Monday, April 18, 2011

Visiting the Sphinx and a rough finish to the day

Hello, blogland. I'm posting here safe and sound from my apartment in Robeson County. While so many are suffering from loss and devastation after Saturday's storms, the only after affect for me are the mystery shingles scattered across my yard. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who were so much less fortunate.

I wanted to share a few more layouts and stories from my Egyptian vacation. After our exciting camel ride, we headed over to the Sphinx. Again, words kind of escape me. It's just so amazing to see such iconic sites in person. I was able to wander into the temple area just in front of the Sphinx's feet, but I never figured out how to get any closer than that. I did discover the dangers of allowing friendly Egyptians to 'show' you great places to take photos (that you were already heading towards all by yourself). If you let them engage you and they can manage to show you where to take the picture, you're gonna have to tip them. Ugh. That was definitely one of the more trying aspects of the trip. Anyway, I was feeling a little 'artsy' with this layout, so I experimented with placing the photo in an unusual location. (and I played with my Glimmer Mists, always a happy thing) I like how it turned out:

As we walked back to the bus, I told Alton that I was starting to feel pretty bad. I had been drinking as much water as I could make myself, but it was hot, hot, hot, and I guess it was too much for me. Poor Alton had to beg a plastic bag off our fellow tourists, and, yurk!, up came all that icky water. Bleh. I was pretty miserable at that point. And embarassed. And terrified that I was going to get sick every day of the entire trip (spoiler alert: I did NOT vomit again after this first day, thank goodness).

Our bus took us from the Giza plains to Saqqara, where earlier step pyramids had been built. We started our visit in a mastaba, and were admiring some of the carvings on the walls when I started to feel nauseous again. One of the 'guides' tried to convince me to puke on the floor of the mastaba. He indicated that they could just cover it up with sand. What a ridiculous idea! I couldn't decide if he was trying to be nice, or if he was going to try to charge me some outrageous fine if I actually did it, but it seemed like an incredibly disrespectful idea to me. So back to the bus I went for another round with the plastic bag, my new best friend. I stayed in the back trying to stay cool-ish and dozing a bit. Alton and the others got to climb inside of one of the step pyramids (hence my regret on passing up on the opportunity earlier in the day). I remained in the bus, feeling miserable during the visit to Memphis, and then when everyone went to lunch, I STILL kept my seat. Alton brought me a coke from lunch, and that was all I had until late in the evening. I did manage to make it off the bus for the tour of the rug factory (I shared that layout a month or two ago), but I was soooo glad when we finally arrived back at the hotel and I could stumble up to our genuinely COOL room.

Needless to say, I did not take many photos from the rest of that day. Instead, I borrowed an image that Alton took of a statue that I did see from the bus window, to create my layout about everything I missed that day:

I have one more layout from that long, miserable ride in the bus. As we were leaving Memphis, I saw these two cute little children waving at us. They were standing in front of some date plants that were drying in the sun. I thought they would make a sweet little photo. Just as I snapped the shutter, I realized that the little boy was, erm, flashing us! I was torn between laughing and being utterly offended. So I added a little modesty dot to the photo, and made a layout to tell the story:

I'm not sure what that behavior was about. Later in the tour, others, including Alton, saw another young man engaging in the same behavior. I don't know if it was a reaction to our cameras, or to our non-Egyptianness. It was one of the few examples of ugly behavior that I witnessed on our trip.

Hmm, I have shared two somewhat icky stories/layouts today. I don't think I have any more stories like this for the entire rest of my Egypt vacation. They just happened to have both occurred on the same day of the trip, and hence, to be told together.

Happy crafting, everyone, and stay safe!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The laughing camel and other desert tales

In addition to marveling at pyramids themselves, I spent some time on the Giza plateau looking for interesting images. I wanted something to capture a bit of how I felt being there. Because, if you looked towards the pyramids, you saw, in addition to the wonder itself, the crowds of tourists and hucksters and the trash they leave behind. But look the other direction, and a vast, empty space opened out before you. This picture, and the layout I created for it, is my attempt to capture that vastness:

I noticed after I had everything glued down that I managed to get the whole thing a bit crooked, but I wasn't going to rip it up and start over, so I'm stuck with it. I used papers from the Hello Luscious line of Basic Grey, and the rest is all Prima product. I left a lot of empty space, because it didn't feel right to fill the page up with 'stuff'.

So I think I hinted in my last post that I was going to talk about riding camels. Yes, riding a camel is something that I was specifically looking forward to as a part of my Egyptian experience. I warned Alton that we would have the chance to take a camel ride while we were at the pyramids. He pointed out that you could ride a camel at the state fair, if you really wanted to. I rolled my eyes and said it wasn't the same thing (and it's not). Anyway, as we stopped at each pyramid, I looked around to see if this was the place where we would get the chance to ride a camel. Finally, finally, some distance away from the 3rd pyramid, heading out into the desert, we had our chance. In this first layout, I used a picture Alton took of the camel that I rode:

I used all Websters Pages products on this layout (except the foundation cardstock and the prima screen). The journaling reads "I'm pretty sure that camel is laughing at me. I'd been looking forward to the camel rides all morning. When the time came, Alton passed, but I was ready to go. What an experience. The transition from sitting to standing was somewhat terrifying, and the gait was odd. But oh, what fun! We walked a ways into the desert and back. My camel was in the lead, and I guided him without help from our guide for part of the way. Such a thrilling thing, to gaze at the oceans of sand, and then the pyramids, from atop that beast. But man, what an incredible stink, too!"

Yeah, the camels were really smelly. And when they stand up, they straighten their back feet first, and then raise their front legs. It's rather disconcerting. But I absolutely loved the experience. And once you get used to their gait, it's pretty comfortable. I tried to capture the bright colors of the saddle and blankets the camels were all wearing in this layout.

This final layout is a double page layout, and includes photos of the actual camel ride. Alton was snapping away as I started, and then my guide took a couple of photos once we were out in the desert. I decided to write little captions on the photos. Each caption shares the thoughts running through my head as the whole event unrolled. I don't usually use this method, but it seemed to fit with this set of pictures.

Most of this layout was made using PinkPaislee product. I used the pom pom trim on both this layout and the one before to echo the tassles that the camel was wearing. The title comes from the fact that camels are referred to as the ships of the desert.

I leave you with a closeup of the three funniest pictures either of us took during our entire vacation. Alton used the rapid shot feature on his camera to catch the expression on my face as my camel stood up. It's a little embarassing, but too funny not to share. It was a freakin' crazy experience:

And by the way, if you want to get a really good view of my funny expressions, or a better look at the double spread, just click on the picture to get to the enlarged version.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Great Pyramids of Giza

Yeah! I think I'm finally really ready to get this Egypt album going! I made two more layouts last night and this morning. They are made to lay beside each other, and they are both layouts using photos from our visit to the Giza plateau.

This first layout shows some "we were there" photos in front of Khufu's (aka Cheops) pyramid. Alton and I both tend to take very few 'people oriented' photographs when we are on vacation. But every once in a while we take a minute to get pictures of ourselves to prove that we were actually there. These are a couple of those photos. I think you can tell how very bright and sunny it was that day. And hot. Quite hot and quite dry. You may also notice that the sky is a bit hazy, although that may be more obvious in the next layout. The pollution was noticable much of the time that we were there.

The pyramids were the very first site we visited, at the beginning of a very long day of sightseeing. We stopped at each of the three pyramids, and took a bus between them. While you could go inside of Khufu's pyramid for a small fee, we elected not to pay the extra money because our guide promised us that we could go inside of a step pyramid later in the day for free. In light of later events, I regret not having taken the opportunity. More on that later.

Words cannot express how amazing it was to stare up at these ancient structures. It didn't impact me emotionally in the same way that Stonehenge did, but it was powerful all the same. And check out the tourism policeman on his camel:

Hee hee. We quickly learned that they would cheerfully pose for a photo... for a small fee. Luckily, I was able to use my zoom lens, get a decent photo, and avoid having to baksheesh the guy.

I'm not positive about this, but I think the story I'm about to tell may have been the highlight of the day for Alton... As we were walking around the side of the second pyramid, climbing over ruins and looking for the most interesting angles to capture the pyramid, we saw quite a few camel guides. One gentleman asked us if we wanted to ride, and Alton said no. When he asked again, Alton replied, "I said no camels!" This line is from one of the Indiana Jones movies, and Alton had been hoping that Egypt would provide the perfect opportunity to work the quote into a conversation. And it happened on the first day! Of course, Alton might say "no camels," but my opinion on the subject is an entirely different matter. More on that later too.

While my scrap mojo is heating up, my stitching mojo seems to be in a bit of a slump. I was going to work on charting my stag this afternoon, but it's so overcast that I decided to put it off in hopes of a sunnier day later in the week. I don't know what's going on with this weather, but it's driving me a bit nuts... tank top weather on Monday and sweater weather on Tuesday. So crazy! And with regards to the stitching mojo, maybe it'll come back when I get an order I'm waiting on from Shakespeare's Peddler. Somehow, I doubt it'll stay dormant for too long. It never does.

Til next time, stay safe, stay creative.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Longing for Egypt

Hello strangers! Things have been very busy around here, and as a result, I have been a total slacker about updating my blog. I'm back today with a layout from my Egypt album, a finished pin pillow, a cat story, and a new acquisition.

First, there's my new layout. This page had been sitting on my scrap table for a couple of weeks, waiting for sufficient inspiration to be completed. Then today, I was stuck sitting in court ALL DAY LONG. What does that have to do with scrapbooking? Just this: I decided to relieve the tedium of my unproductive day by reading a book, specifically, James Patterson's "The Murder of King Tut." I found myself thinking longingly of my time in Egypt. And suddenly, the desire to get that layout created was there. So here she is, nothing super fancy:

I don't think you can read the journaling, so I'm going to repeat it here:

It took only minutes from our arrival at the Cairo airport to realize how truly alien we were to this country. As we walked from the airport to the waiting van, we saw our first men in galabeas, and clusters of women in their robes and/or head scarves.
The ride to our hotel was an experience. The crazy drivers put the Romans to shame! I've never seen people with so little regard for the rules of the road... including the notion that staying in one lane was a good idea! The streets and alleyways we passed were filthy. Many of the buildings were only partially complete... possibly to avoid taxes due on unfinished homes.
As we neared our hotel, many of the side streets were dirt, much as they might have been millenia ago. And then we passed a cluster of camels, wearily podding home after a day at the pyramids. I was overwhelmed, intimidated, but excited. I think I was falling in love with a country.

What isn't in the journaling: we knew that we couldn't drink the tap water (or brush our teeth with tap water), so one of our first orders of business after checking into the hotel was to find some bottled water. The gentleman from our tour company had told us that there was a small kiosk around the corner from the hotel where we could get reasonably priced water. So after finding our hotel room, and paying a visit to the atm, we headed out the door. As soon as we stepped onto the sidewalk, we were accosted by an Egyptian trying to sell us... I couldn't even tell you what. It was so intimidating! He acted like we had met him at checkin (we hadn't) and started asking us all sorts of questions about what we were looking for. We turned the corner and saw a tiny little stand with drinks and snacks. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man in a white military uniform with a very large gun stand up and walk towards us (Alton says he didn't notice this at all). I figured he was there to make sure we weren't being excessively harassed, but it was still weird. We got our bottles of water (less than a dollar apiece, very reasonable), and headed straight back to our hotel, the man who 'knew us' trailing us the whole way. I can't begin to tell you how strange and stressful that whole situation seemed to me. (weird, I know, but it just seemed like so much to have to cope with being bombarded as soon as we stepped out the door). We decided to stick with a hotel restaurant rather than try to find a place outside the hotel for dinner. You got used to the constant huckstering, but that first day, it was just... almost too much (for me, I'm sure Alton didn't feel that way).
So there your have it, our very first experiences on our very first day in Cairo. And continuing with the Egypt theme, I finished my limited edition project created by Shakespeare's Peddler in honor of the recent Egyptian revolution. I snagged a bit of chenille trim from Mom to finish it. Here's the front:

and here's the back:

This was a crazy quick stitch, and I love this little guy!
In my last post, I mentioned that my dear, sweet little cats had exercised a little destructive creativity of their own in my scrap space. I thought you might like to see exactly what I was talking about:

Sigh! Someday, I'm going to move out of this crummy little apartment and into a house, and when I do, I'm going to have a dedicated scrap space that is NOT in my living room. And this dream scrap space is going to have a door. A door that I can use to keep curious kitties away from my ribbons and flowers and things. Because some of my cats love my scrapbook products almost as much as I do!
One of the other things that I've been up to is graphing this little guy:

Yups, sometime soonish (meaning October, perhaps), you'll be seeing a reproduction chart of this sampler being offered by Cherished Stitches. I bought this sampler on sale, because I loved the bright pinks and turquoises of the border, and I thought the stag was cute. All that's left for me to do is graph the stag and pull the colors. Then I get to stitch, stitch, stitch away! I hope others will like this sampler as much as I do, and I will share progress photos once I am able to get to work on it. I'm hoping to get started on the stitching after the Easter holiday. We'll see.
That's all for today. If the scrap bug stays with me, maybe I'll have some more Egypt stories and layouts to share later this week. But maybe not. I've put off doing my tax returns to nearly the last minute, and I have another busy week in court ahead of me. Til next time, happy crafting everyone!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Why my cats might go hungry this month

Dear Tigger and Spike:

Yes, I know the two of you are responsible, so stop trying to blame the others. I forgave you for scattering some 40 bottles of glimmer mist across my floor while I was at work. But then I went to pay the bills. I needed a new book of checks, so I went to the usual location. Strangely, there were no checks there. I looked around, moved a few items. No checks. Panic began to set in... had some crazy burglar broke in, stole some checks, and then slipped out, locking the doors behind him?

Then I saw them. Scattered across a corner of the floor, under my desk, and behind a trash can. Really? You took my checks? What were you planning on doing with them, little kitties? They can't taste all that great, and they don't do anything interesting when you bat at them. But they do pay for things. Like cat food. Better think twice before you hide things that are necessary for your survival, little guys. Being cute won't get you far when your 'momma' ain't got a dime.

your grumpy person