Category Archives: Travel

Double Whammy – Iron Maiden and Sewing Expo

As usual, it’s been busy at Keep It Thimble this week! But this week had not one, but two special events that I have been anticipating for a long time.

The first one was the kick-off concert for the Iron Maiden U.S. Tour in Charlotte, NC.  My husband is a HUGE fan and I got him tickets to this for his birthday.  We left Thursday afternoon and arrived in Charlotte just in time to see the Opening Act – none other than Alice Cooper.  Fittingly, he ended his set with the classic song “School’s Out for the Summer.”

Iron Maiden – Charlotte, NC

Iron Maiden took the stage at 9pm sharp and rocked out for 2 solid hours without a break.  For a bunch of dudes in their mid-fifties, it’s amazing how much energy they have.  This tour was a retrospective of their music, so they played a lot of fan favorites.  The stage show featured  amazing pyrotechnics, a 10 foot tall Eddie, a phantom organist, a feast of other visual sights and sounds, and of course Bruce Dickson dancing and running all over the stage.  Definitely worth the price of admission.

Sewing Expo – Raleigh Convention Center

We got home very late that night, but I was able to catch a few hours sleep before my next exciting event – the Sewing Expo at the Raleigh convention center!  I have been waiting for years for the Sewing Expo to come to Raleigh and so I was thrilled when I found out it was going to be here in June.

Sharon (aka Liberty Rose) at Primitive Gatherings Booth

Sharon (aka Liberty Rose) at Primitive Gatherings Booth

The expo featured several local vendors and some from places as far away as Oregon, Wisconsin, Florida and Texas.  My favorite booth, hands down, was Lisa Bonegan’s “Primitive Gatherings” – packed to the brim with wool applique projects, wool, and patterns.  And can you see who is in the picture I took at the booth – Ms. Sharon Stewart herself (aka, Liberty Rose).  I caught her in the act of making a “few” purchases.

House Blocks @ Sewing Expo

The expo also featured a ton of quilting, sewing, and applique classes.  Sadly, I didn’t have time to take any classes, but I plan to do so the next time it is in town.   They also had a quilt show feature Quilts of Valor and several quilts from various McCall’s contest.  My favorite display was the “There’s No Place Like Home” one which featured about 100 different blocks shaped like a houses.  I thought this was a cute idea I might try for some type of online quilting activity.  What do you think?

Keep it Thimble!

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Barcelona Day 2 – Gaudi and the Zoo

I figured Sunday in Barcelona would be relatively quiet and it might be hard to find things to do.  Was I wrong!   The fountain in the above picture was near my hotel – Barcelona is a city full of fountains, parks, circles, and other places where you can meet up and enjoy the fresh air.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

The day started with a trip to a famous cathedral designed by Gaudi called La Sagrada Familia.  This is huge church that began construction in 1882 and is not expected to be finished for another 30 years.  It is a MUST SEE if you go to Barcelona.  The original architect died in 1927 and other people have worked on it, so you can see an interesting mixture of old and new architecture.  The picture doesn’t do it justice.

Casa Mila

Gaudi has designed a fair number of buildings in the city that showcase his distinctive expressionistic and organic style.  What’s interesting about his buildings, is that most of them are still being used the way they were originally intended.  I passed another one of his buildings called Casa Mila which was designed to be multi-family housing and is now a hotel in the upscale retail district.

Park Guell

One of the other jewels that Gaudi designed for Barcelona is Park Guell, which can best be described as a garden city.  It is located high up in the hills (so be prepared to walk up hill for about 20 minutes to get there).  Once you are there you can walk to the very top (marked by a stone cross) and see a breathtaking panoramic view of the city.

Park Guell - Cross at the top

From this view you can also clearly see La Sagrada Familia in the distance and see how large and dominant it is to its surroundings.

View of La Sagrada Familia from Park Guell

You can also walk down to the park entrance where you will see a magnificent entrance with two smaller buildings designed by Gaudi and a double staircase.

Park Guell Entrance

The entrance is presided over by the famous Gaudi Dragon.  Visitors to the park rub the dragon’s head for luck.

Park Guell - Dragon

Muro is another famous architect from Barcelona, so after spending some time at Park Guell I headed over to Parc Joan Muro.  This is a very large park with a playground, tennis courts, and a reflecting pool that is dominated by a Muro sculpture.  The perfect place to hang out, eat a quick bite, and rest my feet!

Parc Joan Muro

The next big event was the Barcelona Zoo.  On the way to the zoo I had to walk through the Arc de Triomf and to my surprise, I caught the tail end of the Barcelona marathon.  The runners were on the last leg of the race and there was a large crowd cheering them on.  I’m sure seeing the Arc provided enough inspiration to make it to the end.

Arc De Triomf - with Marathon

The zoo was spectacular!!  I love going to the zoo, and the Barcelona one is beautiful and well worth the trip.  You can get really close to most of the animals, which is always fun.  My two favorites this time were the giant anteater and the komodo dragon.  I couldn’t get a good picture of the anteater since he was hanging out in the back of his enclosure.  The komodo dragon was very entertaining.  He put on quick a show for us and I could have watched him all day.

Komodo Dragon

Speaking of entertainment, the chimps were in fine form!  A group of them started begging for food by raising their arms up in the air, throwing up their hands, and pleading for someone to throw them some small morsel.

Chimps begging for food!

The giant turtle was also pretty amazing.   They always seem so peaceful and harmless to me, even though they are so large.

Peaceful Turtle

The caimans (relatives of gators) were obviously up to no good.  I have no idea what they were smiling at, but I was glad to have a thick piece of glass protecting me!

Smiling Caimans

Last but not least, I saw a real live teddy bear!  The brown bear was curled up in a nice patch of sun and snoozed away most of the day.  There were a bunch of other animals, but unfortunately there is not enough room to put up all 67 pictures I took!  Trust me, you need to visit this zoo if you go to Spain.

Real Teddy Bear

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my trip!  Hopefully I will get to travel someplace exciting again.  Keep It Thimble!

Barcelona Day 1 – Quilt Shop Tour and Other Sites


Samples in Dona Quilt Shop

I’m back from my trip to…. Barcelona!  Work was the primary reason for going, but I managed to have two whole days of sightseeing.  I walked from one end of the city to the other and had a great time looking at all the beautiful parks, buildings, churches, and quilt shops!  Yes, that’s right, Barcelona is home to at least 12 quilt shops (more if you count stores outside the city center) and my plan was to visit all of them.  This website –  www.cosman.nl – lists quilt shops in Europe and I used this to generate an itinerary.  Since I have so much to tell about my trip, I will split this into two posts – one today and one tomorrow, so be sure to check back!

Mouth-watering Gelato!

First, a brief word about the food, specifically the treats!  I am not a huge foodie, but I do love cakes, candy, and ice cream.  Barcelona does not disappoint, you can find some type of candy store, gelato parlor, or bakery on every corner!  The treats are arranged in eye catching ways and you can’t wake by too many of them without eventually being tempted to stop and indulge.

Bakery Near Hotel

Bakery Near Hotel

This bakery was next to my hotel and I stopped in each evening to pick up a little something to enjoy before going to bed.  Meringue is very popular there and it is usually dipped in chocolate or flavored with some type of fruit.

Delicious Candy!

My first chance at sightseeing was on Friday night.  I was done with my business and had an evening to my self.  I wandered around the Gothic and Las Ramblas districts since they were close to my hotel.  I stumbled upon a chamber orchestra practicing Vivaldi’s Four Season in a beautiful cathedral.  They were giving a proper concert later that night, but the rehearsal was open and it sounded as beautiful as an actual concert.

Concert rehearsal in cathedral

When I walked out of the cathedral, I found myself in the middle of festive processional.  The procession was headed by these large figurines – they are basically large puppets and someone gets inside the base and navigates the figure.  A children’s band plays music and they throw out candy to the spectators! I followed them for a few minutes and then headed back to the hotel for the night.

Festive Procession in Gothic Quarter

Saturday was the day earmarked for the whirlwind quiltshop tour.  Unfortunately, due to jet lag I didn’t start until about 11am, which was a problem since on Saturdays many of these shops close at 2pm!  I did manage to visit a few shops – Nunoya, Fet a Ma, and Lola Botona, but not see as many as I would have liked.

Lola Botona Quilt Shop

I am most disappointed I didn’t get to go inside Dona as this was the largest by far and the display windows (see picture above) were packed with projects and ideas.

Dona Storefront

This picture on BCN Patchwork’s gate is adorable.  Too bad this is the only thing I could see!

BCN Patchwork Storefront

However, from the few shops I visited, it was obvious that things were way out of my price range.  Basically, these shops have the same fabric available in the states – Moda, Robert Kaufman, Batiks, etc. but it is $25 a yard, versus the $10 – $12 a yard!  They also have the same books — but again, these are priced at least double.  There was a very simple pincushion pattern that would sell for $5 here, but cost $20.   The shops had lots of attractive samples and I got a few ideas (you can’t take pictures in the shops so I have to rely on my memory).  So for all my friends who wanted me to get you some fabric while on my trip, I am sorry to say I came back empty handed.  However how about we hit up the local quilt shops and buy it for half price :)?

Baghangers Barcelona - House Purse

I did find one unexpected surprise, a purse shop called “Baghangers Barcelona.”  This was a small shop packed with lots of novelty purse made out of leather.  They had a pumpkin, tomato, Noah’s Ark, porcupine, and tons of other clever purses.

Porcupine and Owl Purses

Since I didn’t buy any fabric, I splurged and purchased a Mushroom House purse.  I couldn’t resist how cute and colorful it was!

Mushroom Purse from Baghangers Barcelona

Well, that’s the end of Day One!  Check back tomorrow for Day Two which features my trip to the Zoo!

Keep it thimble!

Civil War Blocks Update

I still am way behind on my Civil War Tribute quilt, but several blocks for the other quilt I am working on are finished.

Civil War Block

Civil War Block

I am in the middle of packing for a big trip – destination to be revealed in a later blog post (don’t tell anyone mom!) but wanted to make a quick post before I left.  I hope to blog while traveling, as I think I will have some exciting pictures to share with you.

Civil War Block

Civil War Block

In the meantime, here are four new blocks.  I don’t have time to look up the names right now, but I will post them later.  The names are as fan as the blocks!

Civil War Block

Civil War Block

As you can see from the photos, I have a hard time getting my blocks nice and flat.  I swear the iron is on the hottest setting and has lots of steam, but I still end up with puffy blocks.  If anyone has a sure-fire way to get these to lay flatter, please let me know!

Civil War Block

Civil War Block

Keep it Thimble!

 

Fall Mini-Vacation

Just before Halloween, I planned a fun mini-vacation for the family.  Statesville, NC was having their annual Balloonfest and it seemed like a fun event for a little getaway.

Gourds!

We got to Statesville on Friday morning and decided to take a drive over to Zootastic Park.  This is a privately owned Animal with tigers, monkeys, snakes, and other exotic animals.  It wasn’t crowded and we pretty much got a personal tour of the place.

Tortoise - Zootastic Park

I highly recommend this place, and it’s great for kids!  After we left, we got back to Statesville just in time to see the Balloons launch for the festival.  Balloon launches are usually done at 8am or 5pm as these times present the best lighting, weather, and wind conditions for a safe launch.  As you can see, the sky was filled with balloons.  My son was very taken by this and said they looked like “beautiful diamonds in the sky” (no, I am not making this up 🙂 ).  He could hardly believe it when we drove right up to the field and could see everything close up.

Balloonfest - Statesville, NC

His favorite balloon was the Flying Purple People Eater.  Although he noted that this version had more than one eye and one horn.

Flying Purple People Eater - Statesville, NC

We walked around the festival for awhile, ate some junk food, and listened to some live music.  The next morning we went panning for emeralds at the Hiddenite Mine.  This was a fun, but dirty activity.  Essentially you are sloshing mud and dirt around in a sluice so that you can find some treasures.  I had the best luck of the group and found some nice quartz stones.  My son saved all of the large rocks he found – even the ones that were just rocks!

Highland Cow - Zootastic Park

On the way home, we stop at the NC Zoo.  Since it was close to Halloween they were doing a special program about Vampire bats!  We got to observe the bats in a dark cave (with infrared lighting) and also saw them drinking blood – from a feeding station not from a human!

All in all, it was a great way to spend two days – and fairly cheap as well!

Keep it Thimble!