Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Buongiorno, Amalfi!

It is difficult to know where to start. There are hundreds of photos and dozens of good stories (the first and most important one being the story of my happy 20-year marriage to B, which lead to this remarkable trip in the first place!).  We weren't able to manage a big trip for our 5th or 10th anniversaries as I had dreamed (but we did get away for weekends). For our 15th we enjoyed a long weekend in Naramata, riding our mountain bikes on the Kettle Valley Railway and tasting delicious B.C. wines at several wineries.  To celebrate 20 years, I really wanted to do something special and significant.

Amalfi Coast, Italy
Hotel Luna Convento, Amalfi

Many people we know told us the Amalfi Coast was their favourite place, or that they had their best holidays there.  I started with a web search of walking tour companies.  For value, itinerary and resources, we chose On Foot Holidays out of the UK. I highly recommend their services.  We would (and likely will) book our next walking holiday through them.

Amalfi Coast, Italy
repaired terracotta

We began in Amalfi (3 nights) and walked to Sorrento via Praiano, Positano and Sant 'Agata. We stayed 3 nights in Sorrento as well, then snuck over to Capri for our final 2 nights in Italy.  We walked every single day except for the first one: our luggage was lost during a transfer in Rome and that first day we spent in Amalfi wandering a bit aimlessly, half-heartedly trying to buy some clothing, but clinging to hope our luggage would arrive by evening.  To keep a long story short, we didn't see our own clothes until we reached Praiano on night four.   I do, however, have a snazzy new pair of Puma running shoes, some too-big designer men's jean shorts and four pair of practical cotton briefs (let me tell you, it is NOT EASY to find cotton undies in a tiny Italian tourist town!).  I had a little meltdown on day three, but my calm, reassuring husband got me back on track with the purchase of a lovely red purse made of dreamy Italian leather. I felt much better.

Amalfi, Italy
Heading east towards Atrani, from Hotel Luna Convento, Amalfi

On Foot Holidays provided detailed written route info, very clear colour maps, an additional guidebook and a handbook of tips from previous travellers including restaurant reviews and recommendations.  We took walking poles (which I am sure saved my knees) and carried only day packs with camera, water and snacks.  Our luggage (once we had any) was transferred to our next hotel by a local agent and waiting in our rooms when we arrived from our walks each day.

Amalfi, Italy
Amalfi beach

Ravello to Amalfi
Amalfi from the pier

Ravello to Amalfi
Our hotel, Luna Convento on the point with the tower restaurant across the street from the hotel entrance.

The daily routes were excellent. Most walks took us very far from the coastal road(s) and off the beaten track. We walked ancient paths that have followed the coastline and ridge-top contours for hundreds of years before cars ever reached the coast.  We walked up and down many, many stone stairs.  The coast is a jagged peninsula of limestone jutting out to the west and dividing the Bay of Naples to the north and Gulf of Salerno to the south.  The entire peninsula is a UNESCO Heritage Site, with small hilltop towns (many consisting of just a few houses and a church, monastery or convent) and sea-level towns built almost vertically up the limestone cliffs.  Walking from town to town requires a morning climb of about 800 m elevation and an afternoon decent of the same (with about 10 km of up and down walking in between).  Luckily, you are only ever 3 or 4 km from the nearest cappucino. 

Amalfi Coast 2014

Detailed walking notes were essential to staying on track, in towns and in the highland areas. In populated areas the walkway/trail is the only means for locals to access their homes and terraced lemon and olive groves. The 1-2 meter wide stone path functions as road, sidewalk, front porch and yard!  We were always greeted with a buongiorno or salve! or buonasera by locals and fellow walkers alike. Most days we walked alone and hardly saw anyone on the trails outside of the towns. The busiest walking route was the Path of the Gods, a popular day hike between Praiano and Positano where we encountered large walking groups of Germans, Kiwis, and Brits.

Amalfi Coast 2014

Amalfi Coast 2014
Every home has a beautiful painted tile number plate and an extra one to let you know if there is a cat or dog that needs minding when you open a gate!  This is the entrance to an olive terrace - you can see the mesh tarps that are strung under the trees to catch the olives when they ripen and fall.

Amalfi Coast 2014
A guest house garden in Santa Cosma

Amalfi Coast 2014
At times I really felt like I was walking through strangers' lives, so close to their windows as to hear conversations inside.

Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, Italy
The beautiful Villa Cimbrone in Ravello

Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, Italy
The Tea Garden, Villa Cimbrone

Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, Italy
Terrace of Infinity, Villa Cimbrone (if you've seen The Trip to Italy, you'll recognize this!)

Ravello to Amalfi
Amalfi (taken from Pontone)

Ravello to Amalfi
Terraced lemon groves

Amalfi to Praiano via Marina di Furore
A cappucino on the terrace of that yellow cafe in Lone would be quite the thrill!  We were too high above town with a long way still to walk that day, so we didn't try it.

Amalfi to Praiano via Marina di Furore
There were many barking dogs and these two gave us quite the reception, however they all stay on top of their own walls and behind their gates. A third small & friendly dog from this house joined us on the path and walked about 500 m with us until we met a road where he simply around turned and went back home.

I'll sign off here for today, but there are more photos to come!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It is October, right?

Travelling over a change in month can be so disorienting. How is it mid-October already? Since returning from Italy, we have celebrated B's birthday and Thanksgiving. Next up is Hallowe'en!

The Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild often holds a block raffle at our meetings (one completed block = one raffle ticket to win a set of blocks). Every year I make tons of Hallowe'en blocks to enter, because I really want to make a Hallowe'en quilt! Alas, I've never one the Hallowe'en lotto. This will be my 4th attempt, so wish me luck.

I spent some time over the long weekend playing with scraps. Here's one of the blocks I made using some Oakshott Colourshott scraps from my Chess on the Steps quilt (speaking of which, go look at the incredibly playful All the Colours Quilt Leanne made using my pattern!).

Hexy pumpkin 6 1/2" block made with Oakshott Colourshotts for the VancouverMQG Halloween block exchange.

I used a 1/2" hexy to start and pieced 3/4" strips log-cabin style in rounds. So fun!  Our blocks have to be in size multiples of 6" finished, so this one is actually 6 1/2" square, but I've zoomed in on the pumpkin for the photo.

Scrappy candy corn pieced then cut with my GoBaby Accuquilt tumbler die.
apologies for pretty awful night time phone pics - it's dark and stormy here today!

For this 6 1/2" x 12 1/2" block, I first pieced some strips together and then cut out tumblers using my Accuquilt Go!Baby for some scrappy candy corn. I liked this so much, I made three more similar blocks. The meeting is next Monday night and I will let you know what happens.

I'm slowly making my way through holiday photos, editing, labelling and uploading. I'll be able to post some soon!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Little Quilts Swap - My Very Own Cocktail Shakers!

Ooooooh!! Check it out, my gorgeous mini quilt was waiting here for me when we arrived home from Italy last Saturday (yes, we were in Italy! I tried posting remotely using my phone but it just wouldn't work - stay tuned for pics and stories coming soon).

Cocktail Shakers by Nedra

I think it's so much fun that my secret (maker) partner made the same pattern for me as I made for my secret (recipient) partner!  Also, I didn't know Nedra prior to this swap, so thank you Amy and Sarah for introducing me to a new friend and fabulous quilter. 

Cocktail Shakers by Nedra

Nedra did an amazing job of piecing this mini with lovely shot cottons, as in Amy's pattern. I love the colours and the variegated quilting thread. This little number is going to hang in my sewing room where I can enjoy it daily. Thank you so much Nedra!

I've still got the Shaken, Not Stirred runner here. I'm almost finished a little extra I wanted to include for my partner and then I can pop it in the mail!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Little Quilts Cocktail Shakers and a giveaway

Hello there, fans of Amy, Sarah, sweet little quilts, cocktails, and Liberty!  Welcome to my stop on the Little Quilts blog tour, where I will happily gush on and on about how much I am enjoying this addition to my quilting library.

I met Amy during my first foray into swapping back in the Flickr Doll Quilt Swap. I was then introduced to Sarah and her beautiful work shortly after when these two talented ladies teamed up for their Dollies on Line pattern company.  Amy's Mrs. Schmenkman Quilts was one of the first blogs I followed years ago and she thrilled me one day with a sweet unexpected gift prompted by a mini quilt I'd made. I knew right then, that she was my kind of people.  Something tells me that I will get to meet both of these amazing quilters next year in person.....

So, if you've been following along this blog tour you already know that the tour is a swap!  Each of us has a secret partner for which we are making a quilt from Little Quilts. Prior to receiving my copy, I had already decided (based on the Amazon "take a look inside" photos) which pattern I'd use. Then my book arrived: cue indecision.  I wanted to make ALL THE QUILTS! Really! That rarely happens with me and books. Every pattern appeals to me. I know this will be my go-to guide whenever a swap comes around because there is definitely something for everyone and plenty of room for customization with fabric choices, fussy cutting and expanding to larger-sized quilts.

Shaken, Not Stirred by Poppyprint
planning, planning, planning

Having recently acquired a bumper crop of Liberty tana lawn F8's, I was anxious to use some of them in this special quilt. I paired them with that other British fabric I love, Oakshott Colourshotts. After marking several pages in the book, eventually I returned to my original idea because my little brain just loved the idea of an all-British cocktail shaker quilt: A James-Bond-ish Shaken, Not Stirred table runner.

Shaken, Not Stirred by Poppyprint

I think these two kinds of fabric really enjoy each other's company. The foundation piecing for the cocktail shaker shapes is very straightforward and not at all fiddly as far as paper piecing goes. It's actually a great project for a first go at this technique.  Can you spot the teeny Hello Kitties in the border print?

Shaken, Not Stirred by Poppyprint
"Shaken, Not Stirred"

The runner finished up at 16" x 31".  Hopefully my partner has a suitably sized coffee table or side board, or even a bar!  Of course, there is always the awkward skinny wall option for hanging a table runner. 

Shaken, Not Stirred by Poppyprint

I quilted the runner with a gorgeous blue Aurifil 28 wt thread in a straight line diagonal grid pattern that parallels the piecing. And I used this perfectly-suited Laurie Wisbrun print from my stash on the back!

Shaken, Not Stirred by Poppyprint

Shaken, Not Stirred by Poppyprint

To see what everyone else is making for their secret partners in our blog tour swap, have a look at the other stops listed below!  If you don't have it already, ask your local quilt shop to stock this wonderful book for you...then organize a swap with your guild or quilting friends!

If you'd like to win a copy of Little Quilts courtesy of Sara and Amy's publisher, leave a comment and let us know if you've ever made a doll or mini quilt before!  I'll close the giveaway October 4th and chose a random winner.  To win, you MUST leave your email address in your comment if it is not linked. If I can't contact you with one click, I'm afraid I have to chose another winner.  Good luck!

September 1: Amy and Sarah
September 8: Pam Vieira-McGinnis
September 15: Nedra Sorenson
September 22: Lynne Goldsworthy and Krista Hennebury
September 29: John Adams
October 6: Katy Jones

EDITED TO ADD: comments are now closed, and congratulations to commenter #63, Kathy, who has won herself a copy of Little Quilts!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Where Modern Quilts and Glaciers Meet

See this colossal cruise ship?

In June of next year, I'll be wielding a rotary cutter and wearing a perma-grin as I teach modern quilting workshops on the Celebrity Infinity. I hope you'll join me! Space is limited, so if you have any interest, read on for contact information.

Lynn, of the Modern Quilt Guild of Victoria, is a cruise specialist I've been working with to design a fun week of workshops including my latest Improv Under the Influence pattern Chess on the Steps! I'm so darn excited, not only to meet new friends, have the opportunity to teach this super fun technique and quilt, but also to revisit the incredible scenery of the BC wild coast and Alaska.  Fair warning: it won't take much arm-twisting for me to carry on about glaciers, too (see my little profile up there on the left). I'm kind of into the metamorphosis of snow.

If you'd like more info about the dates, workshops, pricing and the early booking specials on offer until October 5, please contact Lynnmcneill(at)cruiseshipcenters(dot)com and ask about the Modern Quilting Cruise!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Plotting a Little Quilt

I've been having some fun, friends!

It involves some of my most favourite fabric.


And my new favourite quilting book.


And a cocktail shaker or 7.

That's double-O 7.

All will be revealed on September 22 (with a giveaway!), but if you can't wait until then, 
have a look here or here 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Bumblebee takes it!

Thanks to everyone who had a look around Mad About Patchwork's shop and specifically Pam's lovely curated bundles. This one, Flight of the Bumblebee proved a popular choice! In fact, it was the choice of our winner!

Flight Of The Bumblebee

It's lucky number 43....

A hearty slap on the back and congratulations to my Aussie pal Kirsty!!!! Yes, that's you Madame Bonjour!  My entire family had the pleasure of visiting with Kirsty and her two littlest over delicious cups of coffee and hot chocolate, in Aix en Provence a couple of years ago. If you are wondering how we ran into an Aussie mom of four in the south of France, you'll just have to head on over to her blog and have a gander back (waaaaay back) through her incredible photo essays.  But before you do that, be sure to check out her latest pattern, the gorgeous Diamonds in the Deep. Kirsty is a VQC - Very Clever Quilter.  Shoot me an email with your home addy girl - I'll have Pam get your Flight of the Bumblebee bundle on it's way (waaaaaay) down under!