Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Travel Tuesday : Barcelona, 2009

When we set off to hike the Carros de Foc back in 2009, we flew in to Barcelona. Here are my notes from that brief visit before our big trek!


HOT. And humid. Uh-oh. Arrived at the airport, collected our bags (phew!), and emerged into the steamy heat and a fog of cigarette smoke. Oh, right -- people still smoke outside of Seattle!



Walked right on to the Aerobus to the center of town, and then the 15-minute walk to the hotel where I didn't really get lost -- we were heading in the right direction -- so much as lost faith in my internal compass. Anyway, we checked in, went straight up to the small but very tidy room, and took showers to wash away the ick of travel. Awesome water pressure!



Walked over to the bus station to sort out tickets to Vielha, where we would start the trek. We had decided to stay a last night in Vielha rather than race back to Barca, given that we almost always prefer smaller villages to larger cities. So we figured out the timetable and the days we wanted. See, we had plenty of time because the queue to buy tickets stretched all the way around the ticket hall. At least the 4 ticket sellers had a system whereby every now and then one of them would go out to the line and look for people who were waiting to buy tickets for buses leaving within 30 minutes. So that was good. We considered just trying our luck the next day, but didn't want to risk missing the bus while waiting in an even longer line. But our main focus today was just to stay awake for most of the day rather than sleep it off.



BTW, I busted out my awesome 5th-grade Spanish to order the tickets. The woman behind the counter kept smiling to herself, probably thinking "Oh, you idiot" but I did feel as if I had made the effort. :)




Spent most of the day traipsing around beautiful Barcelona. We wandered up to Sagrada Familia -- looked very different to my memory of it. More pink? More rainbow-colors on the "sanctus sanctus" art? But I guess that what happens on a work-in-progress after 10 years have passed.






On a whim, and because we were a bit sleepy, we jumped on one of those city tour buses and rode around for a while. We sat in full sun on the top deck -- which felt really nice when we were moving (lovely breeze!) but less nice when we were stopped. I didn't feel like the narration was particulary good -- indeed, when we jumped on a bus later on I noticed that absolutely no one was wearing their headphones. But it was probably a convenient way to move between the sights. Both of us nodded off at a couple of times, so we decided to head back to the hotel for a very brief siesta.




We went through the Barri Gotic, somehow getting completely turned around in the marvellous winding lanes. In a huge comic/manga shop I discovered an interesting new artist/character: Hugo Pratt's Corto Maltese.

 Absolutely beautiful, but we were tired and getting cranky. So we knew the right thing to do was to give in to morpheus and then go back out.



90 minutes later, very refreshed, we walked back out and through the Parc Ciutadella, where we caught one of the tourist buses and rode for a couple of stops. Then we dove back in to the Barri Gotic and wandered around, looking at shops and then settling on a cute little restaurant for dinner. I know, I know -- paella and sangria isn't exactly original, but it was very tasty. And by the time we left, the restaurant was full of locals. Though I did giggle at an English girl ordering the chorizo y jamon pizza, "SIN chorizo". Um, okay.




As we walked back through the winding lanes we stumbled across the Palau de Musica Catalunya late at night, lit up beautifully. Love the green glass newel posts and the floral mosaic pillars.

When we got back to our neighborhood, we joined the people in the plaza across from the hotel. I loved sitting there at 10:30, eating Solera and Magnum ice creams, drinking beer from cans, and discovering what we think might be the hot-climate version of the Kinder Surprise eggs -- the Kinder Joy. It's still an egg, but you pop it open into two symmetrical halves -- one with a toy and a little spoon, the other with a white chocolate mousse/creme and two tiny chocolatey spheres inside -- like tiny ferro rochers. Gorgeous!




I especially liked watching families out with their children in the moonlight -- riding bikes and whooshing around on scooters. I mean, if they take a siesta at 2, then of course they can stay up late. We also saw lots and lots of the same type of dog -- a French bulldog perhaps? -- 3 or 4 at a time. Must be a good apartment dog.


Slept pretty well... at least until 4:15. But then was able to listen to the Now Show and try to get a little more rest. Then we were on our way to Vielha -- on a very long bus ride.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

February OMG complete : embroidered dish towel

Hi everyone. Clearly February is the shortest month! I set a goal to  choose a pattern, transfer it to the towel, and stitch one of them. Here's where I was at the beginning of the month:


In the end, I didn't use any of those cute transfer patterns -- none of them really worked as a border. But I found a couple of "retro" machine embroidery patterns that I adapted to this shape, transferred it to the towel using "tracing paper" (which is more like "washable carbon paper"), and pulled out a bunch of vintage floss I had found at a local thrift store (score!) and got to work.

A few weeks later, and:


As I said at the beginning of the month, no bonus points for guessing what next month's OMG will be.

The One Monthly Goal link-up is organized by Elm Street Quilts with the idea that we can just focus on one task and make progress. You can see how everyone did on their February projects on the February Finish Party page!



Thursday, February 20, 2020

What a friend we have in cheeses : a vegan cheese experiment

First and foremost, I'm not vegan. I eat eggs and cheese nearly every day. I am vegetarian, however, and have a lot of respect for vegans.

I don't know why I decided I wanted to try to make five vegan cheeses as part of my 101 things in 1001 days project. I had seen an article in 2017 collecting then 10 recipes for different varieties in One Green Planet; by the time I got started a few weeks ago the recipe tally had grown to over 25. All but one of the recipes I used came from there.

I started with an easy one: Garlic and Herb Cream Cheese


Soak some cashews and blend with herbs and nooch -- easy peasy. I had a bunch of fresh basil that needed to be used, so I put TONS of basil in ... so mine was a lovely green. Would it fool anyone into thinking it was really cream cheese? Nope. But was it tasty? Yes -- I really enjoyed spreading this on toast in the morning. I would definitely make this again.

Next up was the only recipe not from One Green Planet: Instant Pot Vegan Cauliflower Queso from Epicurious


My pal Rebecca is a master of vegan queso, so I took her advice and doctored the recipe a bit, swapping out half of the weight of cauliflower for rutabega for extra creaminess. This took a bit longer, but was delicious. Would it fool someone into thinking it was dairy? Maybe if you eat it with enough chips. Would I make it again? Definitely.

My next recipe was probably the oddest one: Potato and Carrot Cheese


Made of potatoes, carrots, tahini, herbs, and spices, this was the first one that was firmed up with some agar agar powder and chilled for a few hours. Would it fool anyone into thinking it was dairy? Not a chance. Was it tasty? Yes. Essentially it's a soft pâté that was nice on crackers or toast. Would I make it again? Probably not.

Next up was one I was really unsure about: Aquafaba Mozzarella


Made with aquafaba -- the liquid you drain from garbanzo beans -- and cashews, plus spices, coconut oil, cornstarch, and agar agar, then poured into a mold to firm up. I had really mixed feelings about this; I didn't think it tasted like mozzarella at all, and I felt like I was very conscious of the coconut scent and flavor. However, when I layered it between guacamole on toast and a hot egg, it "melted", sorta. As the "melty" layer on a sandwich it was nice; I could see this being a good substitute on a caprese sandwich (especially if it's served hot). Would I make it again? Probably not, unless I needed to make a vegan caprese sandwich.

My final vegan cheese turned out to be the least interesting of the five: Herbed Soft Cashew Cheese


Cashews and herbs and nooch, plus agar agar to firm it up. Would anyone think it was dairy cheese? Not likely. Was it tasty? Yep -- nice on toast and on crackers. Again, it really feels like I made a nice soft pâté. Would I make it again? I don't think so. The potato and carrot version was more interesting.

Of the five, the vegan queso and the vegan herbed cream cheese were the winners -- and the ones I expect to make again. The other three? Meh.


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Travel Tuesday : Goodbye, Egypt, hello Spain? And home...


On our last full day in Egypt we packed everything and ordered a taxi for the next morning -- which consisted of having the bellman call a taxi from outside, who drove in and negotiated with us. (Same old story -- there's an accepted price, but the driver started high and only came down when we argued a bit). He gave us his card and told us to call him. We told him to be there at 6am. There was some back and forth about this, but we thought we'd got it sorted.

In the morning we checked out (I knew we'd get dinged for that minibar stuff we didn't let them replace on that first morning -- but we disputed it and didn't end up paying) and had a quick breakfast at the buffet. Then we went out front to leave.

5:58 - no taxi 5:59 - we ask the front desk to call the taxi. They call, twice -- no answer. 6:00 - we storm down the driveway and re-negotiate with the first driver we find. grrr. 6:15 - we arrive at Luxor Airport

We go inside the terminal where three guards were standing next to a metal detector and x-ray machine, both of which were turned off. A fourth man, behind the glass, who in theory would monitor the x-ray machine was sleeping, smooshed against the glass.

One said, "Do you have a ticket?" When I said yes, he said "I want to see it." So I dug out the e-mail (it's not like I had a hard ticket), which he glanced at, and then waived us through. Since the scanner was turned off, we hesitated, and started to wheel my bag through the metal detector. The guards said, "No, no, through the machine." I wasn't about to step through the gate without my bag going first, so I pointed out that everything was turned off. So they shouted at the sleeping guard, who slowly woke up, and turned on the machine. We stood there, waiting, wondering how exactly this was secure. But eventually we were able to load the bags onto the x-ray and step through the metal detector.

Then to check-in, where there seemed to be a lot of typing -- and the clerk was a hunt-and-peck typist. But we weren't in a hurry and he did give us the Egypt exit forms to fill out. Then to the next security checkpoint, which again was switched off. The belt wasn't moving, but the guy wanted us to walk through and didn't understand why we hesitated. Awesome! Finally that came online, and we could go through. Then into the domestic departure lounge, which didn't have many shops but at least was priced in Egyptian pounds.

Eventually our gate opened and we got on a bus to take us to the plane. We had exit row seats to Cairo -- nice -- but I don't think EgyptAir bothered with a safety demonstration.

Cairo airport was nothing special; had to go through the emigration process which took an absurdly long time and had highlights like the officer sending and receiving text messages while processing forms. Cool! Very little Egyptian stuff in the airport shops, which surprised me. But they did have food, at least.

Flight to Barcelona was tedious; already feeling tired of travel.

Arrived at the schmancy new T1 and found the spot where the hotel busses go. At first glance, the Hotel Tryp was a dud, sitting in an older industrial park next to a Volkswagen office. But it was beautiful and very stylish inside. The shuttles were really useful too -- running every 20 minutes to the train station and airport, which meant we could check in, dump our stuff, and head back into town. A nice lady at the Renfe train station showed us that you could save money by getting a T-10 ticket rather than two round-trip tickets. Nice!

Spent the late afternoon/ early evening wandering around Barcelona looking at buildings in L'Eixample and trying to find a grocery store. Found one, eventually, but couldn't find what we were looking for. Again, we have completely failed to buy anything for anyone. Oops. Not that we bought much for ourselves, mind you. We bought nothing in Egypt that we didn't eat or drink -- in large part because I was tired of the constant hassle.

Walking around Barcelona we kept thinking how lovely it was not to be harassed at every street corner, every time we stopped, etc. And how clean it all was. And did I mention we brushed our teeth with tap water?


Back to the hotel at sunset, and then we just hung out, drank cheap Sidre, and snacked on cheese, tomatoes, potato "tortilla", and crackers.


Set alarms for 3:30 to make sure we caught the 4:00 shuttle; we were out of the room at 3:58 and right on time. Sadness: the lovely shops at the airport were still shut -- one downside of an early morning flight! But time passed and we're now halfway through our flight to Amsterdam. Happy to be homeward bound!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Acanthus Stitch-a-Long, part 3

Hi everyone! I'll cut to the chase here. I didn't get as much done this time as I wish I had. But here's where I was last time:


And here's where I am this time:


One of the challenges I had was looking at the different greens in the gray-green leaves. There are three more shades of pale green in this part:


Even in yarn it's not super easy to tell how many colors there are!


I had hoped to get both the gray-green leaves and the browny-green leaves done, and haven't quite finished filling in the second gray-green leaf. Again, it's difficult to see progress from the front of this brightly colored canvas, so here's the back from the last check-in:


And here's the back now:


I'll actually be away for one of the three weeks before our next check in, but I really REALLY hope to finish the pair of browny-green leaves and roll the canvas for real.

The other stitchers in this stitch-a-long have undoubtedly been more productive than I have this term, so check out everyone's blogs to see what they're all up to.

Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, Sue, Constanze, Christina, Kathy, Margaret, CindyHeidi, Jackie, Hayley, Megan, Deborah, Mary MargaretRenee, Carmela, Jocelyn, SharonDaisy, AnneConnieAJ, and welcome back to Jenny.

See you on March 8th for our next check-in!


Saturday, February 15, 2020

ScrapHappy Afghan part 2

Hi everyone! It's time for ScrapHappy Day!


It's been really satisfying to work on this project and I'm really happy to announce that I've made it through one color pass!

Here's where I was last time:


And here's where I am now:


I'm also thrilled that I actually finished up one of the colors! One down, 14 to go...

Here's an odd thing -- I might be running low on the black yarn that I am using as the "lead" between the greys. I wonder if I'll have to buy more yarn to finish this scrap piece?!?!? I think that's okay. There might even be some deep down in the stash, and I promise to look there first.

I have decided, however, that any leftover yarn will be donated and out of my house. Of course, that's a loooong way from now.

ScrapHappy Day is organized by Kate and Gun, so if you're interested in participating please see their blogs. And my fellow ScrapHappy Stitchers are super creative, visit their blogs to see how they're using up some of their scraps.

Kate, Gun, Titti, Heléne, Eva, Sue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda, Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan, Moira, Sandra, Linda, Chris, Nancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline, and Sue L.

Our next check in is on March 15; I hope to be halfway through another color pass by then!


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Travel Tuesday : Karnak (the Magnificent)

Karnak village -- and the temple -- is just up the road from the Sofitel Karnak. One morning we got up at 5:30, and were out the door before 6 to go to Karnak Temple.


Perfect timing. Other than the fact that the guards made us do a big loop past an empty set of stores to get to the ticket booth (rather than walking 100 feet past the guards directly to the booth), it was perfect. Hardly any people, no one trying to be our guide, lovely pink sunrise. Glorious.



We wandered around for a couple of hours -- the hypostyle hall was amazing -- so many pillars!










It's all a bit overwhelming -- I keep feeling like I'm in a movie set, which is ridiculous, but... Really liked Hatchepsut's obelisks, the "botanical garden" reliefs, the massive pylon gates.





One enterprising guard had moved the "area closed - no entry" sign but pulled the metal gates across the opening. When we got close, he noisily moved the gates and kept telling us it was okay. But we didn't want the hassle. Around 8:30 we walked back to the hotel, where we had breakfast and then hung out by the pool.



Me with Sekhmet, the lion-headed goddess ... who has a feast day in some traditions on December 31. #twinning

In the early evening we took the shuttle -- getting dropped off at Karnak and then feeling silly because it was so close -- but as Wil said, it will have given the package tourists something to talk about.


We had dinner at Nefertari again, because the owner and the food were both lovely. We met the owner on our first visit, a kind man who had studied in Walthamstow and had a shop in Bristol. Wil's tummy had been bothering him again, so we asked if he could just have some rice and steamed veg -- simple. I had some mezze: babaganoush, tabbouleh, and falafel. When it came it was perfect -- lovely fresh, clean food. Very nice -- best falafel ever.


I definitely had the better dinner, but it's what Wil needed...
Then walked from there to Karnak temple, where we bought the Very Expensive tickets to the Sound & Light show. 100 LE!


It was very different than the one at Giza. In this one you walked from place to place in the temple and learned different things along the way.



Kinda cool to walk around with the temple lit up like that.



It ended in the seats overlooking the sacred lake, which was a bit of an anticlimax. Still, nice. And very different from the one at the pyramids.




Then home, where we stayed up late, sitting outside and finishing the bourbon.