Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Some of my needlework…

This morning I had problems publishing my post. It did not appear in Google Reader. The original post is below. Please place any comments there, thank you.

Some of my needlework…

Last week was the Chinese New Year. This would have been an excellent trip destination which I would have enjoyed, indeed, in China or anywhere the Chinese New Year was celebrated. But I was in Georgia, knitting and crocheting baby blankets. On 23 January 2012 (or year 4710 under the Chinese calendar) the Year of the Dragon began. It started 15 days of celebration by over 1.3 billion people in China, millions more ethnic Chinese around the world and many other nationalities. The Year of the Dragon is one of the most revered years in the Chinese calendar and considered the luckiest.

Celebration picture taken in Beijing, China (courtesy Feng Li/Getty Images)

In Chinese tradition the Dragon is not the demon from western literature but a symbol of intense power and good fortune. It is regarded as a divine beast. Those born under the sign of the Dragon are said to be innovative, enterprising, self-assured, passionate people who are free spirited, colorful, confident and fearless. That’s the good characteristics and the only ones I’ll mention since I was born under the sign of the Dragon! Some of the people born under the Year of the Dragon are Florence Nightingale, Sigmund Freud, Salvador Dali, Martin Luther King, Jr., and John Lennon. You can Google “Chinese Zodiac signs” to read up on each of the 12 Animal signs.

Dragon by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Japanese 1797-1861

I am not planning any trips right now but have been busy knitting or crocheting baby blankets. My mother was a talented seamstress (see post on her here ) and taught me how to saw and embroider. She did some crochet work in later life but I was taught how to knit and crochet by the mother of my childhood Armenian friend in Paris. We must have been 4 years old at the time as I remember it was before I started kindergarten.

Painting by Lillian Westcott Hale, American 1880-1963

In the 1970s I made many needlework cushions, pictures and other things. Below is a little cat I made then – my cat Cody now looks almost like the picture. I have to watch him though because he loves to jump into my needlework basket. (Click on pictures to enlarge.)

I knitted a rainbow blanket for my first grandchild as well as two “car seat” blankets – little blankets to be placed around him in a car or in his small seat. Then when he entered daycare I knitted another blanket in the blue variegated tones. Here he is below hiding behind his blue blanket.

When the second grandchild came along I again knitted another rainbow blanket and crocheted a couple of car seat blankets. Here he is below lying on the blue blanket and later on sleeping with one of the car seat blankets.

Every year since I retired in 2008 I have been watching the Tour de France live on television. I watch it from about 8 am to 11:30 am each day for three weeks! I use this time to knit or crochet then I don’t watch much TV the rest of the year. In 2010 one of my daughter’s best friend and his partner were having a little baby boy. My daughter’s friend said that he would like a blanket in the form of the French flag. I was happy to make one and also a small car seat blanket.

I enjoyed using the French “bleu blanc rouge” (blue red and white) instead of the usual blue colors. There are so many beautiful yarns to choose from really – when we were in Oslo I would have liked to purchase some of the lovely yarns displayed there.

Norwegian women knit intricate gloves, hats and other items. I admired many in various shops, like below.

After looking at the daycare blankets I had knitted and crocheted for my grandsons, the receptionist of the daycare told me that her area was kept very cool and she would love to have a blanket of her own … in the pink and purple tones – hint hint. I was pleased to make one for her – she was totally overwhelmed when it was given to her as she did not expect it.

Then my daughter said that she would love a heavy scarf to go with the embroidery on her dark winter coat. She selected the colors.

After that it was time to knit a sweater for the eldest grandson. I made it large so he could wear it a couple of years, maybe.

My daughter has an Iranian friend whose baby boy had difficulty breathing so he needed a blanket with loose stitches. I made the one below for him. The dark stripe is green.

A third grandson came along last July so I knit another rainbow blanket during the Tour de France – slightly different. I also knitted a car seat blanket but in brilliant colors. I placed the little suitcase lock near the blanket to show its relative size.

Below is the blanket around its little owner.

I knitted another car seat blanket for the third grandson – 4 large squares in yellow and green. But since I had so much yarn left it was fun making another two car seat blankets for the other two grandsons.

January 2012 came along - time for the third grandson to start daycare and time for another blanket. I did not have time to wait for the Tour de France in July so I crocheted one while watching Downton Abbey on week-ends and Comedy Central with Jon Stewart. I finished it in two weeks. Here is a picture I took without a flash – it shows more depth.

With flash the colors are more vibrant.

I put my yarn away and thought that I was done making baby blankets for the year, but then…. a friend announced the birth of her new grandson….. I swiftly returned to some pretty blue Turkish yarn I had…

and promptly made another car seat blanket. To show its relative size, I placed it with the 1880 edition of the Complete Poetical Works of Alfred Tennyson, Poet Laureate. Maybe this baby may grow up to be a poet?

In addition, I crocheted another car seat blanket for him in more vibrant tones. I placed a French paperback this time on the blanket. It is “Enfance” by Nathalie Sarraute. It has been translated into English under the title Childhood. Here it is below with close-ups of the blankets.

I don’t see any more baby blankets this year.

Knitting by Harold Knight, English 1874-1961

This break in needlework will give me more time to read the two new books I received this morning: "Novel Destinations – Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen’s Bath to Ernest Hemingway’s Key West." I have been to both places already but will read the rest with interest. The other book was written by my bloggy friend Cloudia of the blog Comfort Spiral . It is entitled "Aloha – Where you like go?"

There are still so many places I’d like to know – I’d better start reading…

Reading by Gerald Gardiner, English 1902-1959

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Selecting travel destinations (Part two)

This is the second part of my post on my reasons for selecting some special travel destinations but, first, I’d like to thank all my bloggy friends who came to read the first part and commented. I am so pleased that you liked the paintings of Paris that I posted and also, that you like my hometown. Below is another painting of Paris. It is the Rue de l’Abreuvoir painted in the late 1800s or early 1900s. This street is behind the Sacré-Coeur of Montmartre. I could walk to this street from where I lived in Paris; it would have taken about 15 to 20 minutes.

La Rue de l’Abreuvoir à Montmartre by Alfred Renaudin, French 1866-1944

I’d like to answer some questions asked by my bloggy friends. Jenny Woolf asked “can you say whether you found the places you visited lived up to your expectations?” I can sincerely declare that I have never been disappointed. I don’t have expectations I just go and enjoy each trip.

Rosaria asked “How did you manage to get away so often? “ The company where I worked closed between Christmas and New Year so I could take time off then. After so many years I also received one month paid vacations. In addition I worked often on week-ends and evenings and received “compensation time” or paid time off which I could add to Holidays or week-ends.

Fennie said “…personally I like returning to where I know..” I feel the same. This is why for example I have been to Tunisia 4 times, to England a dozen times or more and Italy at least 10 times. If not I would have visited more countries.

Rauf said “Cost is my deciding factor.” It is mine too. I came to the USA with $1,000 cash. From then on I worked. I was fortunate to get extra work, like Tour Guide for French speaking tourists, French voice-over on training videos, translations, modeling, etc., in addition to my regular position. I also always waited for a “good deal” which is why I waited sometimes decades to visit a certain country.

But when in Paris I always return to the Place St Michel….

La Place St Michel by Eugène Galien-Laloue, French 1854-1941

To get back to some of the reasons for my trips -

Radio Show

My radio station in Atlanta used to broadcast a show every Saturday afternoon from Public Radio International called “AfroPop.” The show is no longer on my radio station but is available online. Georges Collinet is still the radio host (mother from Cameroon and father French.) The music is from all parts of Africa and is not “African-American music” but genuine African music.

Georges Collinet and singers Baaba Maal and Youssou N’Dour from Sénégal

I enjoyed the music so much that I had written to Georges to tell him that he should get a group together to travel to Africa to listen live to some of the music. He did call me later on and said that it was a good idea and was going to do just that. This is the way I joined his group and went to Dakar, Sénégal for 10 days. I’ll write a post on this as it would be too long now. Below is a picture of part of our group eating lunch in the Island of Gorée (off the coast of Sénégal.) Georges is at the top of the table on the left.

Below is another photo I scanned – it’s of me on the same day in the Island of Gorée.

Books and Roses

I used to grow roses in my garden. I had up to 150 bushes but now that so many of our trees have grown there is too much shade in our yard and most of the roses are gone. Then I belonged to the American Rose Society and drove to Atlanta for monthly meetings. They would often speak about the famous International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon – and I longed to visit it. Several years later my husband and I, who are total book addicts, learned about Powell'‘s Books – an independent bookstore in Portland that offers more than 4 million new and used books in a large store which uses a whole city block. This was a double reason to visit Portland. Some years later an airline offered cheap flights to Portland, Oregon from Atlanta, so we went.
We visited both places - the rose garden and bookstore. Below is a scanned picture of me in the rose garden

and a postcard of Powell’s Books.

Because of the name of a city

One year I was searching the Internet for something in Paris, France. Another Paris came up – Paris in Kentucky. As we were planning to drive to Columbus, Ohio to visit my husband’s family I checked the map and saw that we could make a slight detour and visit Paris, Ky. I wished to visit it because it was called Paris. I had requested some information from the Tourists Office there and told them I was from another Paris, in France. They offered to give us a guided tour of their Paris. We went and had a lovely time with the gracious Parisian ladies from Kentucky who gave us an entertaining driving tour. I did not take many pictures with my film camera but below is a vintage postcard of a thoroughbred horse farm in Paris. The whole area around Paris, Kentucky is covered with famous horse farms. (Top picture is a second floor of store in Paris, Kentucky.)

Vintage postcard of Claiborne Horse Farm in Paris, Kentucky (home of Triple Crown winners.)


Since childhood I have had pet cats. My husband and I love cats and they have shared our home. We have two right now – Cody and Mitsou. A while back (a long while back) I had read a short story of Ernest Hemingway where he mentioned his cats. I also had a book just on his cats.

I found out that in his Key West house he had cats with extra toes in their back paws or 5 toes (polydactyl ) and more than 40 of the cats descendants still lived at the Key West property. What a great destination… cats in Key West! In 2010 we were able to go to Key West and we visited Ernest Hemingway’s house and garden – and saw the cats. My husband bought me another book there which is giving me another special destination, but this will be coming up in May, so I’ll speak about it then. Below is a polydactyl cat I photographed in Hemingway’s garden.


I started my blog in March 2009 and have enjoyed it tremendously. I also like to read a variety of blogs. In late 2009, a Norwegian blog I read RennyBa’s terella wrote a post inviting bloggers to a “Blog Gathering” in Oslo in August 2010. I had never been to a blog meeting and did not know any bloggers then. In addition I had always wanted to go down the coast of Norway on the freighter ship which stops at tiny villages. At the time we had enough frequent flyer miles on Delta to get free round-trips to Europe. Renny had organized the gathering offering many discounts to the city sights and hotel. So we went and had a super great time. I have written 3 posts on Norway starting with Norway – Arriving in Kirkenes, but I still have to write several more.

Part of the port of Oslo, Norway taken from a hill in front of the castle


Last September we were going back to Columbus, Ohio to visit family. I searched the Internet for interesting places around Columbus and found out that the film “The Shawshank Redemption” which is one of my all time favorites had been filmed in and around Mansfield, Ohio, about 1 hour from Columbus. I did more searching, found a motel and also found that the Tourist Office offered a driving guide to the major film sites. I mentioned this already in my post on my 2011 year of travel but I’ll write a post on it later on as I have many photos. We drove to Mansfield because of this film. Below is a door in front of the historic Ohio State Reformatory.

I have more special destinations to write about but this is getting too long so I’ll write about them in the future. In the meantime I’ll keep observing and reading and I am sure, finding more unusual reasons for trips in Georgia, the USA or abroad.

Painting by Claude Grobéty, French born in 1940

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Selecting travel destinations (Part one)

Not long ago I read an article on the Internet written by travel marketers on the destination selection process of travelers. It said: “…How, and when, do leisure travelers decide where to go? What factors influence the decision to visit a particular destination? … for travelers everywhere, the destination decision itself is complicated and highly personal.” This made me think about my travel decisions. When my parents were still with us a great majority of my travels were to visit them in Paris. (Click on pictures to enlarge them.)

A Parisian Street with Sacré-Coeur by Luigi Loir, French 1845-1916

Starting in 1963 until 1982 I went to Paris every two years or 9 times. Then after my widowed mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease I traveled to Paris twice a year from 1982 to 1999 or 34 times. From 1999 until she passed away in 2002 I went to visit her 3 times a year or 12 times, and since then I have gone back about 4 times, so let’s see, that is a total of about 59 trips to Paris. That may sound like a lot of trips to France but many people visit their parents at least once a year or more – it just happens that mine lived in Paris. These were not “tourist” trips to visit Paris – I did not take many pictures, just family pictures. I started taking pictures of Paris in the last 5 years or so – usually in the same areas – where I used to live and go to school.

Place St Michel et Notre-Dame by Edouard-Léon Cortès, French 1882-1969

Many of my other trips were for the usual reasons – interest in the cities or countries and airline sales. So far I have traveled to 56 countries and islands - and some of them several times. However, I did plan trips because of unusual reasons. I’ll recount some of them below with the reason for the trip or the chain of events.


When I was a child I started a stamp collection. Some of my favorite stamps were from the islands of St Pierre et Miquelon. I was totally intrigued by what they represented and dreamed of one day going there.

These islands are an integral part of France. They are France’s oldest remaining North American territory. For fun I would sometime ask American friends where in North America was French land. They never guessed. St Pierre & Miquelon is south of Newfoundland – you need a passport to go there and they use Euros. I finally traveled there in 2008, about 58 years after first hoping to go! I have written several posts on this blog about my trip, starting with the post here. This trip was a result of my early interest in collecting postage stamps and made me enormously happy.

Top right: View of the Ile aux Marins (Sailor’s Island) (a small inhabited island across from St Pierre) – near port of St Pierre Island - lower picture – my husband and I on a Zodiac Raft going to l’Anglade Island near St Pierre.


On my posts I have shown many of my postcards. I started collecting postcards when I was a wee child (after my grand dad gave me his collection when I was 5 or 6 years old.) Once when I was about 11 years old or so I wrote my name at the end of a chain letter which was supposed to bring me many postcards. One girl, from Martinique, sent me a postcard of the style of clothes worn in Martinique. She became my pen pal - I’ll have a post on this soon. Because of this postcard (which I misplaced along the way) Martinique was another French island I dreamed to visit. Finally this last December we were able to visit Martinique. Below is a postcard I purchased showing the pretty Martiniquaises.

An unexpected trip to Canada because of a Bus trip

When I came to the US I had a “Greyhound” bus pass which I had purchased in Paris – 3 months of unlimited bus travel for $99. I visited about 23 states. On a Friday on a bus journey in Michigan, a middle-age French lady sat in the seat next to me. We started talking. She told me she was traveling to a small city near Toronto, Ontario Canada to see her daughter who had a farm there. When I exclaimed that I would love to visit Canada, she asked me to come with her. I did not know her but she seemed very nice, so impulsively I said "OK" and went with her. I had a great week-end at the farm with her daughter’s family. On Saturday we drove to Toronto. I don’t recall exactly everything I saw but I distinctly remember watching a wedding at what they called “Casa Loma” castle. I was taking slides photos them with my Voigtländer film camera. Below is an vintage postcard of the castle.

Article in National Geographic magazine

We had a subscription to National Geographic for several years. In one issue, the January 1983 issue I believe, was an article about Borobudur, the 9th century Mahayana Buddhist monument in Central Java, Indonesia. It was a fascinating article – it explained how this huge monument lay hidden for centuries under volcanic ash and jungle growth and had been rescued. It was restored and placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. I entered this monument on my destination list. Then in 1991 because of a “sale “promotion from Singapore Airlines I was able to go to Indonesia from Paris and visit this beautiful site (I’ll write a post on this in the future.) This was an extraordinary trip and I am pleased I read that issue of the magazine.

Picture taken at Borobudur with my Canon 35 mm film camera

Art Exhibit

Somewhere in 1997 I read an article about Claude Monet, the famous French impressionist painter. It explained how, after a trip to the French Riviera in 1884, followed by trips to Antibes, France in 1888 then Venice in 1908, Monet had tried to capture the transitory effects of light in that area. His idea was to paint the same landscape at various time of the day. For example he had painted Cap d’Antibes at least 4 times in the same location, in the morning, noon, evening and so forth.

Cap d’Antibes by Claude Monet, French 1840-1926

These paintings had been sold to museums and private collectors around the word but never exhibited together until…..Joachim Pissarro (great-grandson of Camille Pissarro, a contemporary of Monet,) then curator of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, assembled 70 works from Monet’s trip in the Mediterranean. This way one could see the paintings side by side for the first time. For example there were four paintings of the same olive trees at different time of the day – they had never been exhibited together. This was in June 1997 – it was our 30th wedding anniversary month – a perfect reason to celebrate in Fort Worth and visit the museum. We flew to Fort Worth – we spent a whole day studying Monet’s light effects. I still remember this “once in a lifetime” exhibit with fondness.

Book purchased at the exhibit below picture of my husband standing next to a Monet museum sign

A Song

The radio stations we listened to when I was a teenager in France played a variety of music, unlike in the US where a radio station only plays rock, or country music, or classical. The stations played everything, every style from many countries. One of my favorite genre of music was the Portuguese “fado” (from the Latin fatum which means fate or destiny.) I had bought some 45 rpm records of the Portuguese fado singer Amalia Rodrigues.

I could listen to Amalia for hours. One of my favorite songs was “Lisboa” (Lisbon.) So it was that in 1955 Lisbon became another city that I dreamed of visiting. It would take until 2004 for me to go there. In early 2004 I had already booked a trip to France with Air France when they sent me an advertisement for cheap flights to Lisbon from Paris – finally I could see Lisbon. My husband and I had a great time in Lisbon. We visited the “Fado Museum,” listened to much fado music and brought back several CDs of fado songs and instrumental music. Below are photos (scanned from my 35 mm Olympus camera) showing a couple of rooms inside the Lisbon Fado Museum.

Below is a clip showing the major sights of Lisbon, Portugal with the voice of Amalia Rodrigues in the background.

Next week I‘ll list several more destinations that were on my travel list because of unusual reasons.

More to come…..


Note: Top photo is a view of the Ile des Marins (Sailor’s Island) - an abandoned settlement close to St Pierre Island.
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