Italy 2015 #6 Sergio Does It Again

I’m all about going to new places and meeting new people, but there are some people and places that you just have to visit again. My friend, Sergio, is one of them. Driving from Verona to Sergio’s agriturismo wasn’t going to take too long, so I talked Matt into a bit of a detour to Lucca, a city in Tuscany. Tucked inside the modern city is a treasure surrounded by walls dating back to the Renaissance. We found this gate and walked inside to explore.Gate in the wall of LuccaIt was a lovely town inside those formidable walls.LuccaWe didn’t have much time, but I was eager to see a church that was mentioned in our tour book. San Michele in Foro, Lucca www.joyfulwonder.comThe facade of San Michele in Foro is just incredible. Each column looked different!San Michele in Foro, Lucca ©Janine Broscious 2015 San Michele in Foro, Lucca ©Janine Broscious 2015As Matt and I wandered around Lucca, we looked for all the towers that were featured on a coin purse I had purchased. We found them all! And I admired the lovely Italian pottery. Oh, I love it!Lucca, Italy ©Janine Broscious 2015I wished we had time to ride bikes on the top of the wall. If we ever go back, I want to do that. But it was time to move on.Lucca, Italy. ©Janine Broscious 2015We arrived at Sergio’s agriturismo, Settesoldi, and were greeted as old friends.  As they prepared dinner, Sergio and Cecilia assured me that they still had “my” plate, silverware and pot that they saved special for me and others with food intolerances. Sergio asked about my jewelry business and I explained that I had also expanded to designing patterns for rug hooking. It took a bit for him to understand what I meant, but he got excited when I showed him my latest design that I said was inspired by the Italian pottery that I love. He ran inside and got a book for me to look at. “This is the ceramic that is typical of this area. You and Matt need to go see where they make it.” My latest design:Life Goes On rug hooking pattern by Janine Broscious

During a scrumptious dinner, Sergio poured what I thought was a LOT of olive oil on his pasta. I told him that lately I was hearing that what was sold in the USA as olive oil was poor quality. He proceeded to explain the difficulties of producing quality olive oil. Constant inspections must be done to the olives to make sure that a worm isn’t ruining the crop. In fact, he said that Cecilia has just that day used a scope to check the crop. Many places spray heavily to fight the worm, but then the pesticides end up in the oil. Sergio doesn’t do that, but he said the worm won this past year and his production was low. As I ate my dinner, I was much more appreciative of the delicious olive oil that we poured on our food. Our meal and wonderful conversation lasted well after 10:00 and it was time for bed. I slept well in the beautiful room with lavender sprigs under my pillow.

The next day, we planned to explore since Matt was supposed to work in the evening. We were about to take off when Matt called to make sure the schedule was okay with the customer. They hadn’t gotten the emails telling them he was coming that night, but preferred for him to go immediately to do the work. So off he went. Suddenly, I found myself alone at Sergio’s place. In fact, everyone had taken off, even Sergio. So, I opened our room door to let in the sunshine and set about writing a blog post. Soon after hearing a car arrive at the agriturismo, I heard Sergio call up to my open door. “Janine, are you here?” I explained that Matt had had to go to work and I was writing a blog. But, Sergio was not happy with that. “No, this is not good.” He asked if I would like to visit a pottery factory. Would I?!?! I sure would!

As we zipped around curves and flew down dirt roads, Sergio apologized for the state of his vehicle. I assured him that being a country girl myself, that I was not interested in a car being pristine. We passed by some of the many cypress trees that were planted in rows. I had always admired these trees and just thought of them as some extra beauty in Italy, but Sergio explained that cypress trees are planted to keep soil in its place…erosion control. We laughed a lot as we drove through Tuscany with the windows down. Conversation always gets interesting with my lack of speaking Italian. But Sergio knows a lot of English! Still, it took much longer to get thoughts to be understood and sometimes we would need to use Google translate. We stopped at an arch in the middle of a town and he showed me caper plants growing on the side.Arch in Tuscany.

I’ve always wondered what capers were! I had found them a bit confusing. Usually when I saw them used in a dish, they seemed like little seeds. But Cecilia had served them with dinner the night before and they almost seemed like large olives. They were both capers?Capers in Tuscany

Sergio pointed out the flowers on the plant and then some buds that hadn’t bloomed yet. The buds are what I had usually seen used in cooking. The capers that we had eaten the night before were the fruit of the plant. Mystery solved!Capers in Tuscany

Finally we arrived at the ceramic factory, Ellepi. I already loved the charming looking place!Ellepi Ceramiche Montopoli Italy

Sergio spoke with the man that was there and told him that I write a blog. He agreed to show us around the place.Ellepi Ceramiche Montopoli Italy Ellepi Ceramiche Montopoli Italy Ellepi Ceramiche Montopoli Italy Ellepi Ceramiche Montopoli Italy Ellepi Ceramiche Montopoli Italy Ellepi Ceramiche Montopoli Italy Ellepi Ceramiche Montopoli Italy

Of course, I understood nothing that they said to each other. We came to a room where there were items for sale. Even though the ceramics for the area were not as brightly colored as I was used to seeing in Italian pottery, I was drawn to it. Sergio explained that these colors had been used for centuries. He was going to buy a plate. I decided that I wanted one too, the one on the upper left.Ellepi Ceramiche Montopoli Italy

Sergio and the potter spoke at length in expressive language about the price. At first I tried to understand what was going on, but failing at that, I just wandered around taking photos of the beautiful pieces.Sergio haggles over the price.

Finally, a price was agreed upon for our plates. Sergio also bought a ceramic duck. I was given the task of keeping the duck safe as we flew back to the agriturismo and then he asked for my help in finding just the right spot for the new decoration. He grabbed a sickle and chopped weeds and lo and behold, there was another such duck sitting on the hillside. It was just waiting for a companion. Matt came home from work and we rested until dinner time. Was I ever surprised when walking into the dining room. The duck had made it’s way onto the dinner table!Ceramic duck at Sergio's dinner Italy

Cecilia served another scrumptious meal. So much so, that I asked if I could look at her cookbooks. All in Italian, but I took photos of some recipes with my cell phone. I asked which recipes were her favorites. She pointed to her head. That’s where the cooking magic came from. Oh, I wished for longer with them so I could learn Italian cooking from her. Sergio said, “The next time you and Matt want to come for two nights, I am going to say no. There is so much more I want to show you!” Matt and I laughed. “You won’t allow us to come for only two nights? How long do we have to stay?” I asked. Sergio smiled, “At least fifteen days.” Fifteen days sounds good to me, my friend. I have much more to learn from you. In the meantime, I’ll have to be content with looking at the ceramic plate hanging on my wall and reliving Tuscan memories.My friend, Sergio and me. Italy.

Check out previous posts about this trip to Italy! Italy 2015 #1Italy 2015 #2Italy 2015 #3Italy 2015 #4, Italy 2015 #5

Many Faces of London: England 1

Things never seem to be as I expect them. Before this trip Matt kept expressing concern over driving in England. Not only would we have to drive on the opposite side of the road, but he would have to shift with his other hand. And then there are the round-abouts. I told him he would have no problem! Years ago, we had visited St Croix and they drive in the left lane but with the driver still on the left side. Matt had done great there and I had complete confidence in his ability to drive successfully in England. However, I was picturing quiet, country roads…

I was sad to leave Italy, my first taste of travel abroad. But work was still to be done in England, so we boarded a plane in Venice and headed to London. I admit it. We are green, stupid, American tourists. Since we knew we needed a car for driving all over England, we reserved one to be picked up at the Heathrow airport in London. I also had a B&B, 69 the Grove, all set up too. I didn’t realize that again, we would be landing in the dark and getting to the B&B late. So, I added 2 hours to when we landed and let the hosts at the B&B know our expected arrival time. First, though, there were several things to be done at the airport.

My answer may not have been the best as we went through customs. The official asked why we were coming to England. Matt explained that he was there for his job. She asked what I would be doing while he worked. In my tired state, I brilliantly said, “Oh, I’ll find things to do.” She looked stern and said, “Do you have a credit card?” Uh oh. I figured she wanted more identification then just my passport. I said, “Yes,” and started digging for it. She laughed and said, “I’m just kidding. I hope you have a credit card so you can shop while he works!” Whew! She let us in this new to us country: England!

It was much easier finding the Hertz rental car desk in London than in Sicily. This was going to be a breeze. We could understand everyone when they spoke! And we could read the signs. Then we approached our car. I headed to the passenger side where I promptly found a steering wheel. I laughed heartily. This was going to be fun. We settled into our appropriate places and Matt turned on the car. We were in England, so of course it was drizzling. And the windshield immediately fogged up. It took us a bit to find how to turn on the inside lights and familiarize ourselves with this new car. Matt set up the gps to take us to our B&B and away we went. It was fairly easy getting out of the parking lot. They didn’t even give us the choice of heading down the wrong side of the road. It was all clearly marked with arrows and divided lanes. Then the real fun….torture….began. The Brits are good at that, torture, but more on that later.

We were on a highway, in the dark, heading towards our next bed. Every once in a while, Matt would get very close to the curb on my side.  And the wipers. We didn’t need them anymore and yet he couldn’t figure out how to turn them off. So, here we are whizzing down the road, on the left side, trying to turn off the wipers and find the correct turns. I started getting nervous. We headed towards downtown London. In my planning, I thought it would be best to be close to all the wonderful places we wanted to see. Right? Suddenly, we were off the highway and into Friday night traffic in London.

We really aren’t city people. In fact, even though we live near Washington, DC, when we go there we never drive in the city. I guess we just usually avoid cities whenever possible. WHAT WERE WE DOING?!?! My confidence was wavering. In fact, I was starting to panic a little. Actually, a lot. Matt was really doing well in the circumstances. But, think about it. Here I was, sitting in what is usually the driver’s side for me, and I wasn’t driving this moving vehicle. I had no control and everything seemed all wrong. Matt every so often scrapped the tires on the curb on the left. It was difficult for him to know where the car was in the lane. And everything was moving the wrong way in the rear view mirror. This was much worse than I thought it would be.

Then, as it seems to go with this trip, we couldn’t find the B&B even though we were on the correct street. We crept slowly down the street but we missed it. We had to circle around, with round-abouts and one way streets, four times before we got back on that street. Rather than just trying to find the house number in the dark, we called and our kind host came out in the street to find us.

Our B&B in the daylight.

Our B&B in the daylight.

By this time, I was pretty shaken up. No way did I expect driving in England to be this scary! But we had a lovely room to settle ourselves into and a fun day to look forward to in the morning. I had a friend to meet for the first time!

How could she be a friend if I hadn’t even met her? I know people often criticize Facebook, but it can be enriching. I have found kindred spirits that I never would have found without it. One of them is Laura Moore. We met in an art journaling group and once she asked if I was going to paint that day. I told her I wasn’t because I was trying to find B&B’s in England for our trip. She said, “I live in London!” It’s funny; somehow I just pictured her as living in the USA like I did. I promptly asked if she would be willing to meet and she agreed. So, we were set to meet my friend at 11:00 on Trafalgar Square.

First, we needed to figure out how to get there from our B&B. After our previous night’s escapade, we did not want to drive anywhere else in London. The car would stay put until we drove it out of the city. Our host, Kanley, suggested that we take a bus to the square and pointed us in the direction of the station.

Our host, Kanley, was very helpful.

Our host, Kanley, was very helpful.

I really felt like a country mouse in the city. It was confusing and difficult to know what sort of ticket to buy. Someone told us to get an oyster ticket which would allow us to get on and off all day. So, we got one. But rather than bus, it looked like it was for the “tube” or subway. Actually, this was more familiar to us than figuring out a bus route since we ride the Metro back home. So, on the tube we went.

The tube was a lot like the Metro in Maryland.

The tube was a lot like the Metro in Maryland.

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Trafalgar Square

We got to Trafalgar Square a bit early. I hoped I was remembering the correct place to meet Laura and her husband, David. Would we find them in this crowd? Would we hit it off as couples? Or would we sit there with nothing to talk about?

I was grateful to Matt for being willing to spend our first day in England with people we didn’t even know. “We are meeting for coffee,” I said, “so probably in an hour or so, we will have to figure out the next thing to do.” I shouldn’t have worried.

What a highlight of our trip, meeting my friend, Laura and her husband, David.

What a highlight of our trip, meeting my friend, Laura and her husband, David.

Laura and David are wonderful people! We had no problems finding things to talk about like art, London, art, our families, art, life in general, and art. We did have coffee together, and lunch and dinner! Laura and David became our personal tour guides and took us all over the city showing us famous sights.

We had coffee with Laura and David in The Crypt.

We had coffee with Laura and David in The Crypt.

The Crypt.

The Crypt.

The beautiful church above The Crypt.

The beautiful church above The Crypt.

Somehow, I expected there to be an old part of London where I would feel like I stepped back in time. But everything was scattered together with modern buildings. Old and new altogether. History and potential all in one. It was fun finding the landmarks hidden by the beautiful new buildings. And as we walked, I looked at the many faces passing by us, each with their own history and potential. The many faces of London.

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While at The Tower of London, you can see the modern city of London.

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I enjoyed walking over the Tower Bridge.


The Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge

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Big Ben is beautiful and we heard it chime several times.

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A view from St James park.

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I really wanted to go on the London Eye. But the queue was long and I decided against it. If I ever go back…

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Diana is remembered fondly here.

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The changing of the guard.


Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace


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I had read about this place which claims to be the inspiration for Dickens’ “The Old Curiosity Shop.” Laura and David had never heard of it and we had quite a time finding it. But here it was stuck in the middle of modern buildings.

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We had a gorgeous view from the Tate building.

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This is the Beefeater guide that we had at the Tower of London. Very entertaining. Here is he pointing to the Tower Bridge and instructing us to never make the mistake of calling it the London Bridge.


Our Beefeater made a point of explaining that this portcullis still works and is a “marvel of British engineering.”

Our Beefeater made a point of explaining that this portcullis still works and is a “marvel of British engineering.”

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You know how I love jewelry! The crown jewels were beautiful and fascinating. And they wouldn’t let me take photos.

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They always keep ravens at the Tower of London. The superstition is, “If the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it”

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A beautiful cannon that a raven enjoyed as a perch.

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Many beautiful pieces of armor were displayed.

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Gorgeous workmanship!


The Tower of London held prisoners and many of them were tortured and executed. This is the ax and block from the last execution.

The Tower of London held prisoners and many of them were tortured and executed. This is the ax and block from the last execution.

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These guards were at The Tower as well as at Buckingham Palace.

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Typical view. Double decker buses, taxis and modern buildings.


We met this mother and son at the B&B. They were from Germany and invited us to come visit!

We met this mother and son at the B&B. They were from Germany and invited us to come visit!


More people we met in London. A couple from Hong Kong. It has been so wonderful to meet people from all over the world.

More people we met in London. A couple from Hong Kong. It has been so wonderful to meet people from all over the world.


We enjoyed London, but it was also a relief to drive out of it. Matt got us out safely!

We enjoyed London, but it was also a relief to drive out of it. Matt got us out safely!

Read about our adventures in Italy! Start here: Italy 1

My Friend, Sergio: Italy 5

Before leaving for this trip to Europe, I felt that I already had a friend in Italy. I told people at home that I was going to see my buddy, Sergio Settesoldi.  You see, during the reservation process, Sergio and I had replied to each other several times. Since I use gmail, he was able to see my profile photo and he noticed my jewelry and asked about it. How could I not like him after that?! Well, I really had no idea what friends Sergio and Cecilia would become.DSC_2593

We arrived at Agriturismo Settesoldi around 6 pm and had just enough time to settle in and walk to the top of the hill to view San Miniato in the evening sun.DSC_2472

Then we were asked to come into the kitchen while Cecilia prepared dinner. Because of having celiac disease, I had asked for gluten free meals during the reservation process at each agriturismo.  That way, they would be able to prepare ahead of time for my special diet. So far, each one had made meals that I could eat and had served gluten free bread or crackers. But Sergio and Cecilia explained that they had taken this need of mine very seriously. Cecilia did not speak much English, but Sergio did and he showed me that they had purchased a special pot, plate and cutlery for me to use. They knew about the real problem of cross contamination from using items that prepared meals with grains. I couldn’t believe it! Such thoughtfulness. Sergio explained that they wanted to learn about this problem of celiac disease. So, I tried to explain about it in English words that he would understand.DSC_2621 2

I was so touched by their kindness. Sergio and Cecilia really cared about my health and said they would be watching my face while I was there to see if I felt well. This brought tears to my eyes. I was not used to being so fussed over and told Matt that this was difficult for me. He said that it was my turn to let someone serve me and that I should just enjoy it.

It was a chilly night and they had a fire lit in the living area. We had the choice of eating in the dining area or Sergio said he could bring in a table and place it right by the fire. Matt and I had been chilled several times so far on this trip and a fireside meal sounded ideal. Then something wonderful happened. One of the reasons that we had wanted to stay in agriturismos was because they were supposed to be a way of experiencing the real Italian culture. Several reviews of places had mentioned interacting with the family and even eating meals with them. This had not happened in our experience as of yet. In fact, the agriturismos that we had been to thus far seemed more like hotels on farm land. But not at Agriturismo Settesoldi. After rolling in the table to sit in front of the fire, Sergio set the table for four. At first I thought there must be two other guests to be coming, but instead after bringing out the food, Sergio and Cecilia sat down with us! We had such a wonderful time chatting. I was glad that Sergio spoke such good English. He was our interpreter so that I could tell Cecilia how much I appreciated the special care she took with my food.DSC_2487 2

Sergio remembered our conversation about jewelry and brought it up again. He said that the photo with my email looked like I wore jewelry specially made to match my eyes.  I ran back to our room and brought out the few pieces of jewelry that I had with me on the trip. They oooooed and awwwed over every single piece and touched them as if they were precious. Sergio asked about the techniques and tools that I used. And then he showed me the one piece of jewelry that he had designed. It was a gold ring that wound seven times around the finger. It was to represent his name, Settesoldi, which means seven money.  It was beautiful! I noticed that Cecilia admired one piece of my jewelry, a bracelet. I put it on her wrist and it fit perfectly. I decided that it was a way to show my great delight in the way they were taking care of us. Even though she thought it was too much, I insisted that it stay on her arm.

The next day after breakfast, Matt left for work and I had a whole day to occupy myself. Would I find enough to do? I shouldn’t have given it a thought. Even though Cecilia had left for work, Sergio was still at the house.  He showed me where to do laundry and while it washed, I sat in a chair overlooking the beautiful valley and wrote a blog entry. Then I took a walk and explored the countryside.

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It seems no matter where you go in Italy there are ancient ruins. I found this building, which Sergio said had been a monastery, on my walk.DSC_2510

I returned just in time for lunch. Even though I had thought to just eat an energy bar from my room, Sergio said that he was waiting for me and wondered if I would like some artichoke.DSC_2523

Then he picked the artichoke that I had earlier taken a photo of and prepared a wonderful lunch while singing along with classical music. When he needed herbs, he stepped just outside and picked them fresh from the garden. And of course he used his homemade olive oil on everything. So yummy! Sergio and I ate on the patio with a lovely view.DSC_2521

After lunch, two men were coming to the house to meet with Sergio. He explained that unfortunately, the beautiful view we enjoyed there was in danger. The “establishment” planned to put a quarry in that valley. Tourism is the main economy of that area of Tuscany and these men were doing all they could to fight this plan. Sergio showed me a documentary video that they had published. The area was also known for white truffles. In fact, it is famous for the largest white truffle found and for the White Truffle Festival that it holds each November. Sergio and his friends have great hope that the importance of the truffle will stop the quarry. I hope so too.DSC_2519

Matt returned from work and we had just enough time to look for a geocache before dinner at “verso otto e mezzo,” which Sergio said with great flourish and moving of hands. Even though he said 8:30, he really meant closer to nine o’clock, so we had time to drive to Buggiano Castello.DSC_2532 2

This was another town built up on a hill and it was so pretty! I felt like we had discovered an unknown gem since this was not in the tour books. In fact, to go into this village, one needed to park below it and walk up into it.DSC_2576 2

There were signs all over that said private property and we had to be careful not to trespass. We finally made our way to the pretty church and courtyard there.

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Matt found the geocache in the wall and I enjoyed yet another lovely view.DSC_2547

When we returned, I expected to eat another meal with Sergio and Cecilia. But this time the table was set for six. A young couple from France, Lohan and Lauren, had joined us.DSC_2598 2

She spoke very good English and Sergio put us all to ease with his friendly manner and jokes. While talking of our families, I got out my phone and showed our family photo from Christmas. Lauren could not believe it was our family. She asked how old I was. “No,” she declared. “You cannot be that old! What are your beauty secrets!?” I told Lauren that she was my new best friend! I really liked this girl! Sergio then proceeded to say that Philip looked like Brad Pitt, Jeremy like Hugh Grant and Jonathan like Matt Damon. Matt he said, looked like, well, himself. We all laughed as we tried to communicate with the help of Google translate. Sergio mentioned a plant, mirto, and I couldn’t think what it could be. He typed it into the phone and laughed heartily when I exclaimed, “Oh, myrtle!” He kept repeating it in a funny way. Surely I didn’t sound like that!

Lauren asked about the concept of “Slow Food.” It is a movement to overcome what fast food has done to dinner. Sergio explained that this was what we were experiencing; food prepared freshly right from the land and served with much atmosphere, candles, music. It was meant to be enjoyed throughout the evening with lots of conversation and laughter. Indeed, we were experiencing just that and it was wonderful! This is what I had wanted while staying in an agriturismo. I joked that they did indeed do slow food very well, but that they had fast coffee. Sergio was confused until I mentioned that in the USA we linger over a large cup of coffee, but in Italy, they serve espresso which they gulp down efficiently. He just grinned.

It was time to move on. If I ever get back to Italy, I will stay longer than two nights at Agriturismo Settesoldi. Keep blessing others with slow food, my friend, Sergio!DSC_2632Isn’t that a huge bottle of olive oil?!

See the next part of the story: Italy 6

Be sure to read the rest of our adventure! Italy 1, Italy 2, Italy 3, Italy 4

Creatively Thankful

What a beautiful Thanksgiving I just experienced! We were blessed to be able to travel to North Carolina to be with our son, Jeremy, and his wife, Karlin. We took our camper since their guest bedrooms were wonderfully filled with  Karlin’s family, and parked in it a new campground that opened just down the road from their house. It got pretty cold while we were there. We hadn’t used this camper in 28 degree weather and I wondered if the water hose would freeze, but it didn’t. A drink of water was really cold though!

But back to the beauty. I have such a creative daughter-in-law! Look at this beautiful table…DSC_9949 2a

But that wasn’t the extent of the lovely Autumn decorations. When we arrived a couple days before Thanksgiving, there was this beautiful and unusual decoration on the front door.DSC_9931 2

On Thanksgiving day, a different wreath appeared! DSC_9967 2

Here is a closeup of the turkey wreath that she made. Isn’t it adorable?!

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This was the first time that I can remember that I didn’t cook or help cook the Thanksgiving meal. Karlin and her sister, Amber, did it all. That left time for Karlin’s mom, Joelyn, and me to work on a project. Joelyn asked if I would teach her to crochet a doily. Thread crochet is more difficult than regular crochet, but she jumped right in and began making a lovely piece. She was eager to learn how to crochet from a diagram too. Here is what we worked on while the younger women cooked.DSC_9986 2

What a blessing it was to spend several days with Karlin’s mom. I wish I had asked Matt to take of photo of Joelyn and me crocheting. But we did get a photo of Karlin’s famly.DSC_9970

Karlin and Amber made a wonderfully delicious meal. Almost all of it was gluten free and corn free so that I could eat it! Look at this gorgeous meal!!DSC_9956 3

It was a joy to be surrounded by family and lovely creativity. But, then it was time to travel home past all the fields of puffy white cotton and on to the heavy traffic of DC. I began noticing several RVs heading south and counted them. Would you believe in the short trip from NC to MD we counted 124 RVs heading south?! Maybe we were heading the wrong direction! But we’ll head that way in a couple months and it’ll be great to see Jeremy and Karlin again on the way down!DSC_9975 3

Embroidery and Paint

I’ve just got to brag about my friend’s art! Peggy is one of my art buddies. We met through a Bible study and soon found out that we both love to create. Last autumn, I asked if she would like to take an online art class with me, Brave Girl Art School. Soon we were throwing paint onto canvas along with fabric, beads, paper and even twigs! We met weekly to work on projects together. She was a great encouragement to me to just jump in and try something new.

We are still attending the same Bible study, but the art class is over and life got busy so we don’t do mixed media together anymore. She is still creating though! And I love her latest projects. Peggy says that embroidery that I did recently inspired her to do embroidery right on a canvas that is prepared for painting. I was working on this wren piece that I completed in the summer. (Here is a post about the wren project.)

This is a closeup of the wren that I stitched this past summer.

This is a closeup of the wren that I stitched this past summer.

My mother-in-law taught me to do these kinds of projects by attaching the fabric to stretcher bars before working them instead of using a hoop. It’s a great alternative!

I staple the fabric onto the stretcher bars. This is the back of my piece.

I staple the fabric onto the stretcher bars. This is the back of my piece.

You never have to move a hoop and there are no marks left over. Peggy thought that I was going to just leave the embroidery on the stretcher bars and hang it. That was not what I had planned for my wren piece. But it spurred on her imagination!

The result is beautiful! By using a canvas that is ready for paint, Peggy was able to color the background with watercolor paint and then stitch through the canvas. DSC_9822 2

She even added beads!DSC_9823 2

I plan to steal her idea..the one that was inspired by my work. Isn’t it wonderful how we can help each other? Thanks, Peggy for the great idea!

Here is Peggy holding her beautiful art pieces! They are ready to hang!

Here is Peggy holding her beautiful art pieces! They are ready to hang!

A True Friend

Blessed! That’s how I feel. True friendship is hard to come by. But I have a true friend. And she just gave me a beautiful handmade gift. Margaret has been my friend for years.

Here we are years ago at one of the star parties. Tried to get a good photo, but foiled again!

Here we are years ago at one of the star parties. Tried to get a good photo, but foiled again!

As she said, we’ve been friends “through the good, the bad and the ugly.” We’ve watched our kids grow up and helped each other through the homeschooling journey. We camped together at many a star party and spent lots of holidays together.Now we are encouraging each other through the grandma part of our lives!

What a fun pillow!

What a fun pillow!

Margaret has started sewing…again. She used to sew pretty dresses for her girls. Life got busy and sewing was set aside, until just recently when she attended a quilting class at JoAnn’s. I saw that she was making beautiful pillows. She said she would make one for me, so we picked out fabric and here it is! Who can resist cheerful owls?  And the sewing is perfect! I’d say she learned that lesson well.

She is on to new quilting lessons. But I wanted to share some things that she has taught me. She has shown me the importance of surrounding yourself with flowers. Her deck is filled with lovely potted plants every summer. Just last week, we were out together and she excitedly bought fall mums for 88 cents at Home Depot. I couldn’t help myself and joined in.

The mums I bought

The mums I bought. Soon they will be open!

She has shown me what the gift of hospitality looks like and shares her home and a meal with us often.  Margaret knows how to hold things tightly and not gossip to others. And she makes a person feel important by keeping in touch even when apart.  She laughs with me and cries with me.

I do have a true friend. And I hope that I can keep learning from her. In the meantime, we’ll  be doing this grandma thing. Neenie and Grammie. That’s us!

Margaret did great quilting this pillow.

Margaret did great quilting this pillow.