Monday, October 23, 2017

A lot of small projects

For some reason, I've been working on small projects lately.  I just sent off in the mail three Christmas ornaments which I stitched as a member of the CyberStitchers Chapter of the EGA.  These are going to an auction to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

And, enough of Christmas.  I found two ornament kits on Ebay, with threads in an autumn color palette.  Here's the first one.  I have also ordered threads to stitch this in a Christmas color palette.

"Framed: Sisley" from Kick Back & Stitch
And in amongst the stitching projects, we went to see "The King and I."

Daisies and Nitclubs

I purchased a new receiver for my TV/stereo system several months ago, and it and I are not getting along.  For some reason, on some channels or some shows, the background music overwhelms the dialogue. I've tried all the adjustments I can find, to no avail.  I finally decided to turn on my closed captioning so I could watch those programs when I could not clearly hear the dialogue.  I've discovered that some closed captioning is better than others.

My father mentioned once that he doesn't really care for closed captioning because it moves so quickly that it's hard to keep up.  Another problem, I've discovered, is that the captioning can be quite garbled and nonsensical.  Case in point: a character says, "These days he's..."  The captioning reads, "These daisies..."  So not only do you have to read quickly, you have to try to decipher what was really meant.  The one captioning flub that made me laugh was when a character talked about a nightclub, and the captioning read "nitclub."  I wonder if nitclubs are where lice go to unwind after a hard day.

I got a lot of stitching done following the cruise.  I had taken stitching along, but never got it out, just dragged it along.  This Curly Girl Design kit by Mill Hill was one of the pieces that went halfway across the world before I finally started it back home.

"Someday is made up of a thousand tiny nows"
Another piece is Patriotic Heart by Gay Ann Rogers.

Stitched piece

Piece finished into an ornament
And while I was on a Gay Ann Rogers kick, I also did this two-sided ornament/banner, "Joy to the World."

Stitched front and back

Finished banner ornament

And speaking of Christmas, I dug out a piece I had started many months (years?) ago but never finished.  Finally, it's done!

Nature's Joy, from Treasury of Cross-Stitch Ornaments

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Iowa/Denmark/Nigeria Connection

There were so many people needing a wheelchair to get to the gate that we ended up on one of those motorized carts.  Another woman in the business lounge and I hopped on the back seat, while her husband and Dennis headed to the gate on foot.  While I chatted with her, learning that they lived in Copenhagen and were flying to the US to see the eclipse, visit friends in Minnesota, and visit New Orleans, Dennis was learning that the husband had done mission work in Nigeria.

When we all got back together at the gate, I mentioned that my parents had been missionaries in Nigeria.  The husband asked where, and I responded Bukuru, and went on to explain since I was sure he would never have heard of the tiny village of Bukuru, with Jos as the nearest town of any size. But the husband got a big smile on his face, nodded, and responded, "TCNN?"  So, not only did he know of Bukuru, he knew of the Theological College of Northern Nigeria.

What a small world!

And the cruise ends in Copenhagen

By this point in the cruise, I am feeling lousy.  For some reason, my normal seasonal allergies which are controlled with antihistamine, were running amok.  Non-stop running nose, post-nasal drop clogging up my throat, lots of coughing to clear my throat, and no stamina.  As in walking half a block, stopping to rest, walking a bit more, stopping to rest.

Our arrival at Fredericia, Denmark was greeted by pretty much the whole town.  There was a cannon salute (with the tiniest miniature cannons I have ever seen).  Apparently we were around the fourth cruise ship to dock there this year.  At most of our other stops, we were among 4 to 8 cruise ships docking per day.

At the end of the day, the town, including local dignataries, turned out to give us a band concert, with people in historical native attire, waving flags and waving at us.  It was great!

I decided to skip the shore excursion to Copenhagen, and thus missed the statue of the Little Mermaid. And I ended up having to resort to a wheelchair at the airports.  We had paid for a shuttle bus from the ship to the airport, but it was ahike to the bus, and then the bus dropped us off at terminal 1 and we needed to be at terminal 2.  By the time we got to the ticket counter, I was done in.

Since we had "premium economy" tickets, we had access to the business lounge, which included comfortable waiting, soup and a variety of snacks, and assorted beverages.

Family Reunion in Germany

Our next stop was Warnemunde in Germany, where we met brother Robert.  There was a cruise center (read "tourist-trap") with a gift shop and little restaurant.  We found seats in the restaurant area, had some pop, and caught up with a nice chat. Then Dennis and I headed back to the ship, while John and Renee headed with Robert to a tour of the city.

View of our ship from the pier in Wurnemunde

View of Wernemunde from the ship

Latvia and Lithuania.

Next stop on our cruise was Riga, Latvia.  Unfortunately, it was too windy.  There is a narrow channel into Riga Bay, and the wind was just at the point of being too strong to safely traverse the channel. And, the winds were forecast to get stronger in the afternoon. Sooo, assuming the harbot pilot decided it was safe to enter the harbor, it was iffy whether we would be able to get back out.  So, we waved at Riga as we turned and spent the day at sea.

Next stop was Lithuania, where we had a shore excursion of touring an amber factory.  The amber factory was way too hot and stuffy, and lots of standing, so I opted for sitting on a bench outside in the cool shade and light breeze.

Then on to, guess where - the amber factory's gift shop outlet, where we had some amber tea and amber cake, then "got" to spend time looking at all the amber jewelry and other giftware.  I bought a pair of earrings, Dennis bought some amber dust and raw amber.

What I found very interesting on our tours, was the disparity with which the individual Scandinavian and Baltic countries saw Russia.   Some countries were proud of their past and current relationship with Russia, others were quite disparaging of how they were treated by Russia during World War II.

For example, the following joke was told by our tour guide in Lithuania, as we drove past obvious Soviet-era apartment complexes that all looked the same.  There is the story of the man who went home from work and went to the wrong apartment.  He didn't notice because they all look the same. His key worked, because there were only a few different keys.  And his furniture was what he was used to seeing, since there were only three choices in furniture.  And so the story goes on.
Pictures of Klaipeda from the ship

United States? Um, Where is that?

Our shore excursion to Helsinki was "by land and by sea."  We started out with a boat trip around the many islands that make up the city.  Then we landed at, guess where, a flea market with lots of vendors selling lots of souvenirs.  With a quick trip to the restrooms in City Hall, which actually functioned like a city hall, with an internet area where people were using computers and a very nice art exhibit.

As we walked the several blocks to our bus for the land portion of our tour, we met a young man who asked where we were from.  We tour participants stand out like sore thumbs, with colored stickers on our lapels denoting which tour group we're with - so it wasn't hard for him to peg us as tourists.  When we responded, "the United States," he got a confused look on his face and responded  that he'd never heard of that.  As we clarified, "The United States of America," he then understood and said that he'd heard of "America." 

Lutheran Cathedrals

In our bus trip around St. Petersburg, our tour guide pointed out what she called a "Lutheran Cathedral."  It was tucked away behind and between two other buildings and we were by it so fast I couldn't get a picture.  But I wondered about her word choice.  Lutherans have churches, not cathedrals.  Catholics have cathedrals.   But as I learned later from our tour guide in Helsinki, there are Lutheran Cathedrals in Europe.

Statue of Alexander II in Market Square in Helsinki

Lutheran Cathedral in Market Square, with only 350 steps up to the door

The 12 apostles, in zinc, around the roof

But Cairo is in Egypt

One of the things we like to do on cruises is participate in the trivia contests, which are held a couple of times a day.  Most of the time we just listen and don't try to compete for prizes.  But one day another couple and we were the only people interested, so the four of us decided to work together rather than compete. That day, the contest was to identify, from photos, the movie character's name. That was harder than it sounded.  We could usually identify the actor, or the show, but couldn't always come up with the character's name.  But, since we were the only people participating, all four of us received a prize - a Royal Caribbean pen!  Whoo-hoo

Well, the next day, we headed to the trivia contest, not expecting to participate, but we ran into the same couple and decided to join with them again.  There were a lot of people participating that day, and some of the questions were pretty obscure.

Anyway, one of the questions was, "What city in Africa has the largest population?" The other couple were guessing Johannesburg, and I said what about Cairo, is Cairo bigger than Johannesburg?  The woman looked at me like I was nuts and said, "But Cairo is in Egypt!"  To which I responded, well, yes, but Egypt is in Africa.  It turns out I was right, Cairo is the biggest city in Africa.

Some animals and a shirt

One fun thing about cruising is that we get treated to a variety of towel animals.  This trip, in addition to animals, we had a towel folded like a shirt.

Paint the Shell First

I spent Day 2 on board ship, and then on Day 3 in St. Petersburg, attended a Nesting Doll Painting workshop.  The group that puts on the workshops is geared toward teaching arts and crafts to local Russian citizens, which meant only one of the group really spoke any English.  But, with the use of hand signals and blank looks, we were able to get the help we needed, or should I say the help I needed. Some of the participants were quite artistic and started right in.  I was at the stage of, "please help - how do I draw the face...please help, where do the hands go?"

Once we got the drawing done, then it was time to paint.  One woman asked where should we start with the painting, should we do the clothes first, or start with the detail of the face first.  The leader said, "Do the shell first."  Well, yes, we understood we were to paint the shell of the nesting doll, but should we start with the face or with the clothes?  After going back and forth and back and forth, we finally realized the leader was trying to say, "Paint the shawl first."

As we departed St. Petersburg, Dennis mentioned he'd learned that there was an under-sea highway. We were fortunate to see the entrance from our balcony.  It's part of their flood protection system and dam.

Entrance to under-sea highway outside St. Petersburg

St Petersburg, Russia

We had three days in St. Petersburg.  On Day 1, we went on a "Panoramic St. Petersburg" bus trip.  It rained all day, which our tour guide said is typical for the city.  Apparently, they get all of 30 days of sunshine a year.

Can you guess which stop on our cruise accepted all forms of currency, including US Dollars, Euros, and local currency?  Why, St. Petersburg, Russia!  They are quite obviously set up for tourists.

Church of the Spilled Blood, in the rain, through the bus window

Scene of "Panoramic St. Petersburg" from the bus

This statue of Nicholas I is apparently unusual in that the horse has only two feet on the ground

An original lighthouse; the city has saved their two original lighthouses

Next Stop Tallinn, Estonia

Our arrival at Estonia was a tight fit with a neighboring cruise ship directly across from us.  We could see from our balconies to theirs.  I did not go ashore, but stayed on board.

Neighboring cruise ship

View of Tallinn, Estonia

On to Stockholm

Our Scandinavian/Russia cruise departed from Stockholm.  We flew to Chicago, then had to traverse to the international terminal for our SAS flight departing for Stockholm.  I splurged on "Premium Economy" seats, which meant wider seats, bigger armrests, more legroom, and refreshments that were a bit fancier, but it also meant we were farther from the lavatories.  Our flight left late evening, and I was expecting we'd have some sort of snack before bedtime, and I was expecting breakfast. But, we started off with a snack, then a full dinner, then more snacks, and then breakfast.  For Europeans, breakfast means cold meat and cheese, what we Americans would call lunch meat.

Once we landed in Stockholm and made it through Passport Control and Customs, we got on the train from the airport to the city center.  My brother met us as we got off the train, and led us to our hotel.

Next morning, on to the ship.  Royal Caribbean has implemented a new boarding procedure - arrival times based on deck number.  Last cruise, everyone arrived at the same time and there was a long long line.  This time, boarding was quite easy and fast.

The ship stayed overnight in Stockholm, and we had a  "Panoramic Stockholm" shore excursion the next day.  But, we ended up on the wrong tour bus.  We signed up for tour #S19, but were given tickets to #SJ9."  Even when I protested, I was assured we were on the right bus - but - well, not so much.  Fortunately, we did get a panoramic tour of the city of Stockholm, and we also got an unexpected "Sky View" trip.

View from Sky View

View of mechanism that moves Sky View gondolas

Outside of Sky View showing tracks for gondolas
View from Panoramic Stockholm tour bus

Here's an amphibious bus used in Stockholm

We caught a glimpse of the royal color guard going by

Our departure from Stockholm was joined by many many sea birds, as seen from our cabin balcony.  It seemed odd to me, until those up top mentioned later that a woman had been feeding the birds!