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Friday, October 26, 2012

To Our Beloved Maxwell

If you are fortunate, God gives you one nearly perfect dog during your lifetime.  Non dog lovers may not understand this, but a dog truly can be your best friend.  My family has been a fortunate one.  We had our beloved Maxwell, aka Maximilliano, Maximus, Maxie, Maxer Pracsir (we totally made that one up), in our lives for 14 wonderful years until he died one year ago today.  Max was unique because he somehow managed to be the best friend to five people without ever making any of those five jealous of the attention he bestowed on the others.  Maxwell had a sixth sense of when we were feeling down and he would do his best to spend time with us to lift us back up.  And of course he loved it when we were happy and would join in with our fun in a second's notice.

He had so many funny traits.  He was a big dog and he adored to help us carry things in his mouth when we took him for walks.  He was happiest carrying a bag of something and would wag his tail and wiggle his butt as he walked - as if he was telling the world "Look at me.  I can help too!"  Or when we would come home at night he just had to take our purses and run through the house with them, often dumping the contents as he went.  But we never ever minded.  We loved it.

There are so many Max stories to tell.  And we will tell them as the my daughters and I have a plan for doing just that.  But for today, we celebrate Max's life and we want him to know how much we miss him!  We will forever miss him.  In the tradition of the Mexican celebration for the Dia de los Muertos, we too believe that Max somehow is still with us.  We love you Max!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Be Kind to Black Cats

I've had many cats during my lifetime (we once had two litters totaling 11 kittens at the same time but that's a story for another day) and two of my favorite three were black cats.  The first one came from one of those litters and Arturo named him "Cadillac".  I wish I had a picture here of him but he was the most beautiful and loving cat!  His only fault was that he loved being outdoors and unfortunately, at the young age of seven, he met his end during one of his nightly treks through the neighborhood.  I think of that cat almost daily and still miss him.  When he died I didn't have the heart to tell my youngest daughter, Sonia, that he was gone so I simply told her he hadn't come home but maybe someone had him.  She found out the truth a couple of years later and I don't think she has forgiven me yet.

From the Gayana shop
The second black cat was one of a pair of kittens that Arturo rescued from a car engine.  They were a brother and sister and the male was black.  I named him "Midnight Louie" and his sister, who we still have, is called "Lola".  She is a calico.  Anyway, poor Louie had burned paws from the car engine being turned on while he was simply in the engine trying to warm up on a cold winter day.  We nursed him back to health and he repaid us by making us laugh at his funny little face for the next three years.  Sadly, he shared Cadillac's passion for the outdoors (I know - it's our fault for letting them out although in our defense they were pretty good at escaping on their own) and one morning he didn't return home.  My hope is that someone found him and he is living a good life.

Halloween is coming up and black cats still seem to have a bad reputation.  Don't believe the bad things you hear about them though!  And if you ever have the opportunity to adopt a cat, you can't go wrong with a black cat!

Here are a couple of more Etsy shops that share my and my family's love of black cats.

They are beautiful!  BlackCatPhotographs
This one looks like Midnight Louie.  Wool-In-Legends Shop

Monday, October 8, 2012

Autumn Treasures and Condesa, Mexico City

First, I want to share beautiful handcrafted items, paintings and other treasures from the "The Art of Autumn" treasury list that I curated today.  I have such fun doing these treasuries (I just wish I could get the hang of pasting the list here instead of a link)!  Autumn Treasures.

Yesterday we went to a great Mexico City neighborhood called Condesa.  I love it there and it is my fervent hope that we will sell or rent our house in the suburb Satelite and go rent an apartment in Condesa.  It has gorgeous parks that are super dog friendly, the kind of 1940's Mexican architecture that I love, tons of cafes and small ethnic restaurants, bookstores, small shops, and this is very important - no shopping malls!  You can walk and walk there and not get bored.  It's the kind of neighborhood where you meet people from all over the world and can get together for book clubs or just to chat at one of the local coffee shops.  I really want to move there right now!  I didn't take many pictures while we there because I was too busy looking for "Apartment for Rent" signs.  Here is one picture though of Arturo and the dogs while we took a rest in one of the parks:
I almost got Arturo to smile!

We had lunch is an extremely popular Korean owned restaurant and the kudo soup was to die for!  I could eat it everyday - it had those thick noodles that are so good!  To walk off all the food we went to another nearby neighborhood called San Angel.  On Saturdays they have a huge marketplace with every sort of hand made item you could ever want.  On Saturdays and Sundays artists set up their paintings in the park.  I found a couple paintings that I wouldn't mind owning!

My brother-in-law, Alfonso, is in the plaid shirt

Right alongside the park you can buy any type of art supply - canvases, frames, paint brushes, oils, acrylics, pastels or watercolors.  Seeing all those supplies made me wish I could paint or draw but no such luck.
By the time we got home the dogs were exhausted.  Poukie barked at maybe a thousand dogs after Lali alerted him to each and everyone.  She barks once when she sees one to let him know and then he goes nuts.  Fun.  Lali was so tired last night that she fell asleep with the tip of her tongue hanging out.  In all of her 13 years I've never seen her do that!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Author Kathy Reichs - How does she do it all?

I just finished reading a rather dated article about Kathy Reichs that was published in The Strand Magazine.  I love mysteries and that is one of my favorite magazines that helps me keep up with authors, new books, new themes, etc.  Anyway, the article on Kathy makes me a bit nuts and makes me feel like a huge slug.  She is originally from Chicago (one of the greatest cities in the world by the way!) and she received her MA and PhD in physical anthropology from Northwestern University in Chicago.

What amazes me is that she does all of the following:  1) she writes one best seller after another involving her now well known character, forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan; 2) she continues to work as a forensic anthropologist for both the state of North Carolina's Chief Medical Examiner and for the province of Quebec's Laboratoire des Sciences Judiciaires et de Medecine Legale (I'm assuming that she also speaks perfect French); 3) she writes and publishes hundreds of professional academic papers as a world authority on forensic anthropology; 4) she has testified as an expert witness in the United Nation's genocide trial in Rwanda and has been part of the team of forensic anthropologists who have exhumed the remains of many who were killed during Guatemala's civil war, and 5) she has been the co-producer of the popular TV series "Bones" that is based on her novels.


Unfortunately the article doesn't explain how she does all of this.  And by the way, she has a daughter who is a writer.  Reichs is under contract for a total of 16 books and she writes one book per year.  I think she is pretty close to the 16th book now as she was working on number 12 when this article was published a couple of years ago.  See?  I can't even stay current on reading my magazines, let alone accomplish a fraction of what she does!  Oh well, she can serve as an inspiration!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Chicago and Boston!

I spent the best two weeks in Chicago and Boston with my girls!  I love Mexico but it was so good to be back with family, friends and familiar surroundings for a couple of weeks.  It was sunny and warm the whole time and I soaked it up after having such a rainy, cool summer in Mexico.  The good news is that since I returned on Tuesday to Mexico City the weather has been gorgeous - sunny and warmer.  So I consider myself very fortunate.

After spending the first two days in Chicago catching up with my daughters Laura and Sonia, and son-in-law Patrick, as well as working on listing lots of new aprons, I flew to Boston to visit my oldest daughter, Diana, and her fiance, Reid, for a weekend.  They are living in Marblehead, MA.  Until a year ago I hadn't heard of Marblehead (shame on me!) and now that I've been there I am totally enchanted and want to return again very soon.  It is one of the oldest towns in the United States and just one block from where Diana lives is a cemetery that dates back to the early 1600's.   Many of those who fought in the American Revolution are buried there and the town recently received federal funds to preserve the tombstones.

I love colonial American history through the early 1800's so I was in my glory in both Marblehead and Boston.  The below photos are from downtown Boston which I love not only for its charm and architecture, but also because as you are walking down a modern street, you suddenly run into the very spot where the Boston Massacre took place.  Unfortunately I didn't have time to visit the museum that is on that spot but I did stop into the gift shop to buy a book on the Revolution.

These are some of the house in Marblehead.  Many were built in the 1700's and have signs stating who built the house along with his profession.

And then there is the beautiful harbor and ocean practically on Diana and Reid's doorstep.  We spent a morning out on their family boat and I felt so free and happy!  Pearl, Diana and Reid's American Bulldog, is quite the little sailor!

Pearl and I having a good time!
Diana, Reid, and Pearl's rear end

When I returned to Chicago I still had a surprise birthday party to look forward to.  My son-in-law Pat turned 30 on September 29th so my daughter Laura and Pat's mom Kathy planned a surprise party for him.  We are pretty sure he was indeed taken by surprise but even if he wasn't, he would never let on because that is the kind of good guy that he is.  Happy Birthday Pat!!

Pat walking in the door

Pat and my daughter Sonia

The sweets and photo table that Laura and Kathy put together
So you can see how blessed I have been and I am truly thankful for my wonderful family and my friends!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Listing Aprons

I've begun the slow (for me anyway) process of photographing the new aprons and then listing them in my store - CherryPieAprons.  Before I can take the photos I have to iron each apron and let me tell you, I do not enjoy ironing!  I know many people find it relaxing and I wish I could but it just doesn't work for me.  Then there is that camera part to it.  I fiddle and fool around with the camera, with the lighting, with the kitchen props and with the aprons.  I admire the many professional looking photos on etsy but mine just never quite come out the way I would like.  On the bright side though - they are getting better and are so much improved over the photographs I took when I first opened the store!  Here are a couple:

Fall Brown Paisley apron

I really like this fabric.  It reminds me of my mom in the 1960's.  Not sure why but it does.  It's pretty and practical with the large pockets.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Off to Chicago and Boston

We just returned last night from spending two fun and productive weeks in Patzcuaro, Mexico.  And now tomorrow I'm flying out of Mexico City to Chicago for a few days, then on Friday to Boston to visit my oldest daughter for four days.  Then back to Chicago to spend a week with my younger two girls.  On October 2nd I'll return to Mexico City.  I can't tell you how excited I am to see my daughters!  It's been four months since I last saw them and that seems like a really long time to me.

Besides seeing the girls and catching up with friends, I'll be working on my etsy store.  I've made 50 aprons over the last few months and I'll add them to the store and will try to sew a few more while in Chicago.  The busy holiday season is coming up and I don't want to be left behind.

More later...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

La Villa - Virgin of Guadalupe

We visited La Villa today and walked around with the dogs, visited some shops and met up with a couple of old friends of Arturo's who have a wholesale business there.  La Villa is where the Virgin of Guadalupe visited Juan Diego several hundred years ago and it is located in Mexico City.  People from all over Mexico and Latin America make pilgrimages to La Villa to pay homage and some are looking for miracles.  The picture below is of the old church - it is listing to one side and isn't used for celebrating masses any longer.  They have built a new church right next to this one that is ultra modern.  

Pope John Paul II celebrated a mass at La Villa in 1987 and this statue was built to memorialize his visit to Mexico.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

This and That

I don't really have a plan today - just a post to catch up a bit.  I've had a bad cold the last couple of days and wasn't up to doing a lot of things.  The sun has finally come out and the warmth feels good!  The dogs spend most of their days lying on the patio, getting too hot so they come in to drink water, and then go back out in the sun.  What a life.  

Citlali wants food - as usual

One of Poukie's favorite spots

I'm working on making items for the second store that I'm going to open.  I'm calling it "Marna Mae Creations" and it will focus on crocheted and eco friendly items.  Almost everything will be listed at much lower prices than my aprons are priced.  It will interesting to see what happens but I'm excited to be starting something new.

My knitting is going slowly.  I ripped out the pink shawl I was working on and started over with a different pattern.  The original pattern was all counting and I couldn't converse with anyone or watch TV while knitting.  Since I tried to do both it was full of errors and I just couldn't stand it anymore.

I also have been working on the outline for the mystery novel I am writing.  Still a lot of research to do but I'm have so much fun with it.  There are so many excellent blogs on writing and publishing that are really helping me out.
Here is one last picture - can't remember where I took it.  Poukie and Citlali are really traveling!

These dogs get around!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Volunteer to Save Turtles in Mexico

Mexico is the home of more reptile species than any other country in the world.  Unfortunately, many of those species are now endangered, including several types of turtles.  People kill the turtles to eat the meat, some believing that the meat will enhance their virility.  Others collect and sell the eggs, as well as crocodile skins, to simply make money.  Some restaurants offer turtle eggs and meat as delicacies.

Fortunately, there are groups, some of which are sponsored by the Mexican government and other by international groups, that are working hard in different places in Mexico to save turtles and other species, as well as plants that are endangered.  And the really good thing is that they all want volunteers to help out on a range of interesting projects.  For example, Projects Abroad has set up a camp called "Campamento Tecoman" on the Pacific coast of Mexico, with the main emphasis on saving the Olive Ridley Turtle.  Volunteers there patrol the 30 km. stretch of beach and collect turtle eggs to place in incubators.  Eggs that are not collected have little chance of survival!  Volunteers also research extensive birdlife, study other mammals, reptiles and plant species.

Olive Ridley Turtle

Banderas Bay, 100 kms. from Puerto Vallarta hosts another group under the Global Volunteer Projects umbrella where volunteers again gather eggs from the beach to place in incubators. When the eggs are ready for hatching they return them to the nests and then guard and monitor them.  Four main turtle species are found at Banderas Bay - the Olive Ridley, Black Turtles, the mighty Leatherback Turtle (the largest of all sea turtles) and some Hawksbill Turtles.  Peak season is between late June and February.  Volunteers have the opportunity to go into the local rainforest to monitor the ecosystem and help with reforestation work.

Leatherback Turtle

I'm ready!  Anyone else want to go?  Check out the sites and you may find yourself making those plans.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Lincoln Park Zoo and Rainy Mexico City

I know that I have nothing to complain about - especially since so much of the United States is experiencing such awful droughts - but I am getting a bit weary of all the rain this summer in Mexico City.  It's been raining most of today and we probably won't see the sun for another four days.  On top of that it has been raining, sometimes pouring and hailing, almost every afternoon for the past two months.  I've been wearing a sweater more often than not.  Ok, I'm done complaining.  At least for today.  Now I'm going to travel in my mind back to Chicago.

One of my family's favorite places is Lincoln Park Zoo where this picture was taken.  Ever since our two oldest girls were babies, we have been regular visitors and have enjoyed watching the zoo babies grow over the years and the new ones arrive.  I don't think much compares to the simple pleasure of strolling through the zoo grounds on a sunny day, eating popcorn and chatting with those you most love.  From left to right:  Laura, me, Sonia and Arturo.

Here are my son-in-law Pat with Laura, and Arturo making one of his infamous faces. Luckily we are all used to it. Pat is a Chicago Bears fan as you can see.  As well as the Chicago White Sox and Bulls.  Oh, and the Blackhawks.  Let's hope the White Sox win this year!

Our oldest daughter Diana isn't in these photos since she had already gone back to Denver when they were taken.  However, it is telling that when it came time to select the location for her formal engagement photos, she didn't hesitate in picking Lincoln Park Zoo - of course!  The pictures below are of Diana and Reid back in April, 2012.

 Unfortunately, you can't see their faces very well as I was usually too far away.  Luckily I was not the photographer that day.  They wisely decided to have a professional take the pictures.
 They went through a couple of wardrobe changes.  My daughter, unlike her mother, plans ahead.
I took a lot of bunny pictures when the kids were too far away for me to take a photo of them.  There actually were four rabbits and they were all playing together.  They absolutely refused to cooperate and pose together for a picture.  So I had to settle for one.  I suppose if I were a bit quicker with the camera I could have at least gotten two of them together.  I'll have to practice!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pictures from Patzcuaro

Following up on my post from yesterday, here are more pictures from the Mexican colonial town of Patzcuaro.  If you like to sit in an outdoor cafe in the evening while drinking a cup of coffee, or better yet a glass of wine, and watch the children play in the plaza and the young couples walk hand in hand around the plaza square, then Patzcuaro is the place for you.  Restaurants and shops line the square around the plaza which is beautifully landscaped with paths around it and through it, with a large statue in the center.                          
This is one of the buildings that surrounds the plaza.  The second floor has lovely windows outlined in stone and balconies with flowers.  A distinctly European influence.
  The statue in the center of the plaza.  Benches are everywhere if you want a rest from walking the paths.
 This is the street leading to our house.  All the houses in the "centro" are painted white and brick red.  You can see the mountains in the background.  As I described yesterday, beautiful, large houses with gardens and patios are behind those doors.  It's amazing to see inside when a door happens to be open.
 This picture shows an old church in a nearby town that dates to the 17th century.  This town is known for making the rustic wooden furniture that is so well known in much of Mexico.

The picture below is of the ceiling of the church.  It is in surprisingly good condition.

Don't be afraid to travel to Mexico - the people are lovely, the scenery and architecture are something that you just shouldn't miss.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Back from Patzcuaro

I have been missing for a couple of weeks - actually I wasn't missing but instead I was in Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico.  Patzcuaro is a lovely colonial Mexican town in the gorgeous state of Michoacan.  It is a mountainous and green state that has many little towns where much of Mexico's artesans reside and create.

This is the bell tower of what is now Patzcuaro's public library.  Originally, the building was a church built in the 17th century.  The tower is more recent but the rest of the building is the old church.

The streets are cobblestones and in the historic downtown (centro), the houses can only be painted white and brick red.  What is absolutely amazing about these colonial towns is that behind the doors lay beautiful, large homes with gardens and patios.  You would never know it from just looking at the doors.

Much more tomorrow!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Making Blankets For Animal Shelters and Etsy Contributions

Today I'd like to focus on what animal lovers can do to help out the homeless animal shelters as well as highlighting a couple of Etsy stores that donate part of their shop proceeds to such shelters.  First, one project for those who like to knit, crochet or sew is the Snuggles organization.  This is a terrific organization that works to provide blankets to animals living all over the world in shelters.  They have found that a frightened or difficult animal, after being given its own blanket, is able to calm down, thus providing the caregivers time to assess the situation and better handle the animal.  Snuggles believes that this calming effect has saved many lives of newly sheltered animals.  There is also a benefit to the shelter because the blankets provide a more homey, comfortable home and atmosphere for the animals, visitors and staff.

Now, the best part for crafters is that you can make the blankets in your own home with the website providing the preferred sizes and patterns (however you can use any pattern or medium that you like) and it guides you to the shelters in your area which accept the blankets.  Snuggles location directory.  It is so easy yet can make such a difference in an animal's life - an animal who has lost its home, loved ones and is frightened and lonely. Snuggles also has a form that it requests that you fill out when you donate blankets so that they can keep track of how many shelters worldwide are being provided with your handmade blankets. I think we all believe that when we make handmade items, they are made with love and the recipients feel that love.  So let's go spread some of that love on these animals!

And indeed, there are many gifted people on who are donating part of their proceeds to animal shelters.   Let's look at a few (I wish I could show all of them).

Storied Threads sells these adorable Pet Bandanas and donates 75% of the proceeds to a local no-kill animal shelter.  Wouldn't your favorite dog love to sport one of these?

This beautiful silkscreen art print, called Betty the Cat, from the Hero Design shop would be a lovely addition to any home and 100% of the proceeds to the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter.  This print is of "Betty", one of the shelter cats who was waiting to be adopted.

And finally, if you purchase one of these catnip toys (they come in two different sizes) you are assured that 100% of the  proceeds go to one of the three rescue organizations that the SunStones' owner volunteers for.  So let's get moving and
find a way to make
life better!