by the Moors, it felt like we'd stepped back in time and were just watching life go by.


Eat some ham!
You're on the Iberian peninsula, have as much of it as you can!







Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Journal for Lisbon

December was a busy month for my handmade business. For sale at Craftland's holiday show, I opted to make just Providence and Rhode Island journals, and instead of doing tons of books, make scarves. I knit some, woven a bunch and they (almost) all sold. As for Etsy, I listed journals that would be made to order, instead of already made. This proved brilliant (why hadn't I done that all along!) since I only made what I sold and could list a lot. I spent December feverishly making books before and after my 9 – 5 job. It was exhausting, but worth it.

With January, came time to focus on a journal for myself. I'd been experimenting a lot this past year with embroidery. I did some crewel embroidery, inspired by our trip to Angkor.



I had also been going through old textile books and embroidering designs on them.




This eventually led me (obviously) to embroider on a map. I found one the right size and started by embroidering bodies of water, then the border, and trying to keep the stitches growing from Lisbon. I also experimented with different thicknesses of thread, to add texture.

I then trimmed the map down and used it for the cover of the journal, along with bookcloth. I was happy with the result and it proved to stand up to being used, and going in and out of my bag the week long trip.



For this journal, I made a title page using an image of the mosaic at Belém, a landmark I knew we'd be seeing, and emblematic of Lisbon and their Age of Discovery.


I put a pocket at the back of the journal, and in there stored small glassine envelopes that I could glue in as needed, to fill with ephemera.


This trip I tried to make a point of doing more collages on the go, using things I picked up and also trying to sketch more as I go. I don't draw well at all, but am always happy when I get home if I have little sketches throughout a journal.


At four signatures, it proved the perfect size for a week.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Blog Reboot

After a year-long hiatus from my blog, I'm rebooting it. Things got busy last year, and rather than stress about something that was supposed to be fun, I decided to give my blog a break and see where it went.

In 2014 I left my job at Craftland and took a marketing position at a local company, where I get to spend my day promoting downtown. It's a great fit, and though it's been a challenge readjusting to 9-5 life again, it's nice to be able to walk to work and stay connected to the neighborhood.

I continue to make journals, but am also returning to my textile roots and have been knitting and weaving more, as well as exploring embroidery and crewel.


2014 took us to Vietnam and Cambodia, a trip that I still get overwhelmed just thinking about. I actually pause every now and then and think, "I saw the sun rise over Angkor Wat." Amazing.


We also took our annual trip to Portland, Maine during the summer which was delicious, as always.


In the fall, we were able to expand one of David's business trips to Denver and turn it into a vacation.


We visited family and friends in New Jersey, New York and Texas and got an amazing new nephew. We ended 2014 at the MoMA seeing the incredible Henri Matisse: The Cut Outs exhibit.


We rang in 2015 at home, with some bubbly and felt happy. 2014 was a transition year and it felt good to move out of transition mode and back into life's routine.


We kicked off 2015 with an incredible trip to Lisbon and upon returning have been dealing with a particularly snowy and cold New England winter.

I'm excited to get back into blogging mode and will kick things off in my next post with our trip to Lisbon, and the journal that I made for the trip.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Ten Years of Tastings.

Every month, David and I host a wine tasting at our place. We invite our best friends, The Rileys, and we have 2 guest seats that we fill with different friends each month. Tonight we're celebrating 10 years of doing these wine tastings.


We're often asked how we started doing this. In February 2004, David had a bottle of Italian Merlot in his cellar that was ready to drink. He invited me and another friend over to join him for tasting it, with the condition that we each brought another bottle of Italian Merlot. We poured all three at once and smelled, drank and compared. Being able to have a sense of comparison and the chance to drink 3 of these wines at the same time proved a great learning experience. We didn't take notes that night, and I can't remember if we tasted them blind or not. We enjoyed it so much we decided to do it again the next month, knowing that Ali & Andy, then only dating, would be a fun addition to the group, plus they were eager to learn more about wine. From then on, it's been essentially the same format. 6 wines, all tasted blind and 6 tasters. These events started with the main purpose being for all of us to learn more about wine. We had the added bonus of a standing date with The Rileys once a month.

Over the course of these 10 years there have been weddings, puppies, babies born (well, just one baby!), trains missed and people going to work in the same clothes as the day before, 90s era dance parties, U2 concerts, surprisingly few broken glasses, a field trip to Montreal, red Cote du Rhones brought instead of white, one person accuse David of his glass being empty (is that even possible?), one accidental boob grab, one heartfelt compliment for David's housekeeping, two bottles of Champagne that came in first and last (label those bottles!), stories of getting high off of nutmeg, smells of wines being described as towns in New Jersey (never a compliment), had many hangovers and so much laughing that I can't even keep track. We've tasted over 80 different types of wine, and didn't repeat any until 2010!

Ten years later, all of us have developed our own tastes and opinions about wine. We've discovered what we like and have an enthusiasm for the craft of making it and continuing to learn more about it. I'm reminded today of my favorite quote from Maya in Sideways about why she got into wine.
I like to think about the life of wine. How it's a living thing. I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained. I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes. And if it's an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now. I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I'd opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it's constantly evolving and gaining complexity. That is, until it peaks, like your '61. And then it begins its steady, inevitable decline.
Drinking and appreciating wine is something everyone can enjoy, and should. Tomorrow is Open that Bottle Night. So, if you have a bottle gathering dust, waiting for some special occasion (which will never present itself) go ahead and open that bottle tomorrow and share it with good friends. That's the special occasion.


David's kept notes of each tasting on his website, you can check them out here. Tonight we're revisiting Italian Merlots, and will toast to the last 10 years, and the next 10.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Why I hate the phrase: Back to Reality.


Yesterday we got home from an amazing trip. At the risk of using a total cliché, I'll even call it a trip of a lifetime. (If Angkor Wat doesn't qualify for that cliché, then I don't know what does.) First, we spent a week in Vietnam visiting David's family. His parents moved there about a year and a half ago. We visited with them and met a lot of cousins and people who hadn't seen David since they moved to Hawaii when he was less than a year old. We traveled to Vung Tau, the town they lived in when he was born, and spent a night in Saigon, a complete overload of the senses. We ate food while sitting in little plastic chairs, took our life into our hands crossing the street, and toured around Tay Nihn on the backs of motor bikes.


From Vietnam we flew over to Siem Reap, Cambodia for a week. We watched the sun rise over Angkor Wat, we sat at the Banyon Temple in Angkor Thom and gazed up at 200 buddha faces, and we lit incense in small temples where women would put bracelets on our wrists. We learned first hand why Cambodia is sometimes referred to as the land of a thousand smiles. The people had a friendliness and warmth that we just fell in love with.

Today we're getting back to work, doing mountains of laundry, dealing with bitter cold temperatures and fighting jet lag. Inevitably, when we get back from a trip, someone always says to us, "Well, back to reality."

That phrase, back to reality, is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Why? Because the experience I just had is my reality. It's as much a reality as the work I grind through to make the money to have that experience. It's as much of a reality as the mountains of laundry I have to do. We love to travel and we make it a part of our life by making decisions in our life so that we are able to do it.


Lately it seems that only negative things are allowed to be "reality" and not the amazing things too. The standard answer to, "How are you?" has become, "Busy." What's the point in being so busy if it doesn't afford you time to also be happy, inspired or awestruck? Or maybe we feel like we can't talk about those things too because we'll seem lazy or selfish because we want time that we're not working. I'm not sure of the answer, but I am making a smooth transition from one part of my reality to another, and I'm loving it.





Monday, January 13, 2014

New Year, New Trip, New Journal

Happy New Year!

2014 seems to be a year that a lot of people seem excited about. For a lot of people, including us, 2013 was a bit of a strange year. I'm looking forward to 2014 and what will hopefully be a fun and exciting year.

To kick things off, we'll be visiting Asia in February! D's parents moved to Vietnam not too long ago, so we thought it was a good time for a visit. We'll be spending the first half of the trip with his parents, and traveling to places around Southern Vietnam, including the town where D's parents lived when he was born. The second half of the trip we've decided to visit Cambodia, specifically the temples of Angkor Wat. Now that it's starting to get closer, it feels real and we are beside ourselves with excitement.


As usual, a trip requires a journal and I designed one especially for this trip. The past few we've taken, I've felt like my journal was a little big, especially if I wanted to use a smaller bag for the day. The bigger the bag, the more stuff I end up carrying, the heavier it gets, and the more of other people's stuff I start carrying. I like to keep it light and avoid feeling weighted down and crabby.


The bag I bought for this trip has a side pocket that I thought would be perfect for a journal, but it is a bit small for what a long trip would require. I decided to try a two journal solution. I made one small folio that fits one signature. There is a flap on the back that I tuck the back page of the signature into, and it makes for a very slim journal, but also one that has a hard cover.


As I fill each signature, I'll swap out a new one, and then sew the completed one with a quick pamphlet stitch into my thicker journal, where I've already pierced the sewing stations. At the end of the trip, everything will be neatly in one journal, but I don't have to carry the fat one with me every day. I love it!!!! I also put a pocket into the back of the thicker one, in case I want to save any ephemera from along the way.




I also enjoyed making a title page for the beginning of the journal. My second page is usually information for returning the journal if found (my worst fear) and then our flight details so that I have everything handy.



Now that the journal is ready, I'm trying to get my brain into drawing mode. I get hung up on not being "good" at drawing, yet when I look back through past journals, I always enjoy seeing lots of drawings. While they may not be "good" they do slow me down on a trip, and I remember the things I drew differently. So between now and when we leave, I'm going to be trying to draw for 15 minutes each day to get myself used to it again.



Thursday, September 26, 2013

Feeling some aloha.


Best thing to do when you're feeling the aloha, share it! Check out my shop and use the coupon code ALOHA and receive 20% off all purchases. Awesome photo above taken by D on our trip to Oahu last January. Ahhhhh, so gorgeous!