November 30, 2009

Christmas Angels

I love to make dolls for my granddaughters to celebrate their birthdays and Christmas. It's a challenge designing something different each time though. Over the years, the dolls are getting smaller in size!

These little angels can either hang on the wall or sit on a shelf. The doll is approximately 8" tall. Various neutral cotton fabrics make up the body and head. I needle sculpted the hands and faces (just the nose since the head is quite small). Acrylic paint, colored pencils, gel pens and graphite were used to paint the faces and, of course, each has painted fingernails! The "shoes" are painted on with gold paint.
The dresses are made of silk scraps. Making the blouse was a bit of a challenge since I decided to slip it over the head which meant the armholes needed to be wide enough to accommodate the hands. I interfaced the silk too which made it much easier to handle.
The dolls are a bit top heavy and need to lean against something to sit up straight - which they must do at the dinner table! I cut the core of a roll of paper towels to size and painted these with cheap gold paint. The doll will sit nicely now and the support doesn't show under her skirt.
Here are the completed angels. The buttons and trim are hand sewn. The angels needed crowns which are made from painted and punched card stock. There is a small ribbon hanger on the back of each as well a pretty wired bow which forms the wings.
I've still got lots of Christmas gifts on my to do list...better get back to work!

November 24, 2009

Travel Photos

I had a lot of fun taking pictures in Croatia. The cities were filled with charming doors, windows, winding streets and interesting people - plenty of photo ops! On one of the upper "streets" in the walled city of Dubrovnik, I saw a lovely young couple sightseeing. I took this picture of the young woman standing atop the stairs. I liked it so much, that I thought I'd play with it in Photoshop Elements. I sharpened and blurred the image, changed the opacity, reduced saturation, added filters, etc.
This is the original photo.
(1) Orton technique
(2) Warming filter
(3) Sepia photo filter
My favorite is No. 1 - what's yours?

November 14, 2009

Home Again!

We had the best time in Croatia and Slovenia and hated to leave, but now we're happy to be home. My travel journal is overflowing with memorabilia. We made a lot of new friends on this trip. There were only 23 people all together. We felt like family in no time. No longer "tour virgins," we're looking forward to doing it again. I can hardly wait to look through and sort all my photographs - but laundry comes first!

November 11, 2009

Croatia - Day 13

This is the last day of our trip. The weather today is absolutely perfect. It's still cold, but the sun is out and the skies are clear.

We visited the very old town of Kropa, which was famous for its iron work for centuries. The people were very poor and worked incredibly hard. As many as 8 families would live in one house. A family usually consisted of mother, father and 6 to 8 children. The women shared one kitchen. The men and all children over the age of 8 did iron work. Their workday was 16 hours long. Once all the iron ore was used up in this region, the town closed up. This is a war memorial honoring the young men who were killed in World War II. There is talk of destroying the memorial because some of the men fought for the Germans.
The Sava River runs through the town and ultimately into the Danube.
Artisans still do iron work today which is mostly decorative screens, chandeliers, gates and the like. The man below demonstrated making small nails - just like before the war. All of the iron work done here was by hand - not machine. The small spikes he made today would have been put on the bottom of shoes to make walking in the snow and ice easier.

After lunch, we took one more walk around Lake Bled. This picture of the church on the island looks spectacular with the snow capped Alps in the background.

November 10, 2009

Croatia - Day 12

We were so pleased to see the sun this morning! We took the bus to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Because much of the city was rebuilt after an 1895 earthquake, Slovenia's capital has a unique architectural style that has integrated surviving historic structures with more modern designs. The work of Joseph Plecnik, a 20th century architect, is particularly remarkable for the way it incorporates Roman, Medieval, Baroque and Habsburg elements. The Ljubljanica River flows through the heart of the town. Here you can see the Ljubljanski castle in the background.The Cathedral of St. Nicholas built in 1701. This is one of two bronze doors made to celebrate the visit of Pope John Paul to the city.

The cathedral was almost 200 years old when the earthquake of 1895 did some extensive damage to the inside. The architectural integrity was preserved by the 20th century architect Plecnik allowing for the baroque appearance to be maintained throughout.

One of four bronze dragons guarding the old city.

We returned to Bled in the afternoon and took a boat ride on Lake Bled to the 17th century church located on the only island in Slovenia.

Here we are getting ready to climb the 100 stairs to reach the church. Yes, we were still smiling once we reached the top!

Tomorrow is our last day here. We've had a wonderful trip. I can hardly believe it's time to go home.

Croatia Day 11

Partly cloudy skies this morning, but rain is on its way. We thought we better hike up to the castle before the rain started. We could glimpse the castle from our hotel. We hiked up a rocky goat path. Going up was difficult. All the wet leaves on the path made going down a challenge. I'm happy to say we made it and didn't fall once! This is St. Martin's Church. We attended Mass here on Sunday night.
A view of Bled from atop the castle. For 800 years the Bled Castle was the seat of the bishops of Brixen. Bled is blessed with natural hot springs regarded as having healing powers and has been a popular fresh-air retreat since the mid-19th century. We walked the 4 mile path surrounding the lake. By this time it was raining steadily - luckily we were dressed for it and had umbrellas. After the hike, we treated ourselves to cream cake which was invented by a chef in our hotel dining room and well known in the area. It was light and delicious. I could have eaten more - maybe tomorrow...
Buildings on the top of the castle. The museum and gift shop are located here. All of the views are fantastic. Many blackbirds could be seen in the colorful vines eating blueberries.

This is the part of the path we followed going up to and down from the castle.
There's a promise of sun the next two days - I hope it clears up. This is a fairytale land in the Alps and I'd like to take more picture of it.

November 8, 2009

Croatia Day 10

Rain, rain, rain. We left Opatija early this morning heading towards our final destination of Bled, Slovenia. On the way, we stopped at the Postojna Caves, created by millions of years of water activity. These caves are huge. We had to take a 10 minute train ride to reach the starting point of the walk inside the cave. It was difficult to take pictures without a flash. Most of the pictures look a little wierd, but I like the effect anyway. The walk through the caves took a bit more than an hour so you can imagine what a large area they cover. The caves were first discovered in 1818 and opened to the public for touring in 1819. The whole cave systems extends about 2o kilometers. These caves are in several levels. At one point were 50 feet below the entrance to the cave. We've been in caves before, but nothing like this.

We ate lunch at a restaurant connected to the caves. It was typical local fare - sausage, mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, bread and wine!

We're staying at Hotel Park, another 5 star hotel - very rustic and charming. Above is the view from our room. It's hard to see because of the mist, but there is a church on this the only island in Slovenia. It's a popular place for weddings. The only catch is there are 100 stairs leading to the church and the bride must be carried by the groom! Of course, everyone needs to arrive by boat.

November 7, 2009

Croatia - Day 9

Partly cloudy this morning and sunny this afternoon. We decided to pass on the optional tour and explore more of Opatjia since this is our last day here.

I don't know the origin of this statue. The lady is standing on a rock in the sea holding a bird. We found another similar statue in front of a casino just off the boardwalk on the main road.

We walked along the boardwalk and discovered this church high on a hill. We managed to find it easily enough - see the "sign" below. I thought it was quite funny. This is a Roman Catholic church - Marijina Navjestenja. It is a beautiful church and rather stark inside. There were many side altars two of which you can see here.

This is the funny little sign we saw painted on the side of a building next to the stairs we took to reach the upper road.

So many beautiful sights along the board walk - which is made of flagstone.

We found a neat little tavern for lunch. I had grilled calamari and braised Swiss chard - ooooh so good!

Croatia - Day 8

More rain today. Chilly - not cold. We explored the Istrian peninsula. We visited the Italian influenced town of Rovinj, a coastal town built on land that was once an island but was connected to the mainland by a causeway in the 18th century. The town looks over the Adriatic sea and is surrounded by pine forests.The Baroque church of St. Euphemia presides over the town. A bronze statute of St. Euphemia stands on top of a tall tower on the church.

The street leading to the church is steep and windy. Numerous side alley like streets cross the main road - lots of great photo ops.

The city resembles Venice, however, there are no canals here. We ate lunch at a countryside farmhouse to taste Istrian specialties - minestrone soup, chicken and beef in tomatoe sauce served over noodles and gnocci, thick crusty bread, dessert and plenty of beer and wine.After lunch we went to the town of Pula to see the 6th largest Roman Amphitheatre in the world. It is amazingly well preserved. We even viewed the basement (previously the sewer of the Ampitheatre) which now houses many of the artifacts found from the ancient Roman city upon which Pula is built.

We had dinner at the Yacht Club near our hotel. The rain has stopped. We're hoping it will be dry tomorrow.

November 5, 2009

Croatia - Day 7

We were pleasantly surprised to wake up and see the sun this morning. We decided to walk the "Lungomare," the seaside promenade that runs 7.5 miles along the waterfront and leads to the lovely resort town Lovran.
Here you can see our hotel in the background (orange building). The sea and sky were absolutely beautiful even though it was a cloudy day. We walked for several miles, stopped for lunch and continued on to Lovran.

We saw some people who were brave (or crazy) enough to go swimming. They said the water was warm. They had to be cold once out of the water - the air temperature was in the mid 50sF.
We were taken to a restaurant up in the mountains for dinner. The menu consisted of local specialties including venison soup, venison cooked in blueberry sauce, mixed vegetables and green salad. The dessert was a mixture of pumpkin and apple baked in a light pastry. Everthing was delicious.

November 4, 2009

Croatia - Day 6

A very rainy travel day, but not too cold. We're working our way up to Opatija where we will stay for 4 nights. On the way from Split we detoured so that we could see a ghost town, which resulted from the shelling of the recent war (1991-1995). There are still areas to be avoided because of live land mines.Some people are rebuilding, but most of the beautiful countryside has been devasted. The demolished homes remain.
We travelled through the mountains to get to Opatija, which is located on the sea. We saw the first snow as we travelled through the mountains today. There will be more waiting for us next week when we arrive in Bled, Slovenia.

We haven't had a chance to explore Opatija yet. There is a 7 mile boardwalk in front of our seaside hotel. I plan to walk as much of this as possible - rain or not!
Our hotel The Grand - is beautiful. It is in the Venetian style and quite lovely. Thus far, the rooms in all of our hotels have been quite spacious - so different from what we're accustomed to while traveling in Europe.