Saturday, August 27, 2016

Lottlympiad 2016 Begins...and you hardly knew it!

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{Inspiring music plays over an aerial shot of Christ the Redeemer...}

Bob: In a land where celebration is a way of life...

{ takes on a samba beat, various shots of Carnaval floats and dancers...}

Bob: ...schedules go out the window as an entire country celebrates athletic achievement...

{...montage saluting all athletes, but mostly Americans*...}

Bob: this, the Fourth Games of the Lottlympiad!

{ swells, colorful graphics swish across the screen, revealing the broadcast booth overlooking Copacabana Beach.}

Bob: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. As you can see, we are coming to you from Rio, but we've been having a bit of technical difficulties here that have severely delayed our broadcasts.

Jim: You can say that again! Boy, Bob, you really have some explaining to do!

Bob: Ah, Jim, maybe you can help me out here. Weren't you the one who found our only computer stashed away in that broom closet?

Jim: Um...

Bob: What made you think to look there, anyway? In fact, where have you been? You know, we'd all been looking for you for weeks!

Jim: Er...

Bob: Seriously, you weren't at Beach Volleyball, I haven't seen you out on the deck, you missed the frescobol demonstration...

Jim: Well, I, um...

Bob: Jim.

Jim: Yes, Bob?

Bob: Were you hiding?

Jim: What? No, of course not! Why would I-

Bob: Is this because of what happened in London?

Jim: *starts to sob* I couldn't bear making an idiot out of myself in another country...

Bob: But, Jim, the people of Rio are actually very friendly, as long as you're not actually playing any sport...

Jim: Well, I'm not going to risk it.

Bob: *sighs* Sure, Jim, just stay in the broadcast center and you should be fine. Now then, as we'd all heard, the preparations for the games were continuing right up until the very last minute, so the events weren't even announced beforehand as usual. Let's go outside to Rebecca for the slate of events.

Rebecca: Hello, Bob, Jim...


Rebecca: What? Yes, of course-

Jim: AAAHHHHHhhhhhhh.... *Jim's screams trail off*


Rebecca: What just happened?

Bob: I think Jim has locked himself in the broom closet again.

Rebecca: What? Why?

Bob: I'll explain later. Let's just show everyone the events for this year, shall we?

Rebecca: Of course. First off, our old favorite, Synchronized Shawling, is back this year.

Synchronized Shawling
Bronze - Finish Biratu ball
Silver - Finish half of Astrid rounds
Gold - Finish all small Astrid rounds

Bob: Looks great. What other events are returning?

Rebecca: Boxing and Chore Steeplechase are back again as well.

Bronze - Frame Dancer
Silver - Frame Snow
Gold - Mount Random Thoughts

Chore Steeplechase
Bronze - Replace watch batteries
Silver - Iron all the things
Gold - Fix two pieces of mending

Bob: Ooo, Chore Steeplechase is a tough one. Usually a pretty unpopular event, isn't it?

Rebecca: Yes, Bob, participation is always low. Yet we keep having it. No one is sure why.

Bob: I think the phrase is, "Hope springs eternal," Rebecca. Any other returning events?

Rebecca: Actually, Bob, all of the remaining events are brand new. Let's take a look.

Bronze - Reclaim Wavy yarn
Silver - Reclaim Molly yarn
Gold - Wind all reclaimed yarn

Patriotic Relay
Bronze - Long May She Wave flag, eagle
Silver - Top border and stars
Gold - Roof

WIP Medley
Bronze - Finish outer hardanger border
Silver - Curios area 7
Gold - Curios areas 8 & 9

Bob: Looks like we're in for some excitement, Rebecca!

Rebecca: Absolutely, Bob. In fact, I think we should at least share what happened the opening weekend of the games. You'll be surprised to hear that for our first medal update, we're going out to Tom and Atto at the MaracanĂ£ stadium.

Tom: Thank you, Rebecca. There was some early success in the Chore Steeplechase. Let's take a look.

Atto: Tom, you can see that even though the course is littered with obstacles, if you keep your eyes on the prize, you can still make it to the goal.

Tom: Exactly what I was going to say, Atto.

Atto: Right....

Tom: So that's a Bronze so far in the Chore Steeplechase. Back to you, Bob and Rebecca!

Bob: That is surprising, Rebecca. But it would be even more surprising if any higher level medal was earned in that event!

*both laugh*

Rebecca: You're not wrong, Bob.

Bob: Thank you, Rebecca. And with that cheery thought, let's check in with Ted and Cynthia at the Maria Lenks Aquatic Center. What color is the water there today, Ted?

Ted: Well, Bob, today we're seeing nothing but blue...or is that Bronze, Cynthia?

Cynthia: We've definitely had some early success in Synchronized Shawling. Take a look.

Ted: Just look at those lines!

Cynthia: You can see that at every point, things line up perfectly...all those twists and turns are happening in perfect tandem.

Ted: But have we reached the end of the line?

Cynthia: This is when you have to dig down deep and keep going...really join in and make it look like it's one smooth effort, so when you pick up in the next round, there's a continuum there.

Ted: And that's all part of a Bronze medal performance. Back to you, Bob.

Bob: Finally, we'll go to Paul and Christian to check in with (re)Cycling.

Paul: Bob, the road race is already in progress, and we've just reached the cobblestones in the midst of the route.

Christian: Ooo, look at those bumps!

Christian: I can't tell you how that's going to get sorted! It's a little dark now due to the rain...but wait, the clouds are about to clear...

Paul: Looks like things are still a little bumpy out there, Christian.

Christian: Lots of tight curves, too, Paul. It's going to be a tricky ride!

Paul: I can feel some wet conditions coming, Christian. We'll see how it all washes out!

Bob: Thank you, Paul. So two Bronzes in the opening weekend of the games, and great progress towards a third. We'll be back soon with another update. Actually, we may wrap things up, since it seems like we need to get Jim out of here as soon as possible.

Jim: *muffled* Mmmm fmpf mmm MMMM!

Bob: *sighs* Good night, everyone!

Will Jim ever leave the broom closet? Will any more medals be earned? What colors will the water in the diving pool turn next??? Stay tuned for the thrilling and oh-so-late conclusion of the Fourth Lottlympiad!

If you have no idea what's going on, (including why Jim is so afraid of "foreigners"), check out some previous Lottlympiad coverage.

*If you got this vague reference to Sam the Eagle's production in Muppet*vision 3-D at Walt Disney World, you and I are now best friends. =)

Friday, August 5, 2016

Lies We Believe

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Just to break up the vacation photos with a little actual stitching content, here is one of the projects I bought when I visited The Attic in June. I was in a patriotic mood, so I started this on Flag Day (June 14th), telling myself I could have it practically done by Independence Day (July 4th).


I also decided that I should start a hardanger piece that I could work on while in Norway! The piece I picked was an odd size, but I found the perfect fabric in my stash to give me an inch border all around the basting! I completely believed the label (that is NOT my handwriting)...

But it turned out that this was NOT 32 count linen, but 28 count linen. I figured this out when my basting lines did this:

Yeaaaahhhhh...that's not the border I planned on. I had to soldier on, anyway, because it was too soon before the trip to prepare another piece of linen. It should be OK since this hardanger piece is edged with a lacy edge, so the basting is actually an inch or so outside the actual design area.

I thought that I'd have plenty of time to stitch on it while we were on the ship in Norway. BWAHAHAHAHA. Here's how far I actually got: you all remember a little thing called the Lottlympiad? Seems there is an Opening Ceremony later today.... Will I come up with a list of events before then? Has Jim recovered from his disastrous tea in London? Will he attempt to speak a "foreign" language again? Do you have any idea what I'm talking about? Does anyone besides me actually care?? =)

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and it was probably me lying to myself about how fast I stitch, anyway.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Amsterdam, Day 2 - Museums!

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I'm saying "day two", but it really felt like the first day...since the day before was arrival day, I had been seriously jet-lagged and sleep-deprived and was pretty much a walking zombie by the end of the day! We slept almost 12 hours (remember, we'd only gotten two hours sleep the night before on the plane) and awoke still fairly early. The weather forecast was for some rain, so we decided this would be our museum day. Although we were up at a reasonable time, there was a snafu with the streetcar we boarded (they changed the route, and of course, not speaking Dutch, we did not understand the announcement on board), so our 20 minute trip turned into an hour and a half. That's OK, we met some lovely Canadian girls, so we had friends to slog through the rain with while we were lost. =)

Eventually, we made it to our first destination: The Van Gogh Museum.
You can see that the sun came out as soon as we were no longer wandering around trying to find the proper streetcar stop!

Sadly, I still don't know how to properly pronounce "Van Gogh"..."Van Go"? "Van Ho"? "Van Goff"? I never heard a native say it and I forgot to ask! Guess I'll just have to go back. ;) No pictures are allowed in the museum, except in the atrium:
They have a nice projection screen up that scrolls through a few pieces of his art for selfies.
Of course, I had to pick the one in my favorite color and that was a decal on my last Kindle Fire (and hotel room decor in LA).

An aside about my hair: I'm not just sporting the "drowned rat" look due to all the rain. My hair is naturally curly (I know some of you are surprised!)...I usually straighten it. But we completely forgot our voltage converter, and apparently they don't work that well with flat irons, anyway (hotel hair dryers don't cut it for straightening my hair!). The recommendation is to just buy a flat iron with the proper voltage in Europe, but we were never near a store that sold them during the day!

The next museum we visited was the Rijks Museum. You can see the clouds found us again. =)
The "I amsterdam" letters are a brilliant marketing campaign; when it's not wet out, you see people all over and on top of these letters!

This beautiful museum holds paintings by Dutch masters and some gorgeous decorative arts.
The inside looks a little more modern. =)

Since our streetcar detour gave us a late start to the day, it was well past lunch time by the time we arrived. One thing I love about museums in Europe is that almost all of them have fantastic cafes!
Look at my delicious smoked salmon with avocado, pomegranate seeds and horseradish mousse! I am always a little iffy with smoked salmon here (it can be pretty fishy-tasting if it's not fresh), but this was delicious.

Here are just a few highlights from the museum....

Group portraits like this of city militia were common. This one is life-sized; look at all the fancy clothes!!

Love the dynamic motion of this swan! He's about 3 feet (1 meter) tall.

The Rijks has a few Vermeer paintings (if you're not familiar, "Girl with the Pearl Earring" is one of his, though this one, "The Milkmaid", is more typical of his work):
His use of light makes him one of the best. I was highly amused that the museum gift shop had a Playmobil set of this painting, although I could not convince Michael to buy it!

The interior of the museum itself is also very inspiring. This is the hall that had the swan and Vermeer:

And the next hall...
Detail of one of the walls...

I won't bore you with all the pictures of the decorative arts portion of the museum, but get a load of this porcelain!!

When we left the museum, it was time for a snack. We were so hungry, we picked the very first little cafe we saw outside the museum, where we had THE BEST WAFFLE EVER.
It was crisp and carmelized on the outside and creamy (but not "eggy") on the inside. I'm been to Belgium and had waffles there, but THIS WAS BETTER. We looked around us in pity at the suckers who were having ice cream instead. =)

Things were closed by this time, so we wandered more picturesque streets and canals. This is a smaller canal than the one we were staying on, so there were small boats rather than all the houseboats.

Shop cat! We saw several shop cats while window shopping. I mean, if you are going to have a giant store full of mouse bait, you need a shop cat, right??
It is a lot of fun to go into the many cheese shops and just sample all the delicious cheeses!

Detail of some row houses:

Another canal shot:

Our hotel recommended a restaurant nearby that served typical Dutch food, so that is where we went.

Everyone we met in Amsterdam spoke English; most spoke it very well. Here our waitress was a delightfully saucy woman from a Dutch island near Venezuela (I think it was Bonaire?) I had to ask where she was from, since it was clear she was not speaking Dutch-accented English, and I am very nosy. ;) I later heard her speaking Spanish to a nearby table. Imagine being fluent in three languages!!

We split a delicious meat stew covered with potatoes for dinner (think a very saucy shepherd's pie). Since we couldn't decide on an appetizer, we were happy to see they had a sampler!

My motto with food is, "I will try anything once!" (Actually, there are a few things I would never anything with brains!! But for the most part, I will try at least one bite of pretty much anything that the locals eat.) Most of this was pretty "normal": goat cheese with balsamic vinegar, potato fritter, fish stick, potato salad, smoked salmon. In the middle there, though, was mustard eel soup. I know, I know, but it was actually really good! I do like unagi sushi (the eel is cooked), so I thought it wouldn't be bad.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for another good night's sleep (no street festival that night, thankfully!!) Day three will find us flying to Copenhagen!

Rainy days are great for museums!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Amsterdam, Day 1

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You wanted more pictures, you got 'em! I have gotten the pictures down to about 30 per day (some days more, some days less), so you will probably be sick of them by the end! We flew from Atlanta overnight, so we arrived in the morning in Amsterdam, having gotten about 2 hours sleep! After arriving at the Centraal Station (see my last post) by train from the airport, we hauled our luggage to our hotel, which was about a half mile (1 km) away. It was a very pretty walk, as you can see!

There are flowers almost everywhere, piled around doorways and in planters. It looked like seasonally, they were about a month behind Atlanta, as their hydrangeas were just blooming.

We stayed at The Hoxton, a British-run hotel. It was great, and we would definitely stay there again! You got two free bottles of water in your room refrigerator every day, and you could ask for more at the front desk. They also had a little lounge area with tea, coffee and snacks (this always makes me fond of a hotel ;)

Here's our room!
The pictures make it look a little small; I should have used the wide angle lens! It was a good size, though.
And check out the view!
The only downside was that it was a little noisy because there was a street festival that night. But I always travel with earplugs, and I was so exhausted from lack of sleep that I did not have any problems sleeping!!

Our room actually wasn't ready when we arrived, so we checked our luggage and headed out to a pancake house.
We'd heard great things about the pancakes in Amsterdam (yes, some people go to Amsterdam for marijuana; we go for pancakes!) This place was our second choice, and they had an AMAZING number of choices on the menu. Check out their website. We ended up going with the "Dutch" pancake, with baked-in stroopwaffels, cinnamon ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate!
As you can see, they are more like crepes than pancakes (and certainly thinner than my favorite pancakes ever). I wanted to try some of their savory flavors, but when we saw another table's order, we agreed that splitting one was going to be all we could handle. We actually couldn't even finish this one!

To keep ourselves awake, we walked around and enjoyed the great scenery (you can click on any picture to make it bigger).
Shopping center!
Dam Square. Yes, I did ask a lot of dam questions here. ;)

And because I am married to the most wonderful man in the world, he had researched where there were yarn stores for me. =) We went in a few, but I ended up making my souvenir yarn purchase at Stephen and Penelope.
The "Stephen" is Stephen West (no, he was not there). When I travel, I am happiest if I can get locally produced or dyed yarn, or a locally designed pattern and that's just what I was able to get here!
This gorgeous yarn was dyed "in an Amsterdam kitchen sink", and the pattern was written by Penelope (that's not her real name, but she doesn't mind being called that =). The pattern is fairly traditional-looking, but it won't be in the colors I picked! Space Chicken!!! Love that color, and it is exclusive to the store!

We took in more great scenery before heading back to the hotel to grab some dinner and collapse!
Bicycles are literally everywhere; business owners have to put up special signs if they don't want them parked on their sidewalks! You have to be careful not to get run over by them, because they pretty much take the right of way no matter what!

I loved all the details on the buildings...beautiful windows and doors.

I'll leave you with the view down "our" canal...look for more pictures to come!

This was Day One of our Europe trip in Amsterdam, filled with pancakes, yarn and beautiful scenery!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Did you miss me?

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Well, you probably didn't miss me, because I didn't even let you know I was gone. (I have an aversion to alerting all of social media that my home will be empty for two solid me crazy.) The last week of June and first week of July, we were in Europe. We went to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and then took a cruise to four ports in Norway before returning to Copenhagen for a few days. I took about 1800 pictures (!), but I managed to whittle them down a little. =) The picture above (the train station in Amsterdam) is the first one I took when we arrived. Don't worry, you'll see more eventually!

I was in Europe, and I finally finished sorting through the pictures, so now I'll be able to actually post some!

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