Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Reflecting on 2015

Recently I was using one of my favorite travel apps, TripIt, to update details for an upcoming trip, and noticed a new feature: travel stats for 2015. According to TripIt, in 2015 I traveled on 8 trips, for over 40 days, across 16,138 miles, to 14 cities, in 3 countries. So. Cool. 

It gave me pause, and made me reflect on 2015. This time last year I remember thinking, “Bring on 2015, 2014 was nothing special, one of those transition years. I want to settle in and chill for 2015.” Little did I know that nothing would settle, in fact 2014 was just the preamble. 2015 was the real transition year and would be way more stressful. Looking back, I realize that it was actually a year of incredible extremes. The highs were soaring, and the lows were exhausting. 

2015 kicked off with the worst winter of all my years in Rhode Island. Spring surprised us with having to move from a place we really loved because of an asshole landlord. Summer was spent trying to feel at home in our new place (and honestly, I’m still working on that). Fall brought the realization that all my work stress needed to end and I quit my job (a relief, but also terrifying). 

On the flip side, we kicked off 2015 by visiting Portugal and the gorgeous city of Lisbon. I took way too many photos of people’s laundry hanging out to dry, and I ate more pastries in a week than I did the entire rest of the year. 

In the middle of unpacking boxes from our move, we kept our travel plans made long before we knew we’d have to move, and went to Acadia National Park. Seeing the sun rise on Cadillac Mountain was the perfect, restorative break to bring us temporarily out of the stress and back to reality.  

In the summer, I saw U2 twice, which included making eye contact with Bono while he sang Sunday Bloody Sunday ( ! ). U2 has the most tracks on my personal soundtrack, and tours are always touchstones for me. A reminder that art heals, and each of us can make the world a better place with the tools within us. 

In August, I turned 40 in Peru and saw Machu Picchu with my own eyes. I’m still coming down from that experience and often find myself speechless as to how to even begin to explain it. 

2015 was a bit of a weird ride, and I’m happy to be ringing in 2016. Looking back I realize just how much travel means to me. Letting stressful situations take over is easy to do, and for me, traveling is what puts things back in perspective. I’m so thankful I had such a great travel year, and have such a great travel partner for the journey. 

Cheers to new adventures in 2016. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Revisiting a Travel Journal

Whenever I get back from a trip, the journal that came with me gets put snuggly on a shelf in my studio, right next to the journal I carried on the trip before. Whenever I pick it up next, I am drawn to a lot of the visuals, even though I am the first to say I'm not "good at drawing." It doesn't matter whether I am or not, the quick sketches still bring me back to those places in a way that nothing else does.

Flipping through, I also notice that as the trip goes along, my writing becomes more relaxed, and sketches become more free. The voice in my head that's judging what I'm doing relaxes and shuts up. Also, I get used to my tools again, and into a different frame of mind, which takes some time. When traveling, I unplug as much as possible and don't check my phone in a spare moment I have, I open up my journal and jot something down. It takes a few days to mentally make that transition.

With that in mind, our winter trip is coming up in early 2016 and I want to give my brain a bit of a jump start. Between now and then, I'm going to carry a slim journal with me and try to do some of my journal keeping exercises daily to get the creative juices flowing. The goal is to get used to my tools again, and get that part of my brain in shape. Kind of like how I'm going to the gym so I'm ready to wear a bathing suit.

I kicked things off today by looking at some of the sketches I'd done in Peru, mostly small ones done in museums. I then reworked some of them using my pen with water soluble ink, and my water pen. I love this water pen, and for some reason I didn't use it at all in Peru, even though it's a great way to add simple shadows to a quick sketch.

Added bonus, great excuse to organize and assess my travel kit and clean things up.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Experiences over things

Today on the Lady Project blog, my post with an alternative gift guide. Instead of giving stuff this year, give something more valuable: your time.

Head over and read the full piece, with ideas on what types of experiences make a great gift for someone you love.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Introducing the Alden Park Collection

This week I am excited to announce a special project that I've been working on, the Alden Park Collection. A special collaboration with my dear friend, Maria Fabrizi, this is a collection of handmade textiles, inspired by our textile design roots.  

Photo by David Hansen

Maria and I met in college, where we were both studying textile design. After graduation, we both went on to work in the textile industry, designing home furnishing fabrics for American mills. When the industry fell and most American mills moved to Asia, we both changed career paths, but have always loved textiles. This year we designed and created a small collection of handmade scarves, available for purchase at Craftland.

Photo by Jonathan Crane

Each piece is made entirely by hand, either knit or woven and make great gifts for the holidays. Maria knits from her home near Binghamton, New York and I knit and weave from my studio in Providence. Despite being 5 hours apart, we share inspiration and ideas constantly and make everything ourselves. 

Check out photos of the items we've made here, or if you're local you can head to Craftland to see them in person.     

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Blog Redesign

Off of my high of being in Peru, I have been spending time on some projects at home. I finally started to update the look of my blog. It's long overdue, and will make it easier to navigate between stories and help you find stories within a certain topic, like traveling or making or living.

I've switched over the look, but haven't finished all the nitty gritty details, like connecting all the links. Thanks for your patience as I work to make this nicer to read and use.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Travel Editor at The Lady Project

About a year ago, I was asked by the lovely women over at The Lady Project to join their team of bloggers as travel editor. I could not have been more excited to have a place to share my love of travel with an inspiring group of women.

This week I featured photographer Diana Brennan, as she gave me some pointers on taking better travel photography. You can read the whole piece over on The Lady Project site.

I invite you to check out all of my pieces, and all the others too.

Photo: Diana Brennan

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Peru Journal, Finished!

Putting a full journal on my shelf when I get home, is always the last part of any trip. This trip, however, I came home with just the signatures of the book, and needed to sew them all together. I chose a National Geographic map of Peru for the front and back, with the Sacred Valley and all our stops on the trip visible, and used a soft binding.

For the collection of ephemera that I hadn't glued in, I made a folder on the back from a brochure that I picked up along the way.

This worked out perfectly to leave me with a journal that doesn't bulge and holds everything snugly.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Turning 40 in the Andes

Certain trips are hard to sum up easily. For everyone who asked me, "how was your trip?" I found myself at a loss of how to answer. How do you sum up seeing Machu Picchu in small talk? When my massage therapist asked me how my trip was, I stumbled and told her it's so hard to answer. "Forever changed?" she asked. Yeah, I am. I've been home nearly 2 weeks, and am still coming down from this experience.

Despite all the jokes about turning 40, I'm really excited about this next decade. Each decade brings with it new adventures, renewed confidence and moments of clarity. I turned 40 at the Incan ruins in Moray and felt so happy at where I am in life and ready for whatever is coming next.

Peru is way too huge a trip to sum up in one blog post, so expect a lot of small ones over the next couple of weeks as I come down from this high.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Prepping for Peru

As I was sewing together my journal for our next trip, I kept getting distracted. Peru. I was really going. It's actually happening.

This is a country I've wanted to visit since I was a little kid, and Machu Picchu is a destination every traveler dreams about. This year, for my 40th birthday, it's happening. 

When I sat down to make my journal, I was inspired by the journal I made for our 2014 trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. For that trip, I made a small folio, that fit nicely into my travel bag. It held one signature at a time, and then I sewed each signature into the bigger journal on the go as I filled them. 

This trip, I decided to skip the sewing on the go part, but just make the folio and signatures. Peru has a strong weaving and textile culture, so I plan pick up something from one of the markets we'll be visiting and use that when I get home to make the larger journal that I'll sew all my full signatures into. 

This way, the final journal is the exact size to fit everything and I still can travel light when I'm out and about. 
I decided to use a vintage flight route map for the cover. These types of maps fascinate me, there is the added bonus of being able to use it for another trip if I wanted to. 

The title page is the image that comes to mind every time of think of Peru, the classic view of Machu Picchu. 
Along with my regular kit, I'm also bringing little maps from a dated guide book that I had picked up in a used book store. It's too old to use for up to date information, but the small maps in it can be used on the go. 

New journal, new decade, new adventure. Let's go!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A weekend in Boston for #WITS15

Last weekend I headed up to Boston for my first ever  Women in Travel Summit, put on by She's Wanderful (previously known as the Go Girl Network). It was an inspiring weekend spent with 300 women, passionate about travel.

Last year I joined the editorial team of The Lady Project blog as travel editor and decided to reboot my personal blog with more of a travel focus. WITS turned out to be the perfect shot of inspiration for both of these endeavors.

Not only did I attend some valuable workshops full of helpful technical info, I also heard some inspiring key note addresses about the travel industry and traveler's individual experiences. Most importantly, I met and chatted with many other like minded women. Usually admitting we want to take a year off and travel the world, or save enough to retire early and live in South America for a stretch, gets raised eyebrows and comments like "ok, come back to reality." Not this group. Instead I heard, "Oh, did you talk to Kathryn? She did that." It was so refreshing.

Personally, this summit helped me realize that the work I've been doing since 2009 may seem different, but it's actually not. I have experience with running my own business, branding myself, and navigating various forms of income flows. My interests are also not as all over the place and I was imagining them. Craft, art and travel all fit together in my world, and I have a lot of stories to tell.

Speaking of which, I couldn't go to a weekend long conference about travel without something to take notes in. I was torn between making a new journal, and using a Moleskine that was the perfect size for this occasion. I decided to compromise and make a cover for the Moleskine using a vintage time zones map. Worked perfectly.

An unexpected outcome was that WITS inspired me to start promoting David's wine blog. Started in 2004, it's a rich resource for wine lovers, and more people should be reading it. This week I set up a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account for him. Please follow along!

I'm definitely feeling energized.

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.