Saturday, May 28, 2011

Boarding the MS Miriam, and the misadventures of Gus the cat

When we left Karnak Temple, we drove over to the river and boarded the MS Miriam for the first time. We were welcomed on board with a cup a hyacinth tea while we waited for our room assignments. I discovered that I do not care for hyacinth tea, it is far too bitter for my tastes. Our room was small, but not too small. We had two twin beds, a desk, a table, and two chairs. We were on the topmost deck (not including the roof of the boat), and we had a large window that we could open if we chose. The bathroom was also small, but adequate. The biggest problem was that my "two-story man" as our guide referred to Alton, was so tall that he couldn't stand straight up in the shower without smashing his head into the ceiling.

I had never been on a cruise before. What a fabulous place to initiate myself into the wonders of cruising! That day, we started what became the basic routine for the next week: sight seeing in the morning, relaxing on board and admiring the scenery in the afternoon, and sometimes additional sightseeing in the late evening. We would eat nearly every meal in the dining room below, and relax in the lounge chairs on the top deck during the late afternoon. When it was too hot, we would simply stay in our cabin, napping or watching the scenery from the cool comfort of our little room.

Here's the layout I made about our cruise ship:

I used mostly Webster's Pages product on this page. I hid my journaling underneath the large photo. That little bit you see sticking out is a journaling card that slides out from underneath. The journaling is basically a description of our room and the method used for docking each night. If you look at the smaller photo, you will see three ships stacking up against each other at the shoreline. Every night, this is what we would do. I think the most I saw stacked together at once was 6 ships. In order to get to shore, you would walk through the lobbies of each successive boat til you reached the dock. What an efficient way to get the maximum number of boats docked in one location!

I had been thinking about creating one of those flag titles that have been so popular recently, and this is my first try. I used some corrugated flags from Jillibean Soup and distressed them with a little gesso and Glimmer Glam:

And I added some extra flowers with pearl accents to the flowers that were already on the WP paper, as well as some WP tulle:

Once we were all settled with our cabins, the boat headed downriver (that's north on the Nile) towards Dendera. Apparently, the north is somewhat more hostile towards Americans (or Europeans, or both) than the south, so we had a mounted machine gun and two armed guards on board our boat during this part of our trip. I could have gotten photos of the men and their guns if I'd been willing to pay a little bribe, but I wasn't. You'd think that having an armed escort would be incredibly unsettling, but it wasn't. At least, not for me. I took tons, and tons, and tons of photos of what we saw as the riverbanks slid past us. This two page layout includes photos of some of the things we saw as we headed north:

We never ran out of things to look at during our Nile cruise. Tired as I might be, I found it hard to nap when I could be sitting at the window, or on the upper deck, watching this beautiful country slip by. Five times a day, the air would be filled with the sounds of the muzzerains calling the Muslim faithful to prayer. It's hard to describe the call: it was kind of deep and buzzing. Very exotic sounding to this little southern gal!

On a completely different subject...

My boyfriend has two beautiful white cats living in his apartment in Durham. They are indoor cats, although, when he lived in New Jersey, he would allow them outside for a few hours at a time on nice days. They have never been outside since moving to North Carolina. Never, that is, until Sunday, when I got woken up by a phone call from Alton early Sunday morning. "I can't find Gus," he said. He realized the little guy was gone when Gus didn't wake him up crying for food that morning, and figured the cat must have darted outside sometime the evening before. To make matters worse, he was leaving for a week long business trip in just a few minutes. Can there be any worse feeling than knowing that a loved pet is out on his own, and you can't even be around to look for him?

Over the space of the next 3 days, I drove up to help look, and two of his brothers came over at various times to search as well. I put signs up all over the complex. But no Gus. Finally, I made arrangements to come in late for work on Wednesday morning and drove up to Durham late on Tuesday to spend the night and hunt for Gus in the park behind the complex. It was my hope that either I'd find him there at night, or that he'd turn up at Alton's door the next morning looking for breakfast. After unloading my car and scarfing down a quick dinner, I headed out on my search. And what did I see as I turned the corner, but the little guy himself, white fur glowing against the night-dark bushes! He was incredibly filthy, and furious with me for daring to pick him up and tote him to the apartment, but otherwise seemed none the worse for wear. Alton and I both suspect that the dumb cat had the time of his life wandering around outside for 3 nights straight, and that we were the only ones foolish enough to think that it was a bad thing that he was loose! Alton says Gus is now so grounded that he can't even LOOK at the outdoors anymore. I'm just left wondering yet again how such small things can create such big places in our hearts.

And I leave you with the following, possibly useful, bit of info... I've heard several people complaining about problems posting to others' blogs this week. I have also heard that clearing your caches and deleting your cookies will solve the problem. I can't promise that it will work, but it can't hurt to try, right?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Flying to Luxor and stitching peek

Sheesh! Have I really gone over a month without posting on here? Ugh. Where does the time go? There's been a lot going on here recently. So much that I'm not going to try to put it all in one post. Instead, I'll just have to promise myself not to wait so long before I update again. Today, I'm going to share some layouts and stories about our first day in Luxor, and share a little about my progress on my reproduction sampler. Then tomorrow, I hope to blog about Gus the cat's misadventures and our Nile cruise ship.

We left Cairo early in the morning for our flight to Luxor. Security was verrry different from what we experience here in the US. Having the metal detector go off didn't necessarily mean that you were going to be searched, and our tour guide distributed boarding passes at random. I ended up with a pass for someone named "Osama"! The flight was a little warm, but short. And the airport toilets made me thankful that I'd followed my guidebook's recommendation to bring my own toilet paper! As we walked out of the airport, Alton caught sight of a sign at the airport that he thought was kind of funny. So naturally, we have a picture of it that I have included in this tag:

"Smile You are in Luxor International Airport" the sign says. Who smiles because they are in a particular airport? Really, the sign was kind of funny. Here's the entire layout I made, documenting my impressions of the city of Luxor:

After the filth and dirt of Cairo, the cleanliness of Luxor was striking. And I was amused to see a few buildings that were strongly reminiscent of the Mos Eisley spaceport in Star Wars. I guess I now know where Speilberg got his architectural inspiration!
From the airport, we drove straight to the Karnak Temple complex. This place was huge! As we approached we crossed a bridge that went over an avenue of sphinxes that stretches from Karnak Temple to Luxor Temple. In ancient times, you could walk the sphinx lined avenue for two miles to travel between the two temples. Here's my layout showing what some of the excavated avenue looks like now:

I colored the flowers on the layout with some glimmer mist. I wanted to capture some of the brightness and heat of the day in this layout. Because, let me tell you, Luxor is where we began to experience the REAL heat! I didn't check on the temperature every day, but I suspect that we were in the triple digits from the time we arrived til the time we returned to Cairo. The hottest temperature that we discussed during our time in southern Egypt was 113 degrees. Think about walking around a hot desert in that heat! Anyway, here's a closeup of the flowers I colored:

I made a two page layout to show some of what we saw inside the temple complex. I regret the decision to splash ink across the layout. But I do not regret it so much that I am going to redo the pages. The horizontal photo shows the view from the entrance to the complex, and the remainder of the photos are from various locations inside the complex. It was such a huge space! And do you see the obelisk in one of the bottom photos? Originally, there were two obelisks standing there. If you are familiar with the obelisk in Paris, France known as "La Madeleine," then you have seen the mate to the one pictured in my layout.

One of the things that I had most been looking forward to seeing at the Karnak Temple was the hall of giant columns. I was familiar with the location mainly through my readings of Elizabeth Peter's "Amelia Peabody" series. There are a couple of scenes in her novels where her heroine or a member of her family finds themselves wandering through that forest of stone columns, either attempting to spy on others within the hall, or trying to evade a nefarious villain. I love those books, and I was thrilled to no end to get to see how truly easy it would be to stand behind one of those columns and be completely unknown to persons just a few feet away! Alton caught a photo of me standing against one of those columns, and I used it to make this layout to express the awe I felt standing in that space:

In other news, I have been working on my reproduction sampler whenever I get the chance these days. I have decided to stitch my piece on 40 count "straw" hand-dyed linen from Weeks Dye Works. The original is stitched on a much coarser count of linen, but I wanted to shrink my piece down from the original, giant size of the finished design. I am using mostly NPI silks, with a couple of Au Ver a Soie silks and one Belle Soie added to the mix. She used a lot of colors in her sampler, some of them for less than 10 stitches! I don't know how you feel when you first start a piece, but for me, there's always this sense that I'm holding my breath, waiting to see if I've completely botched it with my fabric or fiber selection. The good news on this piece is that the colors of the flower border just sing on this piece of fabric. The bad news is, the photo I am going to leave you with doesn't do justice to piece itself.

I hope the finished piece will look as pretty as the beginning does! Ooh, I just looked out the window, and it is black as night out there, even though it's only 3pm. I think that's my sign that it's time to get off the computer. Happy creating everyone!