QC Blog

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Looking Back 2013

Yes, this is one of those posts, where you look back over the past year and say what have I accomplished?  Apparently blogging a lot is not something I did a lot of in 2013.  One post! For shame!  I have to do better in 2014.

As for quilting, I did accomplish quite a bit.  I had a couple of special projects I tackled in 2014.  I made my first t-shirt quilts for two very special little girls.  One of my challenges was including a plain white t-shirt in each quilt, so I used that block to put their name on the quilt.  It was a complete surprise to them and I delivered them so they could be a Valentine's Day gift from their mother.  Even though we exchanged thanks and tears when I delivered them, I recently received such a beautiful note from their mom, reiterating the fact that they all loved the quilts.  There is nothing like words from the heart to fill you up.  These are my t-shirt quilts for Grace and Olivia.

We greeted another Grand Nephew, Thomas, into our family.  I made him a zoo quilt to welcome him.  And of course I made the carrying bag from quilt scraps.

My youngest son Zachary got engaged this year to a lovely girl named Gretchen, they'll be married next year in July.  I can hardly believe I was 4 years younger when I got married.

I taught James his first phrase "cool guy" while we were at Kennywood in September.  Now everyone he meets is a Cool Guy. 

I attended photo conferences this year, RTV, I Heart Faces, Creative Live Online.  I practiced taking photos of my cousins Natalie and Ian (great subjects!) and senior photos with my friend's son, Eli. I got a new camera at the end of the year, preparing for my new venture into newborn, children's, and senior photography.

This Christmas was a very bittersweet time.  All of us were together, some experiencing a loss in the family.  It made us feel very fortunate to all be together and celebrate on Christmas Eve.  I was so proud to watch all of our children as young men and women, and how they carry themselves in this world.  They are a force to be reckoned with.   

We plan a trip to Holland next year, and with the wedding in July, it promises to be a very wonderful year.

Happy New Year!  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Vienne & Lyon (Day 1)

Finally, I'm getting back to writing about the rest of our trip!  That's because we've already booked our next one and I'm determined to finish writing about this one first!

After breakfast, we had a morning trip into Vienne.  This is a city that used to be under Roman rule, with Roman monuments that  are still intact today.  It was also a home to several archbishops with many churches and convents. We started our walk with a visit to the Gothic former cathedral of St. Maurice, that was built between 1052 and 1533. The inside of the church had wooden chairs instead of pews, with hard wooden kneelers in front of them. It had beautiful tapestries, hanging on the sides of the church. Then we walked to the Cybele Gardens where the Roman remains of a forum with two magnificent archways remain in the center of the city.
The Roman Temple of Emperor Augustus and Liva was awesome.  It has survived because it was transformed into a church and a library and was recently uncovered and is being renovated.  We weren't able to go in, but it was impressive.

The town was completely empty, since it was still a holiday weekend (Armistice day).  I did finally spot a fabric store, where they had their fabrics on the street for sale.  We had a break for lunch so we window shopped and had coffee outdoors at a real French cafe. The tram, which was several cars long, picked us up and sped up small winding streets.  It took us to the highest point in the town, Mt. Pipet, considered a sacred area because it was on top of the mountain.

 We drove within inches from the curbs and the walls of the houses.  We passed this beautiful cemetery adorned with mums.  The guide told us that in France they are the symbol of death, sort of like lilys are in the U.S.  The Pipet Fortress was built here, where today stands a chapel and a statue dedicated to Notre-Dame de-la-Salette.

Unfortunately it was pretty foggy, or the view would've been even better.  We could see the ancient ruins of a theater still used today.
After going back to the ship, we had lunch and cruised up the river to Lyon.  We were able to disembark and explore on our own.  Mark and I decided to visit the Textile Museum (I'm sure that was a highlight of his trip!). The textile museum was really cool.  Of course Mark and I were sort of at a disadvantage without Chrissie to speak French.  All of the labels on the displays were in French and all of the attendants only spoke French.  There were carpets, tapestries, wedding dresses, and gowns for women and long silk coats worn by men.  In one room there was a special display that had these beautiful dresses decorated with ribbons and heavy beading.  It turns out it was a Fashion Show of dresses inspired from the time of Marie Antoinette created by current designers.

I bought things like bookmarks, cards and small pieces of fabric, that I just realized recently were beautiful glass cleaner cloths. On our way back to the ship, we saw a store that had MoMo's name on it.  It just seemed fitting.  Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Next: Lyon Day 2

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dreams May Die

It's been a long year.  My grand-nephew James was born at the beginning of the year, bringing great joy and happiness to all our family. We celebrated birthdays and christenings, and vacationed in Stone Harbor/Avalon in New Jersey.  Sadly, in October, Mark's mom, Louise, passed away.  Although she had some medical problems, it was unexpected and difficult.  Family is so important at times like that.  We felt wrapped in the love from our families.  I am so awed by the unexpected kindnesses that came from different portions of our family.  I love you all.

Even though it's been exactly a year since we were in France, it seems like a lifetime ago. How fast things fade from your memory!  Death has a way of readjusting all your priorities.  When clearing away all the things that one accumulates in a lifetime, you keep asking - what is really important in my life?  What are the things that define me?  What are the things that matter?  What do I want my kids to think is important enough not to throw into a box and give to a charity?  Is my life so cluttered, they would never be able to find the important things?

All the things I've been putting off sorting, getting rid of, donating, and selling, I'm doing it now.

I've made an interesting discovery in the process.  I love photography.  Once upon a time I had a dream.  I've wanted a darkroom since I was about 16 years old.  I always felt like a real photographer when I was in the darkroom.  When I got married, every birthday and Christmas present for about 3 years was a piece to complete my darkroom.  I bought the enlarger with great care and family members would buy different pieces - the trays, the squeeges, the thermometers, the developing tanks, the safelights. My 3 year old nephew suggested he could buy me a light for my darkroom, so that I could see :)  My first darkroom in Baltimore was in our basement, on a board that was mounted over the washer and dryer when not in use. 

After moving back to Pittsburgh, my father-in-law built me a darkroom in our house.  It had a door, it was a real room.  It had two counters, and a light fixture for the safelight, with a special light switch, to turn off the safelight and turn on the white light, replicating the darkroom I worked in at my high school, when I was Photography Editor of the yearbook.  But my children were little and I didn't have a lot of time to work in it, but I still had the dream.  I showed my niece and nephew how to make a sunprint and used the darkroom to develop the print.  I printed some photos of my oldest son that I had taken in b&w.  I kept telling myself that there would be time soon for me to work in the darkroom.

When we moved to our present house in 1995 and finished the basement, I made sure we built another darkroom, exactly like the one my FIL had built for me in our old house.  I was still determined to find the time to get into the darkroom. I bought chemicals and developed some film.  Soon, I kept telling myself.

Shortly after that, the world went digital.  People could print photos at home.  Adobe created Lightroom - a computer darkroom.  I got my own digital camera when I started doing virtual tours.  As the years went by, I realized I enjoyed using the computer to play with photos.  In the last year, I've begun to admit to myself that maybe I should get rid of my darkroom, but I was afraid to say it out loud, afraid I was giving up.  When I did, the world didn't end.  There was no earthquake.  And my heart didn't break.

I did an inventory last week of all my darkroom equipment, having made up my mind to get rid of it.  It's not worth much these days.  I realized that the enlarger is still wrapped in the same plastic bag that I put on it when I moved it 15 years ago.  I haven't opened it since we moved.

What was I waiting for?   Somehow, having the dream and achieving the dream are not the same thing.  Time has just passed by and what was once my largest dream has changed with time. Spending the time with my children when they were little was more important than spending that time in my darkroom.  Letting go of my darkroom does not mean I do not love photography, or that I don't want to develop photos.  I am just changing the way I do it.  Changing with the times, using the technology of the decade.  I really didn't miss anything, and getting rid of my stuff will not make me less of a photographer. I will survive without the stuff. 

"...There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do, once you find them."
                                                                                                                                                 Jim Croce

 Next: Vienne and Lyon

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tournon & Tain L'Hermitage

So much has happened in the last few months. We've had a new addition to our family and he's forever changed who we are. I'll write more about him in another post so I can devote myself properly to the subject.
It seems like eons ago that we went to France. I want to finish writing about our trip (mostly so I'll remember it), so I'll pick it up at Tournon sur Rhone and Tain L'Hermitage.

We finally had a morning of sailing. It was a beautiful day and we had a chance to meet some of our fellow Viking travelers above deck.

We were able to experience going through a lock firsthand. It was actually the 8th one we've been through and we still have 7 more on the trip up the Rhone and down the Saone. It's really impressive how they work. My sister Patty attended a Captain's tour of the Wheelhouse, where you could meet Captain Dario Weber from Belgium. As soon as we saw him, we decided he looked like Moondoggie, and if you don't understand that reference, you're just too young! Sigh!

Our views were of vineyards and funny shaped trees and clear blue water and blue blue skies and of course castles. When we docked it was next to another ship, with about 6 inches of space between them.

Mark and Patty and I went for a walk in the town of Tournon. Chrissie stayed behind, feeling a little under the weather. The shops were closed for lunch, and stayed closed from about 11:00am till almost 2:00pm. There was a statue of Marc Seguin, who invented a Steam Engine and designed a European suspension bridge across the Rhone. We walked toward a huge castle built right into the hillside, where the museum had closed for the season the week before. The castle was built between the 14th and 16th centuries. There were loads of cute shops and eateries (all closed) and we saw our first sportsbar in this little town.

After a lunch break on the boat, Chrissie rejoined us and we went on the guided tour in the afternoon, and walked across the Marc Seguin pedestrian footbridge to Tain l'Hermitage on the opposite side of the Rhone river. Here we stopped at a small museum, Musee Palue, whose owner sells paintings of her father's, who was an artist. She spoke to us in French and the guide interpreted for her. Our tour guide wore a leopard coat with black boots and sunglasses and the whole experience was so... French. We met the bus, who then took us to the top of the hill beyond the sloped vineyards to a local winery in Tain L'Hermitage for our wine tasting. They showed us their wine cellars and explained how the wine was made, then we tasted 3 different kinds.

After wine, of course, what tastes better than chocolate? We stopped at the Chocolaterie Valrhona, a company that sells chocolate and also has a school for professional chefs focusing on chocolate dishes and pastries. There were free samples as well as a large selection of delicious chocolate. This one was tough, I had to find something for the boys, small enough to carry home. I settled on circular discs, but I should have bought the flat boxes they had instead. It didn't really matter, it was all great. (By the way, you can buy this chocolate on Amazon - it tasted better than any chocolate I've ever had, and can you believe this, I've had a lot?)

Back to the boat, where again, we eat a sumptuous dinner and get ready for the next day's adventure.

Next: Vienne and Lyon

Friday, January 6, 2012

Avignon and Provence

Lucky for us, the river level went down and we were able to set sail for Avignon that evening.  The ship sailed past Avignon first, so we could see the bridge of St. Benezet, better known as the Pont d'Avignon, and the town at night.  We started each morning with a generous breakfast in the dining room.  Hot tea (really hot tea) was served from a pot, and we could choose from eggs, waffles, thinly sliced hams, granola and yogurt, various fruit juices, to a great chocolate chip muffin that I just had to have every morning.  Then it was back to the stateroom to lace up our tennis shoes and get ready for the trip of the day.
Today's shore excursion was in Avignon, in an area known as the Provence, famous for their lavender.  We didn't get to see the lavender in bloom, but bought some wonderfully scented lavender soap here.  The walls that surrounded the town extend for three miles.

Inside the "old town" that has been preserved is the Palais de Popes (Palace of the Popes) where the Popes lived in the 1300's. 
It is a huge structure at almost 50.000 square feet.  They told us it took 20 years to build this incredible stone palace.  We were allowed to take pictures everywhere except the rooms where there was fabric on the walls, or in the Sacristy.  The flashes (just like sunlight) would further deteriorate the fabric, so it's not permitted.  The rooms were cavernous, and a fireplace took up an entire wall.

Next to that was a cathedral called Notre-Dame-des-Doms, that has a golden statue that was placed on top in the 19th century.
Naturally, on our way out of this elegant palace, there was a gift shop, that sold everything from wine to knightly gear to pens with the pope on top.  I bought a jelly jar cover with Avignon embroidered on top, to try and keep to my pledge that everything I bought would be fabric or flat (so it would fit in the suitcase). 
The Eglis Saint-Pierre is one of the most beautiful churches in Avignon, is located in the center of the city. It was built at the beginning of the 16th century. A few years later, in 1551, the wooden doors were added.  When we walked in the church, it smelled of incense and was breathtaking  It is famous for it's Gothic facade and the solid walnut doors.  Along both sides of the church are chapels dedicated to saints. 
I was so awed by the beauty that I only took one picture of the inside of the church. 
We walked through an indoor market, that had everything from chocolates to poultry and fruits.  We walked down the Rue des Teinturiers, a beautiful and picturesque street in Avignon, that runs next to the canal and saw the Chapelle des Penitents Gris, a monastery that is still active today and the Couvent des Cordeliers, Avignon's largest convent when it was founded in 1929.
 The street has giant plane trees, resembling the American sycamore tree.
On our way back to the boat, we walked the 'Rue de la Republique', the main street in Avignon.  There were stores and shops but we didn't have time to look at them.  I think we bought lavender soap on the way.  Once back at the boat, we set sail for Viviers while some of our cruise people went to a wine tasting at the Chateauneuf du Pape. That evening, Mark and Chrissie went on the Viviers walk.  They enjoyed it immensely.  It is a medieval town with a cathedral at the top of the hill, St. Vincent.  I was just too tuckered out to walk another step.

Next: Tournon & Tain L'Hermitage

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bonjour! Comment allez-vous?

Hello everyone!  How are you?  As you can see from my title, I'm under the French influence, since my sisters and my husband and I just returned from France 3 weeks ago.  It was a wonderful trip, full of adventures and a journey into history that was awe-inspiring.

It always seems the worst part of a trip is the plane ride, hardly worth mentioning, except for the fact that my sister Chrissie, who has been practicing her French, got her first chances to use it here.  As we ran for our flight from Paris to Marseilles, and had to go through security check in again, we would have missed the plane, except that she asked an attendant (in French) if it was possible to make our flight that left in 45 minutes.  We were then fast tracked to an empty security check in and were aboard our Air France flight to Marseilles with time to spare.  The cutest moment was Chrissie telling the male flight attendant in French that she needed two waters because we were very thirsty from running for the flight.  He was smiling at her attempts to speak French and seemed to appreciate it.

We flew into Marseille airport and took a bus to embark on our ship.  We were taking a Viking Cruise of Southern France, starting in Avignon and stopping at several points along the way north.  When we arrived on the boat it was docked in Arles, instead of Avignon, because it had been raining for three straight days and they were not certain we'd be able to travel from our spot, unless the river went down.  After we arrived, we headed to the dining room for a splendid meal, and finally got some rest after traveling for 24 straight hours since leaving Pittsburgh.

The next morning, bright and early we were scheduled for a guided tour through Arles, a city that has roots back to the year 730.  We had receivers with earpieces to hear our guides, so we could follow at a distance to take photos.  As long as we could still hear our guide we were within walking distance of the group.

Portions of a wall that surrounded the city still exist and we visited a Roman arena from the 1st century that is still used today for bullfighting.  They have 2 kinds of bullfights there, one where the bull is killed, and the second, where the bullfighter tries to pin a rosette on the bull, and the bull gets to win in this fight, and is not killed.  We were able to go in and sit in the seats while they explained about the bullfights.  Imagine, here we were sitting in an arena that was around in the time of the Roman Empire.  Quite amazing, when you stop to think about it.

 Arles was also home to painter Vincent Van Gogh for a year.  During his stay, he painted 150 paintings and over 100 drawings.  We saw several spots that he made famous in his paintings and visited the hospital where he spent time after he cut off his ear.  This yellow cafe was one of his paintings.

 We passed the Antique Theater of Arles that was still standing and in amazing shape.  We visited the Cloitre of Saint Trophime where monks had lived.  The architecture was just gorgeous.

The streets are incredibly tiny and a car would come speeding around a bend when a tour group was walking down the street.  When we reached the center of town, an accordion player was serenading us in the town square.  We wanted to go in and look at the church, but it was closed at noon, so we missed that.

Our guided tour ended and with the afternoon free, we chose to shop a little before going back to the ship. 
Since this is the first day of walking, at this point, my feet were killing me.  I needed to stop and take some ibuprofen and put a heel pad in my shoe so I could make it back to the boat.  I put my camera away and we were on our way back to the ship.  I was concentrating on walking and how exhausted I was.  But when we walked past a set of steps I just sighed and said, stop, I have to take a picture of this.  It was calling to me.  I got my camera back out of my bag and took what Mark said is his favorite photo of our entire trip.  I took one shot, this is it.

Next:  Avignon and the Popes Palace

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