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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dogs, Knitting and Quilts

Awhile back I said I was sent a copy of the free ebook "Love of Knitting" that shows easy lace knitting patterns.  The plan was for me to give a review and to provide the link for any of you who like to knit.  Well, I just started browsing through it and the patterns are truly lovely and the instructions are easy and clear to read.  You should have some experience knitting to attempt them but you by no means have to be an expert knitter.  I'm going to try knitting the "Cielo Shell" and I hope in a couple of weeks to have a photo of it in progress to show you.  It really is a lovely book and you can get it for free right here!

Here are a couple of photos of two other projects in the making.  I thought I would be much farther ahead on them but as usual, I'm falling behind my schedule.  These are some of the blocks I'm making from apron fabric scraps that are intended to become twin sized quilts for that girls' orphanage in Patzcuaro that I wrote about awhile back.  I need to make 45 quilts.  Hah!  Like that's going to happen during my lifetime!  I'm serious though about 45 - it isn't right to just hand out a to a couple of girls.  They all need one.  So.  Anyone volunteer to help??  I'm serious.


You can tell I haven't gotten very far.  I have tons more fabric back in Chicago so it looks like this will be an ongoing project.

These other photos are for a quilt I'm making for a Christmas present.  Looks like that will be Christmas of 2014 because not only is it not pieced yet, or even completely cut out, but I still have to hand quilt it once it is pieced.  Or Christmas 2015.

In my defense on this one:  there have been hundreds of pieces to cut out and sew together to form those blocks.  I'm more than half done with the blocks then I need to cut out more panels and start sewing the strips.  And then hand quilt it.

Finally, you know how much I love the non profit organization It's a Pittie Rescue.  I've posted about Mama Petunia and puppy Caine.  Well, their major fundraiser is on Saturday, August 3 and it looks like it will be a lot of fun.  You can buy your tickets here for $35 until tomorrow and $45 at the door.  It is a casino night theme with lots of prizes, food and drinks.  It's a great way to support this organization!  Thanks!

Monday, July 29, 2013

For those who have shelter, food, clothing and money

A couple of days ago a friend from Chicago shared on Facebook a story about "suspended" coffee and lunches.  I then shared it on my page so many of you have probably already seen it but here it is again with the story:

This story will warm you better more than a coffee on a cold winter day...Please "Share" to spread the news x

"We enter a little coffeehouse with a friend of mine and give our order. While we're approaching our table two people come in and they go to the counter -

'Five coffees, please. Two of them for us and three suspended'

They pay for their order, take the two and leave.
I ask my friend: 'What are those 'suspended' coffees ?' 'Wait for it and you will see' she replies...

Some more people enter. Two girls ask for one coffee each, pay and go. The next order was for seven coffees and it was made for three lawyers - three for them and four 'suspended'.

While I still wonder what's the deal with those 'suspended' coffees I enjoy the sunny weather and the beautiful view towards the square in front of the café.

Suddenly a man dressed in shabby clothes who looks like a beggar comes in through the door and kindly asks 'Do you have a suspended coffee ?'

It's simple - people pay in advance for a coffee meant for someone who can not afford a warm beverage.

The tradition with the suspended coffees started in Naples, but it has spread all over the world and in some places you can order not only a suspended coffee, but also a sandwich or a whole meal."

Then I started looking at some of the organizations to which people donate for whatever cause or reason and I saw many donations marked "anonymous".  Then one of my cousins wrote in the comments section of Facebook,  "Truly anonymous gift, double blind actually.  Interesting."

I think that it is hard for most people to accept charity. They may feel anger, shame, sadness and many other emotions.  But if it is a donation that is made anonymously, perhaps that makes it easier for them to accept.   And we don't need the recognition of having donated.  If we have that need, then we are giving for our own egos and not because we really care.

So, try to start and spread the word of "suspended" coffees and meals in your neighborhood.  Or if you are eating lunch somewhere and you see someone there who is obviously in need, as you walk out of the restaurant, casually put a $5 or $10 bill by them without their seeing your face and just keep walking.  There are a thousand things you can do without showing your face or giving your name.  It is the small kindnesses that often make a huge difference to people.  A bigger difference perhaps than what you can even imagine.  And isn't that the whole point?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Slowly learning

At times it's hard to believe that we are already two thirds of the way through our six months here in Mexico. It was hard for me to leave Chicago back in March - much more difficult than it was to leave in January, 2012.  Maybe it was because I knew from past experience that I would miss my family, friends and familiar haunts.  As well as Thai food, Chicago pizza and the Athenian Room.  Mostly I was just being a big baby because Mexico is a beautiful country and I'm perfectly happy here.  There are days when I get lonely but who doesn't?   We have family and friends here in Mexico and we have spent many happy days with them.  I miss them when I'm in Chicago.  All in all I am very fortunate and I'm well aware of that.

So what is the point of this post you may be asking?  I'm not really sure other than to say that I'm learning to enjoy life day by day and that actually is a hard lesson for me to master.  I was so accustomed to fast paced, crazy days at work, then running home to start my second job - all the time frustrated because I didn't have time to do the things I longed to do or more time to spend with my family and friends.  Then all of a sudden I have that time and I have to admit that it has taken me almost two years to get used to that.  Sounds insane I know.  But I'm getting there and part of that journey has taught me to sometimes just sit still and look at the scenery.  To watch a bird hopping around our garden. To literally listen to the birds sing.  I don't feel so guilty over "wasting time" doing those simple things because in the end, maybe they are more important for the soul than worrying about finishing the next article I'm working on.  Being here in Mexico has helped me learn those little lessons.  Like I said before, Mexico is a beautiful country.

Here are a few more pictures from Patzcuaro, el "Pueblo Magico" and the surrounding area.
The house of the "once patios" - eleven courtyards


Patzcuaro through a courtyard


The church in Cuanajo

Our street at night

I can't remember which lake this is.

You know this little guy
So, the point of this post is to take each day for the blessing it is.  And although this is a non sequiter, pay it forward!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


We got back Sunday night after spending ten days in Patzcuaro.  During that time we hosted the opening reception for the "Viajeros" or the butterfly exhibit, and spent time with old and new friends traveling through the countryside and in Patzcuaro.  It is the rainy season in Patzcuaro so the surrounding area was a beautiful canvas of green.  When we were there in April it hadn't rained for awhile, it was hot and things were looking brown and dusty.  Now it is the cool, rainy and gorgeous.

This is the Estribu - the top of a mountain where you look down into the valley.  
 The people in the above photo are sitting on the edge of land with their legs dangling over hundreds of feet of nothing.  I got close to the ledge but not quite that close.
Part of the monastery in Tzintzuntzan
This was taken one night from our roof after a rainstorm.  The sun came out briefly and looked like this:
It almost looks like heaven opened up.

For the butterfly exhibit we had an author from Chicago in attendance, Victor Cortes; a musician who used to live in Chicago, Benjamin Anaya; and Elvira Arrellano, an activist for immigrants' rights to keep families together.  A number of Americans from Patzcuaro and Morelia came by and I had a good time speaking in English for most of the night.  I have realized that days will go by without me speaking in English unless I Skype with one of my daughters.  Or talk to the dogs in English.  I've been doing that a lot lately.

Anyway, back to the butterfly exhibit:

Victor Cortes and Gilda Solis

More on Patzcuaro later.  They are soon coming to tear up my patio to lay a new tile so I have to get some things ready.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

We are getting there!

The constant pounding outside of my window has slowed down my blog writing. The headache doesn't help. But there is progress!  As of Friday, I have a stove and sink again.  Plus, the kitchen is all in one room as opposed to being scattered all over the house.  It is all temporary because our plan is to buy new cabinets, stove, sink and put in counters.  As of now I don't have counters so the kitchen table is doing double duty.   So we have gone from this on Saturday:

(The dogs had to be tied up - they were getting into everything and ran the risk of being drilled).

To this:
Arturo was quite creative with the cabinets.  We got the electricity in that room hooked up yesterday so now we are pretty much set for the moment.  While it's not my dream kitchen, I'll tell you that it seems like one right now after not having anything for two weeks.  Not having something puts the world in a better perspective.

When we get back from Patzcuaro we are going to paint and do a few other changes.  They are still working on the patio but the house is no longer covered with concrete dust so we are much saner than what we were a week ago.

Tomorrow we leave for Patzcuaro for Arturo's opening show of his museum.  We will have between 4-6 people staying with us for a bit over a week so it should be a lot of fun.  I won't be online as we don't have any internet service in our house so I won't be around until after July 21st.  Hopefully I'll have some good photos to post when I get back.  Enjoy your July!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Mariposas (Butterflies) Exhibition in Patzcuaro

If you are in the neighborhood of Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico next Saturday, July 13th, stop on by for an exhibition of Mariposas:

On Saturday, July 13, 2013 at 5 p.m., the Museo de las Comunidades Mexicanas en el Extranjero, located at Calle Lloreda #50, Patzcuaro, invites you to attend “Viajeras”, a traveling art exhibition of Mexican Painters.  The show will exhibit 75 Mexican artists and 75 mixed medium butterflies they have created.  Elvira Arrellano, President of the United Latino Family, and symbol of the Mexican families living abroad, will open the exhibition.  Victor Cortes, an author born in Michoacan, will also be present.  Victor lives in Chicago, IL and he will share his most recent book “El Sabor del Desden,” a novel based on the reality of the immigrants who risk everything to arrive at the “promised” land.  In addition, Benjamin Anaya Gonzalez, originally from Mexico City and who immigrated to the United States, will accompany us.  Benjamin is a musician, poet and writer and he has organized many cultural and artistic events. 

The Mexican Painters are interpreting the project “Mariposas Migrantes”, a mural that the artist Hector Duarte created in his birthplace, Caurio de Guadalupe, Michoacan.  Hector’s creation consists of hundreds of butterflies, created by artists of all different nationalities and which has been installed throughout the town.  It symbolizes the men and women who have immigrated north in search of a better future for themselves and their families.  The exhibit “Viajeras” has 75 of these gorgeous butterflies created by 75 talented artists.  This show started out in Chicago, traveled to Mexico D.F., and then to Michoacan.  It’s final destination will be Caurio de Guadalupe, Michoacan.

It should be a lot of fun! 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Barbara Kingsolver, author and knitter, and my sleeve

Sometimes it seems that a small number of people have the majority of the available talent on Earth. For example, not only is this person the author of literature to die for, but she is also an expert knitter and a gardener, plus many other things. Welcome to the life of Barbara Kingsolver, one of the world's most beloved contemporary authors who has penned fourteen novels ranging from The Bean Trees to The Poisonwood Bible to her most recent, Flight Behavior.  It seems that despite her fame and well earned fortune, Barbara Kingsolver is a down to earth individual who is devoted to her husband, daughters, the environment, and her community in southern Virginia.  In addition, she helps new writers' voices be heard and published through the Bellwether Prize for Fiction, the nation's largest prize for an unpublished first novel which she established in 1998.

A few months ago I bought a copy of Vogue Knitting and was thrilled to see a feature article on Ms. Kingsolver.  It turns out that she and her family live on a farm in southern Appalachia and guess what they raise?  Icelandic sheep.  And she knits.  Really really well.  If you like knitting, check out the article and the photos of two of the gorgeous sweaters she knit.  One actually is a coat she knit for her teen aged daughter, and the other is a sweater she made for herself.  What really would have sent me over the edge would have been the news that she sheers her sheep and then spins the yarn.  Thankfully for my sanity she doesn't, BUT, she does hand dye the yarn that is sheered from her sheep and that she then sends out to be spun.  She writes, hand dyes her own yarn, takes care of sheep, tends a garden, and travels all over the world promoting her books and doing research for future novels.  What isn't ideal about that life?  When you have talent, you have talent!

In the meantime, I was feeling rather proud of this cable I knit for the cuff of my red sweater that is scheduled to make its debut late this fall for the reopening of Arturo's art gallery in Chicago.  I have the outfit all planned out in my head.  All I have to do now is make the sweater so that it fits me, lose a few pounds so that I fit into the pants I have hanging in my closet, and we will be good to go.

It doesn't look all that impressive yet - but these are the most intricate cables I've attempted to knit yet and I think they came out okay.  The front will be the same cable pattern.

The construction work is coming along.  Arturo promises that we will have a working stove by tomorrow.  To tell you the truth, I wouldn't mind if it takes a couple more days.  I kind of like eating at the little restaurant right around the corner!

Happy 4th of July!!

Monday, July 1, 2013

KnotAPaperDoll - Etsy Shop of the Month

Today I'm starting something new.  Each month I am going to feature an Etsy shop on my blog.  Maggie, from Knot-A-Paperdoll graciously agreed to prepare a profile for me and she is the July store of the month.  I love Maggie's shop and I know you will too!  In addition to be an expert crafter, and a good businesswoman, Maggie also contributes parts of her profits to the Wounder Warriers Project, firefighters everywhere, and to Childhood Cancer Awareness. So here's a peek at Maggie's shop and a history of her beautiful creations:

My name is Maggie and I live in the beautiful  Pacific NorthWest. I have three sons and six grandchildren.  I have always made dolls and toys for my family and when they all grew too old I started making them for sale.

Inside of Boy's Fort
The Knot-A-Paperdoll travel toy was designed for my grandkids when their father took them camping and fishing.  They needed a toy that would entertain them but not be big and bulky. They often backpacked/hiked in.  The dollhouse whether it’s the girls  Knot-A-Paperdoll or the Boys Fort work well in cars, on trains, or airplanes.  They are also an excellent quiet book for doctors offices, dentists, etc. There is one in the Bangkok Embassy for child entertainment.    You choose house colors, doll, and two activities.  You can custom make the houses on my website handmadedollsandtoys and then you can go back to my Etsy shop shop to order them.
Boy's Fort

Outside of Dollhouse

Inside view of Dollhouse
My New Friend rag dolls are the huggable doll every child needs. When you hug a rag doll it hugs you back. My dolls can be completely undressed and redressed. The girls have a dress, pinafore, pantaloons shoes, socks, and a hat with a flower on it. I crochet a wig cap and tie the hair to it and then sew and glue it to the doll. This makes a durable doll. I fully expect my dolls to be dragged through all the fun places a child goes in a day. The doll is washable…the hair will be more limp afterwards (yarn is like that) and the doll needs to be put in a bag first so arms and legs do not get caught and torn off. The boy dolls have underwear, pants, shirt, shoes, socks, and a hat. Their hair is made the same way and they are ready for the rough and tumble.

Kancer Kids are the same doll but they are bald. They are companion dolls for the unfortunate children in the hospital undergoing treatment. Most doctors and nurses will treat the doll as well as the child and this means the child is not going through it alone. They come with underwear, a gown, three hats and slippers.  Sick children are hard to entertain…they do not feel good… the doll is for the bad days and the hats and slippers are for the better days. Each doll comes with a certificate for hair and clothing when the child is cured the doll too is cured.  Unfortunately, I have only sent out one set of hair and clothes so far… Yes, I have tears running down my face when making up the Kancer Kid package. I will crochet any animal hat you desire, I will use any theme that you think will entertain your child. The Kancer kids I show in my shop can be purchased as is or you may take some ideas from several and I will make up a doll with your choices.  Each child is an individual. Each child needs their own special favorites. All my dolls can be redressed to fit the child they are going to. I have been told by many that their rag doll was an important friend to them as a child. You can tell them anything and they will never tell anyone else. If you hide, they will hide with you. If you cry, they will absorb your tears and hug you back.

Kancer Kids
And these are my Harriet dolls.    Harriet is a stationary doll that sits on your dress and holds all your hair accessories.  She has a print dress, an apron with pockets for hair bands, two long braids for barrettes and bows, a crocheted hat for clips, two long arms for headbands and two mittens to hold ribbons.  She comes with some accessories but has saved room for you to add the ones you already have. 
Miz Pursey's Cupcake Purses are fun…I have a granddaughter who loved cupcakes and green when she was little. My cupcakes come in all colors so everyone can have their favorite. They are a small, about 8" by 8" fully lined purse with a handle and a Velcro closure. They are meant to be fun… They are meant to make you grin…  The Cupcake Purses are one of my bestsellers, along with the Rag Dolls.

Baby-to-Go is a crocheted drawstring cradle purse. When I was a child they were called church purses. Children then had to be quiet and sit through loooong sermons. We were given something to entertain us. My grandmother crocheted a cradle purse for me. Many people make them with a plastic container for the bottom and crochet them out of yarn. I choose to crochet the entire purse and use crochet thread so they are like a pretty doily. My grandmother also told me if a thing was worth doing, it was worth doing well.

A lady asked me to make puppets and I did. My puppet dolls are dolls that work. They are hand puppets but are fully dresses with a stuffed head so they can be played with like dolls, too. Most of them have a theme and a lot of the come with a pet, etc. that is a felt hand puppet. The ballerinas tutus come off and if you take their shoes off they have dancing slippers on. I just made them to entertain kids.

The finger puppets I made up because a teacher said that all the finger puppets available did not look like the real animal and could I make some that do….Sorta did…and I had fun. I am proud to say that two sets of the Safari animals are on their way to Zambia to teach children. My finger puppets come eight to a set and have either a barn for the farm animals or a safari hut for the African animals.

Safari Puppets


Inside Safari
My husband is disabled and cannot be left alone so I started my shops as work I can do at home. I’m older than computers, so learning to make shops was the tough part. I knew how to make dolls and toys… I guess you would say that my work is full time. I rarely have a day that I’m not working on something.  I am an early riser so I usually spend 6-8 a.m. PST on the computer.  I work alone and try to maintain an adequate inventory.  An addition to my Etsy store and website I have a Facebook page.  

My oldest son is a fireman….he makes me proud and scared. I support the firemen everywhere and try  to help when I can. I am in charge of the costumes for the local fireman float for kids. I had two sons in the Navy when they declared war. (Desert Storm) My oldest son was on a submarine and I did not hear from him for 8 months. My second son was on the aircraft carrier “Kitty Hawk” and was in the gulf sending aircraft out. I was blessed that both sons came home whole and unhurt. I cry for all the soldiers that don’t and I believe in and support the Wounded Warrior project.

You can’t help but support Childhood Cancer Awareness. There are so many kinds and so many sick children…I have to believe that it is something that we are doing to our environment to cause the increase in cancer, autism, etc.  This is a heartbreak and we must find answers…

So, if you want a special gift for that special child, check out Maggie's shop!

Thank you Maggie!