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.