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With the caveat that I’ve tried to do due diligence to discover whether this is already a named tangle, here is Spangles, a new Boomeresque tangle.

Spangles

It’s a little embarrassing to admit that the genesis of this tangle is nothing in particular. I suspect it started when I was doing some old-fashioned, traditional doodling while “watching” cable TV news. I find that keeping my hands occupied keeps me from throwing things at the television.

When I’m just mindlessly doodling (as opposed to mindfully using the Zentangle® method), I resort to very familiar shapes, such as stars. Over several months, my stars started to connect, forming interesting (to me, anyway) patterns. As usual, shading causes certain aspects to “pop”, providing depth to my composition.

Some weeks of increasingly mindful “starring”, produced a tangle I am naming, Spangles. If you’re from the United States, you might know where I’m going with this.

The Star Spangled Banner has been our national anthem since 1931. It is very difficult to sing well. Indeed, watching and listening to a soloist perform The Star Spangled Banner before sporting events and important occasions is sometimes as exciting or as cringe worthy as the main event itself. Beyonce nailed it at Barack Obama’s first inauguration. Roseanne Barr, not so much.

If you stop 10 Americans on the street and ask them to sing the first verse of the Star Spangled Banner, I’m guessing that at least eight of them us won’t be able to.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the Star Spangled Banner, read on. Otherwise, scroll down to the step-out for Spangles.

We Interrupt this Introduction of Spangles, a New Boomeresque Tangle, to Share Some Interesting (To Me) Facts about The Star Spangled Banner

Depiction of Francis Scott Key after the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Boston Harbor. By Edward Percy Moran (Wikimedia: Public Domain)

Most Americans learn early in their school careers that the Star Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key. Actually, a poem called The Defence of Fort M’Henry was written by Francis Scott Key during what Americans call the War of 1812 or the Second War for American Independence.

Mention the War of 1812 to one of your British friends, and expect to receive a blank stare. To Britain, the War of 1812 was a side show to the deadly Napoleonic Wars raging in Europe at the time. The main goal of the British was to keep the United States from invading and annexing Canada while Britain was otherwise all out engaged in the European war. As all my Canadian friends know, the British succeeded. Eh?

On the night of September 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key and a friend, found themselves aboard a British war ship in Baltimore Harbor, hoping to negotiate the release of a popular physician who had been taken prisoner by the British. They were invited to dine with the Commander of the fleet at which time they happened to overhear the British plan to take Baltimore. They actually succeeded in securing the release of the physician, but they were forced to remain with the British fleet until after the battle.

Key spent an anxious night watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British ships. At dawn, he was able to see that an American flag still flew over the fort and he was moved to write his poem, the first stanza of which describes his view of the battle.

It was Key’s brother-in-law who decided the poem should be set to the music of a popular song of the day, To Anacreon in Heaven, a/k/a The Anacreontic Song.

You may or more likely not be thinking, “Who or what was Anacreon?” I’ll save you the trip to Wikipedia. Anacreon was a Greek poet for whom drinking and love were popular themes. The music for the song was composed by John Stafford Smith for a short-lived English gentlemen’s club, the Anacreontic Society (c. 1766-1792), devoted to music and of course drinking.

So, my tangle, Spangles, was inspired by a poem about what would have been an obscure battle, set to an English drinking song that somehow morphed into the national anthem of the United States of America. Given its popularity at sporting events, many some of my fellow Americans think the last two words of the song are “Play ball.”

Step Outs for Spangles

Notes: Each star should have one point touching at least one point of another star. It’s even better if a star touches point to point on more than one star. The shading is most effective if you imagine the light source from one particular direction. This tangle works with either five or six pointed stars.

Copyright notice: You are free to “pin” these steps to your or another’s Pinterest account as long as you link back to this post which will happen automatically if you pin from here. You may print these steps with attribution for non-commercial use. If you wish to use these steps commercially, please contact me. 

Here are some examples of ways I’ve used Spangles. As you can see in the second example, the closer together the “stars” are the more non-objective the tangle looks — a good thing because technically, in the Zentangle method, tangles are supposed to be non-representational.

Spangles on a striped background.

Spangles with both 5 and 6 pointed stars and Dots, using Spearator as the string.

Spangles with Holligbaugh (from the Zentangle Mother Ship), Perfs/Pearls?, and the chain tangle I can embarrassingly never remember the name of. Please tell us in a comment if you know.

If you give Spangles a try, feel free to leave a link to your work with your comment below. (If you are receiving this post by email, if you want to leave a comment, you can do so by clicking here and scrolling down.)

Check out other tangles I’ve published on Boomeresque:  PhirstSegundoTerceroAurabeadAloha, Spearator, Springish, and Shorely

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Random photo taken in Europe (Orvieto, Italy) illustrating the type of beverage you may want to be consuming when you tackle the subject of GDPR compliance.

At a recent blogger conference, I foolishly responsibly attended a session about complying with the GDPR. This acronym stands for General Data Protection Regulation. Personally, I remember it by using it as a mnemonic for G-d Damn Privacy Regulation. If you find that mnemonic blasphemous, you could remember it as Gosh Darn Privacy Regulation. In any case, before setting a foot in that room, I should have remembered that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and ignorance is bliss.

Very, very basically, the GDPR sets forth the European Union (EU) legal requirements for websites gathering personal data, storing it, and disclosing to website visitors what the website does with the collected data, and how users can opt in or opt out of sharing any information with the website. The potential penalty for non-compliance with the regulation is 20 million euros or 4% of your annual income, whichever is higher. Note to EU GDPR Enforcers: I’ll save you some time, in Boomeresque’s case, 20 million eros is higher.

Aha, you might be thinking. You call yourself a travel blogger? Don’t you know the United States is not part of the European Union yet? The problem is that some of those pesky Europeans ride the Internet right into my little, tiny, miniscule website. Some of them might even subscribe to it. I like Europe. I even lived in England one year. (Oh, right, Brexit.)

I’m an almost recovered lawyer, but in law school, I was derisively dubbed the “Code Queen” because I seemed to enjoy complex statutory and regulatory schemes. (And I wasn’t even Mrs. Excitement yet.)

Consistent with my misguided appreciation of really fine print, paragraphs, subparagraphs, subsubparagraphs, etc., my area of law practice concentration was claims arising under the Social Security Act, a piece of legislation with its own entire volume of enabling regulations. (Volume 20, Code of Federal Regulations). In addition to that, there are Social Security Rulings and a robust body of federal court case law interpreting the statute and regulations because, for some reason, words don’t mean what regular people think they mean. They are “legal terms of art” which is why lawyers still have a job.

This is all by way of saying that EVEN I had a panic attack when I accessed the actual 88 page, tiny small font, single spaced General Data Protection Regulation. It has lots of Internet tech terms alien to my Luddite Baby Boomer brain. Then my eyes glazed over.

The GDPR goes into effect on May 25, 2018. I am writing this very sentence at 11:57 p.m. on May 24, 2018, but that’s Eastern Daylight Savings time (EDT). I’m not sure what time the GDPR is on. Did I mention my tendency to sometimes not see the forest for the trees?

Where I was a month before I ever heard of the GDPR. Villa San Filippo, near Barberino di Val d’Elsa, Tuscany, Italy.

Wishful Thinking Assumption I am Making About the GDPR

I assume fervently hope that EU regulators have bigger fish to make an example of than moi. On April 29, 2018, the webzine, insideBigData reported: 

Less than half (46 percent) of the global organizations surveyed reported that they expect to be compliant when GDPR goes into effect May 25. Among surveyed U.S.-based organizations just 30 percent expect to meet the deadline. The EU is slightly more prepared, with 53 percent of the EU organizations surveyed expect meet the deadline.

So, I’m hoping that by the time all the Big Players figure it out, I will too — or that I will have succumbed to old age and sold retired Boomeresque.

I read somewhere that regulators will issue a warning before dropping the big hammer. I’m hoping that’s true even though every lawyer cell in my brain is screaming to me that no one should ever count on this.

The Fairmount Hotel Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, Canada, where I was first introduced to the GDPR.

Boomeresque’s Good Faith Attempt to be at Least a Tiny Little Bit Compliant with the GDPR 7 Things You Need to Know About Boomeresque’s Privacy Policy 

1)  Boomeresque has actually had a disclosure and privacy policy from the beginning of its existence.  If you ever looked at it, raise your digital hand. Seeing none, I’ll proceed.

2) I respect your privacy, but you do know that anything you put anywhere on the internet might as well be sky writing. Right?

3) Apparently, every time you visit Boomeresque, you get a cookie on your browser. This cookie is a little bit of computer code with your IP address and something about what you looked at. Personally, I prefer chocolate chip cookies. 

In actual fact, I have no idea where your cookies are or what they even look like IRL (in real life). However, I know you can opt out of leaving them by changing your browser setting to “incognito” or by telling it not to leave cookies. You can even find old, stale cookies (blech) and delete them from your browser.

The EU now wants me to insist that you affirmatively notify me of your desire to leave and receive cookies and other information from Boomeresque. Once if I figure out how to do that, I’ll let you know.

4) Some of you receive an email each time a new post is published on Boomeresque. This is because you are a friend or relative you subscribed to Boomeresque via email through an application called Feedburner. I suspect few of you have any independent recollection of subscribing, but thank you anyway.

The European Union now requires me to remind that you don’t have to stay subscribed. There is an “unsubscribe” link both at the top and bottom of each email that informs you about a new post. I probably won’t hold it against you forever if you unsubscribe.

If I ever get around to starting the Boomeresque newsletter (perhaps during this decade), you will also be able to subscribe to and unsubscribe from it.

5) Boomeresque solicits comments on blog posts. In fact, we (who is really me, myself and I) absolutely adore when people who are obviously not busy enough are motivated to leave a comment. We adore it even more when people respond to each others’ comments  — of course, in the polite and respectful manner for which United Staters are world renowned.

When you leave a comment, the comment form prompts you to leave a name, e-mail and the URL to your own website. You are not required to leave a URL to your website because if you actually have a real life maybe you don’t even have a website.

You are required to leave a name and an email address. You didn’t hear it from me, but you are not required to leave your real name or email address. Have you ever wondered why Mr. Excitement never leaves any comments on his wife’s blog posts?

For example you could say your name is InTheWitness ProtectionProgram and your email address is thisisnotmyrealemail@gmail.com. Of course, that might mean your comment gets caught in Boomeresque’s comment spam filter where it will languish with all the other spam comments, like those received from Russian bots.

I just checked Boomeresque’s comment spam filter. It currently has 1,454 suspected spam comments in it. I used to comb my spam blog comments looking for real comments to approve, but I have to go to the store, wash my hair, walk the dog, visit my aged mother, make dinner, watch cable news, Zentangle (to calm down from watching cable news), etc., so, yeah — no, your spammed comment will probably be added to the spam pile. Then, one day, when I am inexplicably imbued with a strong desire to practice good website maintenance, it will end up in the cyber trash bin—with the Russians. (Don’t worry, someone told me you didn’t collude with them and I absolutely believe that.)

6) Sometimes data about your visit to Boomeresque ends up with third party websites. (Trust me, they’re not very fun parties). For example, anonymous data will go to Google Analytics, so I’ll be able to see if anybody is actually reading my tortured prose.

Then, there’s our good friend, Amazon. Occasionally, but not often enough, you might stumble across an “affiliate link” to Amazon on Boomeresque. If you click on that link, you are whisked to the Amazon website listing for the product (probably a travel book) I was extolling. But then, let’s say, beatus miraculo, while you’re on Amazon anyway, you decide to purchase that smart TV you’ve been thinking about. Amazon will know you came from Boomeresque (probably something to do with cookies or something like cookies) and will pay me a well deserved but negligible commission (but if you buy the TV, it adds up). This is no way affects your price – except, I suppose, in a global, macro, advertising budget, kind of way.

I’m supposed to represent to you that any third party website that ends up with any of your personal data via Boomeresque complies with the GDPR. I have calls into Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, and Sundar Pichai a/k/a Pichai Sundararajan, CEO of Google, (I googled it; that’s his real name), to make sure their websites are GDPR compliant. Rudely, neither elitist, really rich snob has returned my call. Despite being typically rather risk averse, I’m willing to go out on a limb here and assume they are GDPR compliant because 4% of their revenue (their potential GDPR non-compliance fine) is some serious change.

7) Words to live by: Just because you’re paranoid, does not mean they are not out to get you.

Important thing: I’ve referred several times to the fact that as of May 25, 2018, I’m still a licensed lawyer. However, I’m almost all the way recovered from 30 years of law practice. So, I’m not anyone in particular’s lawyer, especially yours. Consequently, none of my witty, but baseless ramblings about the GDPR should be construed as legal advice — or any other type of advice for that matter.

GDPR Resources:

The Beast: The General Data Protection Regulation in its original ridiculously complicated form .

An extensive article about the GDPR aimed at US corporations by the New York University School of Law, Program on Corporate Compliance and Enforcement. The General Data Protection Regulation: A Primer for U.S.-Based Organizations That Handle EU Personal Data.

GDPR for Bloggers / What to Know & Do by Julie Cohen of the Cork, Fork and Passport blog. Julie is the person who presented about the GDPR at the conference I attended. Caution: Do not read without wine.

The GDPR inspired Privacy Policy by Kris and Tom Bartel of the TravelPast50 blog. I’m sharing this one because I can almost understand it.

Do you have a plan to comply with GDPR? If you think you have a solid GDPR privacy policy for your website, please share a link to it in a comment below.
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I’ve been doing the Diva’s weekly challenges, but I’ve been “out” a lot lately, so I haven’t shared them here. When I say “out”, I mean “out of the country”. In April, we spent two weeks in Italy, and a week after returning from there, I flew to Quebec City in Canada for a conference, the Women in Travel Summit. (For the uninitiated, O Canada is the name of the Canadian national anthem.)

This is the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac where the conference I attended was held. Those cannon were to protect Quebec City from — the Americans. In 1812, Quebec City was controlled by the British and they were a little nervous about an incursion by their neighbors to the south. Because, you know, there wasn’t a wall.

I love visiting Canada. One of Canada’s tourism slogans once said, “Canada: Friendly, Familiar, Foreign, and Near”. (Obviously, the “near” part of the slogan was aimed at United Statesers.) I’ve found that to be true on all my visits, even this one where I was an anglophone (English speaker) in Quebec, the francophone province of Canada where French really is the first, and sometimes, the only language.

At the conference, I learned some more about blogging, social media and the dreaded GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), a European Union privacy regulation that applies to all websites accessed in any way by EU citizens. Since so many of my Zentangle friends are from the EU, I better figure out how to comply.

Sometimes, being an almost recovered lawyer is troubling because I know that although “ignorance is bliss”, the contra-narrative is “just because you’re paranoid does not mean they’re not out to get you”. I know that many Boomeresque readers have their own blogs or other types of websites. If you want to freak yourself out, you can read this article published by the New York University School of Law about the GDPR, compliance requirements, and non-compliance penalties. Oh, and the compliance deadline is May 25, 2018. BTW, NONE OF THIS IS LEGAL ADVICE, I’m just trying to explain one of the reasons I’m not feeling particularly Zen at the moment. 

Enough freaking out (by me). Back to this week’s Zentangle Diva Challenge. The Diva challenged us to use the aura technique in our tile. I don’t know any bona-fide user of the Zentangle method who isn’t enamored of the the aura technique. It’s almost a mantra, “When in Doubt, Aura”. The technique just requires repeatedly outlining a section of one’s tile. Here’s what I came up with:

Since auraing is not particularly challenging for me, I decided to use a tangle I’ve been playing around with. I don’t recall seeing it before, so I thought I’d crowd-source that inquiry. It’s a random series of interconnected 5 pointed stars.

Do you recognize it? Here’s an example from when the tile was in progress.

Here you can see how I worked on the tangle.

Finally, here is an un-shaded version of the tile. Do you prefer it this way? Gah, I just realized I didn’t shade the tile the way I should have to make the stars pop. Oh well, next time.

Even though my my most recent travel was to Canada, my most recent blog post (other than this one) is about the Barnes Foundation Museum in my hometown, Philadelphia. Add it to your “must visit” list if you’re interested in art.

Questions for various Boomeresque constituencies: Should I deconstruct and name the star based tangle I used in my tile?  Have you ever visited Quebec City? Are you losing sleep about the GDPR?
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When you live somewhere, sometimes it takes awhile for you to visit a local landmark. I wonder how many Philadelphians have never visited the Liberty Bell. It took me 4 years to get to the “new’ Barnes Foundation Museum in Center City Philadelphia, within walking distance of our Rittenhouse Square apartment.

In 2010, we moved our empty nest from a Philadelphia suburb in Lower Merion Township to Rittenhouse Square in Center City Philadelphia. Before we left, our neighborhood sprouted lawn signs reading, “The Barnes Belongs in Merion”.

The History of the “New” Barnes Foundation Museum

Those lawn signs referred to the eclectic art collection of Philadelphia area native, Alfred C. Barnes (1872-1951). In the days before antibiotics, Barnes was a physician/chemist who earned a fortune by developing and marketing an antiseptic silver nitrate solution he called Argyrol.

In 1912, Dr. Barnes used some of his earnings to buy his first Impressionist and Modernist art in Paris at the urging of a Central High School classmate, artist William Glackens. He formed the Barnes Foundation in 1922 to support his burgeoning art collection, an art history school and an arboretum in the town of Merion, a tony “Main Line” suburb immediately to the west of Philadelphia.

This is the building Dr. Barnes constructed in Merion, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb, to house his art collection and school. (Photo credit: Dmadeo,  Creative Commons Lic. 3.0)

The Barnes Foundation had a strict trust with very specific rules about the art collection, including limited visiting hours and an instruction that after Barnes’ death, the collection was to remain in the Merion building arranged exactly as Dr. Barnes left it.

I first visited the original Barnes Foundation Museum art collection in Merion when we moved to an adjacent suburb within walking distance. My father, an artist, was thrilled to visit with me. He had attended Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in the 1940’s. My father explained that when he was a Tyler student, his Dean was feuding with Dr. Barnes and no one associated with Tyler was permitted to visit the Barnes collection.

Apparently, feelings were still a little raw. My father mumbled something about the Barnes’ collection having more Renoirs than Renoir painted. Timed tickets had to be ordered by telephone well in advance. To my untrained eye, there were poorly lit rooms with jumbled paintings often mounted above each other. Those on top, way up on the wall, were very difficult to see at all.

The Barnes Foundation Museum often had an uneasy relationship with its well heeled Merion neighbors who complained about tour buses spewing noxious exhaust and the people traipsing through their neighborhood, drawn by the Barnes Foundation collection.

Nevertheless, when the Barnes Foundation trust announced that financial issues were forcing it to move the museum to Center City Philadelphia, the neighbors were willing to litigate to try to keep it in Merion. The neighbors lost. Consequently, since 2012, in order to see the Barnes’ Foundation Museum art collection, you do so at 20th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Center City Philadelphia, close to Philadelphia’s other major art museums.

The “new” Center City Philadelphia Barnes Foundation building houses the art collection moved from its original home in Merion in 2012. (Photo credit: Smallbones-Public domain)

Visiting the “new” Barnes Foundation Museum

It took a visit from a Midwestern niece to finally get me to the “new” Barnes Foundation Museum. She purchased timed tickets for us online. On a rainy Friday morning, the museum did not feel crowded.

This is the cavernous space visitors walk through to get to the art collection.

Visitors go downstairs after entering the museum building. Dr. Barnes must be spinning in his grave. The museum space feels cavernous, a stark departure from the cramped feel of the building that housed the Barnes Foundation Museum in Merion. This is a nod to financial viability as the space is rented out for all manner of events, from weddings to banquets. It can accommodate 800 guests for a standing reception, and 350-400 for a seated banquet.

However, Dr. Barnes’ might slow his grave spinning after entering the space reserved for his collection. There, the artworks in his collection are exhibited in rooms where they are exhibited arranged exactly as they were in the original museum. However, in my opinion, the lighting is considerably better, so the viewing experience is much enhanced.

The arrangements seem random. However, Dr. Barnes’ vision is exemplified by the displays of impressionist, post-impressionist and early modern paintings; objects such as African masks and sculpture; metalwork, such as old keys and hinges; and furniture.  Dr. Barnes grouped the works of art with attention to the aesthetics of color, line, light and space rather than by chronology or artist. As the museum website explains,

Albert Barnes taught people to look at works of art primarily in terms of their visual relationships.

After we had visited several rooms, we came upon a conference room where a video was playing. The video explained how and why Dr. Barnes acquired various parts of his collection. It also provided guidance as to Dr. Barnes’ philosophy of “visual relationships”. I think it would have been preferable to have the video available for viewing before entering the collection.

The “new” Barnes’ Foundation Museum has an excellent website, setting forth its changing schedule of special exhibitions; courses; special lectures and tours; and, musical and other performances. The Museum is also endeavoring to be part of the Parkway arts community by hosting a schedule of neighborhood events. Admission to special exhibitions is included in the price of general admission.

The Barnes Foundation Museum building also houses the Honickman Art Library, containing over 9,000 items. There is an online catalogue of the library’s contents. Admission to the library is by appointment only.

At present, the “new” Barnes Foundation Museum is closed on Tuesdays, and is open on other days from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The  regular adult admission fee is a hefty $30.00, but there is a significant reduction to $5.00 for those ages 13 through 18 or who have a valid college I.D. Children under age 12 are free. Philadelphia teachers have free admission on Sundays. There is a membership program that includes free admission.

Located at 20th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Center City Philadelphia, the “new” Barnes Foundation Museum is within walking distance of the Rodin Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (of Rocky steps fame). You can conveniently schedule a Philadelphia art day with multiple museum stops. Both the “new” Barnes Foundation Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art have very good on site options for lunch.

After spending a day visiting the art museums on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, I think you’ll agree that Philly is so much more than just the Liberty Bell, cheesesteaks and oddly behaved sports fans.

Is there a tourist attraction in or near your home town that you have not yet gotten around to visiting?
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Ciao from Italy! (Did you know that “Ciao” means both “hello” and “good-bye” in Italian?)

After the first week of our two week tour of Italy, it seemed I never said “Wow” so often in any other seven days of my life. I’m relieved I still have the capacity for wonderment at my somewhat advanced age.

I’ll start by sharing my response to the Zentangle Diva’s challenge this week. (If Zentangle is a new concept for you, start here.) The Diva challenged us to use the tangles Tripoli and Shattuck in a duotangle (a tile using only 2 tangles). These are two of my “go to” tangles, but I admit to being somewhat intimidated by all the wonderful Italian art and architecture I’ve been seeing.

With Tripoli, I did it using both dark and light negative spaces. My use of Shattuck is uninspired.

I’ve spent considerable time here in Italy looking up at ceilings. Of course, I expected to be impressed by Michelangelo’s frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, but I’ve found myself slack jawed, gazing upward in other less well known venues as well. I’ve been particularly impressed by the skillful use of the technique of tromp l’oiel, where objects are made to appear 3 dimensional in flat 2D media.

Although this is my third visit to Italy, it was my first time visiting the Borghese Gallery in Rome. The Borghese is known for its collection of Bernini statues, but I was awed by the ceilings and walls in each gallery room.  Here’s the ceiling in the first room in the gallery:

Most of what looks to be like carved relief on the ceiling and walls is, in fact, 2 dimensional tromp l’oiel.

Before we got to Rome, we visited the beautiful Amalfi Coast. The narrow, two way, twisting Amalfi Coast Road is not for the faint of heart, but the views are worth the terror. I took this photo looking down on the town of Positano from an overlook:

This was also my first visit to the Italian region of Umbria, sometimes considered Tuscany’s poorer cousin. Umbria is known for its hilltop medieval towns. Back in the day, it was really important to occupy the high ground, especially when there were constant wars among what were then independent city states.

We stayed in Orvieto, a small town with this beautiful Duomo (cathedral): T

From Orvieto, we made a day trip to the town of Assisi, including the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi and the church of Saint Clare. We were not permitted to take photos in the interior of either structure; so, you’ll have to go visit yourself. However, I can share this photo I took as we walked along a path above the town.

The Umbrian hill town of Assisi in Italy.

Stay tuned, I have much more to share as I fondly remember our trip to Bella Italia.

Have you visited somewhere that made you say “Wow!” more than one time? 
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Our four night stay in Cuenca, Ecuador, gave us three full days for sight seeing. I relied on Alberto, the bilingual owner of Hotel Casa Ordonez, for suggestions. One suggestion we followed was to plan a day trip outside Cuenca City.

Why did the llamas cross the road? You don’t have to drive too far outside Cuenca to realize you’re in the Andes Mountains.

Rather than going on a group tour, Alberto suggested hiring a taxi driver for a day trip outside Cuenca. He recommended Rene who would roughly follow the same itinerary as one of the popular tours for $10.00 per hour. We ended up spending $80 for our 8 hour private tour. Ecuador’s official currency is the United States dollar which was certainly convenient.

Alberto stressed that Rene was not billing himself as an “official tour guide”. Although Rene did not speak English, Alberto knew I am reasonably proficient in Spanish and could translate for my monolingual spouse. (In all fairness, Mr. Excitement is not totally monolingual. He can grasp about half of a conversation in Spanish, but he refuses to speak it in my presence.)

With me riding shotgun and Mr. Excitement ensconced in the back seat of the taxi, off we went. We headed northwest, out of Cuenca to Parque Nacional Cajas (Cajas National Park). Our route took us through the high rise condos of the section of city sarcastically affectionately called Gringolandia by native Cuencanos.

Visiting Cajas National Park (Parque Nacional Cajas)

We were soon driving out of the valley of the four rivers that flow through Cuenca on the road that also leads over the Andes to the port city of Guayaquil.

Cuenca sits in a valley at 8,300 feet (2,530 meters). Although the drive to the Cajas National Park is only about an hour from Cuenca city, we climbed to an altitude of about 13,671 feet (4,167 meters).

Our first stop was the Tres Cruces (Three Crosses) overlook at 13,671 feet (4,167 meters) from where you can see the many glacial lakes dotting the landscape. Tres Cruces marks the point at which the Continental Divide is closest to the Pacific Ocean in all of South America.

Are you are wondering if over 13,000 feet in altitude feels different than 8,300 feet? Yes, it most certainly does for people like us, accustomed to hanging out at or about sea level. I huffed and puffed up inclines and stairs and felt light headed at times.

We stopped at the Lake Toreadora Visitors’ Center. This complex has a cafe, bathrooms, a small museum, and the ranger station where you must register if you want to hike. They are strict about hike registration, but a park ranger allowed us to go behind the ranger station a short distance to scope out the beginning of the trail around the lake. We convinced ourselves we were not equipped to handle the boggy terrain in sneakers.

Mr. and Mrs. Excitment at Lake Toreadora just outside the ranger station, having just decided that discretion is the better part of valor and they were not equipped for a hike.

If you do want to do a serious hike or to camp in Cajas National Park,  the services of a hiking guide is recommended unless you are an experienced hiker at altitude. Apparently, the trails are not always well marked and some complain that the ranger station maps are either not available or not helpful.

We recommend waterproof hiking boots and clothing to protect you from weather conditions that can quickly change from hot and sunny to cold and wet. At this altitude, a high SPF sun block is a must even on a cloudy day.

You can also arrange specialty tours in the Park for bird watching and for trout fishing in the myriad glacial lakes. If you just want to eat trout, the area is known for trout restaurants on the main road just outside the park.

Tip: According to Rene, the road to Cajas National Park is very crowded on weekends as Cuencanos head to the coast near Guayaquil over the mountains. Also, there is limited parking at the ranger stations.

It is possible to take a local bus to Cajas, but there is no official bus stop for the trip back. You are supposed to just go to the road and flag down any bus traveling between Guayaquil and Cuenca, not always a sure bet.

Turi Overlook (Mirador de Turi)

We returned to Cuenca and did a quick stop at the Turi Overlook, a stop on most city tours of Cuenca. Apparently, there are places to buy souvenirs, a nice church to visit, restaurants, and a large swing, but our stop was just to take in the view.

On the Road to Traditional Handicraft Centers, the Towns of Gualeceo and Chordaleg

Leaving the Turi Overlook, we headed out of Cuenca, this time to the east, on our way to two towns known for traditional handicrafts, Gualeceo (leather) and Chordaleg (silver).

As we left the city, Rene pointed out the large number of small houses under construction. He explained that many of the men are working in the United States to send back money to their wives and children. Some of this money is used to build houses. Many local men lack immigration status in the United States. Consequently, they spend many years in the United States before they can return to Ecuador. Rene views the long term absence of many fathers and husbands as a large negative for civil society in and around Cuenca.

La Casa de la Makana (Weaving Workshop)

La Casa de La Makana, just outside the town of Gualeceo, Ecuador,

Just outside of Gualeceo, we stopped at La Casa de la Makana. Makanas are woolen and cotton shawls indigenous to the Cuenca area of Ecuador. Apparently, this is a popular tour stop, but we were the only people there and were given a demonstration and explanation of the entire traditional labor-intensive process, starting with coloring the yarn with natural dyes, to weaving on a back loom and the knotting technique.

The shawls are beautiful, but I was in my “we can only bring home refrigerator magnets” frame of mind, so we looked, but left without making any purchases. There was no hard sell.

Lunch at the Market in Gualeceo

Rene picked this typical “hornado” stand for our traditional lunch in the Gualeceo, Ecuador market.

By this point, Rene had figured out we were not going to be big souvenir shoppers. Before down-sizing our living space twice, we used to buy traditional handicrafts on our trips. But now, I’m afraid we’re limiting ourselves to the afore-mentioned refrigerator magnets.

When we arrived in Gualeceo, Rene miraculously found a parking spot in front of the main market for our lunch stop.

The market a was a highlight of the trip. I suspect our experience would have been less interesting without Rene who knew his way around and knew where to find local, traditional food for lunch.

First, we purchased fresh arepas. I think I can best describe arepas as dense fried “pancakes” made from white corn flour. They are a filling, popular street food and may include a fresh cheese.

Rene then took us upstairs to the “Hornado” section. Hornado means “cooked in an oven” and what is slow cooked in the oven is pork. You know it’s pork because whatever is left of the pig is on display at each hornado stand. Pieces of pork are pulled off the carcass and it is served potatoes and a little salad. 

Cooking cuy outside the Gualeceo Market.

As we ate, Rene told us he enjoys having a go at the head of the pig. He is also quite fond of cuy, guinea pig. He explained that in the late afternoon, a row of people set up grills on the ground outside the market and cook cuy which people pick up on their way home from work. We were “lucky”. One woman had already started grilling her cuyes. (Yes, I looked up the plural of cuy.)

Disclosure: I’m a hypocrite. I came home from our trip to Ecuador and Colombia trending towards vegetarianism. I was mostly fine eating meat until I literally came face to face with lunch. I already had a policy of not eating any animal I’ve ever had as a pet which means I’ve never had any cuy.

The Silver Town of Chordaleg

Our last stop of the day was in Chordaleg, a short 15 minute ride south of Gualeceo. If you are looking to buy authentic Ecuadoran silver jewelry, apparently, this is the place to do so.

The lovely plaza in Chordeleg, Ecuador, a town known for crafting silver jewelry.

There are many jewelry stores surrounding the charming, spotless, main square. We did not go into any of the stores. Bargaining is expected in much of the world. I abhor bargaining. I’m also the world’s worst bargainer. I’ve even had store owners take pity on me and bargain with themselves on my behalf because they are apparently too embarrassed to sell me something for the first price they quoted. Definitely don’t take me with you to buy a car.

Back to Cuenca 

The ride back to Cuenca should have taken about an hour, but it was a little longer because of traffic. Rene was clearly an experienced, cautious driver. Other motorists, not so much.

We weren’t tempted to rent a car while in Cuenca. It is possible and inexpensive to get to all of the places we visited by public bus, but we never would have been able to see as much on our day trip outside the city had we done so. The $80 cost of our 8 hour day with Rene was well worth the money.

A value added aspect of our time with Rene was that he was happy to tell us about his life, and the lives of different strata of Cuenca society.

Rene’s daughter was in medical school and his son was studying engineering. He explained the health care system (actually, systems) and the educational system. For the most part, those who can afford private school, don’t send their children to the public schools. He said many people felt they were struggling financially, but that family was very important and rallied around those who needed help through a tough patch. He decried the fact that many Ecuadoran men had to leave their families to work in other countries, mainly the United States.

Rene is a proud Ecuadoran and Cuencano, but he said crime was sometimes a problem. He had been robbed of his smart phone by a knife wielding passenger. Now he only takes a battered, old flip phone when he is driving his taxi, much to the disappointment of subsequent thieves.

The best way to pick a way to tour Cuenca and the surrounding area is to ask for a referral where you are staying. Local hotel owners typically will suggest guides or tour companies with whom prior guests have been satisfied.

Do you ever go on half day or day tours during your independent travel? Do you have any suggestions for picking one?
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For the first challenge of every month, the Zentangle® Diva (Laura Harms) picks a tangle that is new to her for us to use. This month she chose Pickpocket by Tomás Padrós of Barcelona in the autonomous region of Catalunya. (I was going to say from Spain, but there’s a strong separatist movement in Catalunya and I don’t know where Tomás stands on that issue.)

I’ve visited Barcelona three times. For those who, like me, are passionate about both Zentangle and travel, I’ll share a few Barcelona photos at the end of this post.

As Laura mentioned, the Pickpocket tangle requires concentration and focus—both of which I sometimes find to be sorely lacking. In my tile, I combined it with other tangles that I feel have a similar vibe. I also used what I call “reverse N-Zeppel”. I had to do a little bit of “there are no mistakes in Zentangle” rescue work.

The Pickpocket tangle is in the lower right hand corner. I also used Huggins and Hollibaugh. I used “reverse” N’Zeppel, and the tangle I call Spearator for contrast.

In the spirit of “we better travel while we still can”, Mr. Excitment and I are off to Italy next week. In the meantime, in honor of Tomás

One of the facades of the Basilica of La Sagrada Familia.

Padrós, the deconstructor of this week’s UMT challenge tangle, here are a few photos from Barcelona.

Barcelona is best known internationally for the work of architect, Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) who helped evolve the Catalan Modernist style.

Gaudí’s most famous building is the perennially unfinished Basilica of the Sagrada Family (Holy Family). Construction of the church started in 1882. It is hoped that it will be finished in 2026, 100 years after the architect’s death. Personally, I’ve enjoyed being able to visit the project several times over its evolution.

If you go to Barcelona, the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia should be a “must visit” item on your itinerary. However, all other visitors to Barcelona will have the same idea, so I highly suggest you purchase a timed ticket to enter in advance, online.

The ceiling of the nave of the Basilica of La Sagrada Familia.

On my last visit in 2015, I was able to visit the interior for the first time. It is a startling departure from the other cathedrals that preceded it in Spain and Europe.

Another part of the ceiling.

Have you visited the Basilica of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona? If so, what did you think?
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In her challenge this week, the Zentangle Diva, Laura Harms, lamented that notwithstanding the date on the calendar, spring didn’t seem close to springing in Saskatoon, Canada where she lives. I was uncharitably rolling my eyes and thinking, “Canada, Duh”, until I was shivering while walking the dog here in Philadelphia, a good number of degrees latitude south of Saskatoon.

Actually, I looked it up, Philly is only approximately 12 degrees latitude south of Saskatoon; and, on the official first day of spring last week, this happened in Philadelphia:

I captured this beautiful night scene on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia on the first day of spring, 2018. It was so beautiful, it almost made me not be bitter that the dog and I were wearing our winter coats and boots.

This week, Laura challenged us to use the tangle, Paradox , in a monotangle, that is, a tile using only one tangle. (Paradox is a tangle deconstructed by Rick Thomas of the Zentangle Mother Ship). I decided to do a monotangle within a monotangle—or Paradoxes within a Paradox—which is kind of what it feels like living in the United States these days.

This is the string I used:

And this is what it looked like when I was finished paradoxing the paradoxical:

Some of my Zentangle Diva friends may have noticed my absence from the weekly challenge for more than several weeks. I’ve been doing them, but not getting around to posting.

This was my challenge tile from last week’s challenge when we were to use our name in a tile. In this composition, I wrote my name using a faux calligraphy I saw somewhere online, auraed that, and then used two new tangles I’ve published recently—like today: Springish and Spearator.

Zentangle Diva challenge #356 with the tangles Spearator and Springish.

So, now I have to bundle up to take the dog outside for another walk. As much as I’m lamenting a spring that seems to be stuck somewhere, I did see this over the weekend:

Even though I reserve my right to whine about the temperature outside today, this is also happening, so surely, real spring can’t be too far away. Right?

Is spring springing where you live yet (assuming you live in the northern hemisphere)?
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My tangle, Speartor, is arguably a new take on one of the Zentangle® mother ship’s original tangles, Knightsbridge. However, I think the underlying matrix is different enough for it to be its own thing. Other CZTs (Certified Zentangle Teachers) have agreed with me. So, with the caveat that there are now so many named tangles out there that it is impossible to know them all, here it is:

Spearator.

Here are the step outs:

Spearator step outs. It is helpful to lightly mark around the sides of the space you want to fill with hash marks as a guide for where you want your “spears” to start and to come to a point. 

The tile with Spearator and my name was inspired by the Zentangle Diva, Laura Harms, challenge number 356. The other tangle used is Springish, another tangle I am publishing today.

Here are two other tiles using the Spearator matrix:

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Out there in Zentangle® land, there are so many tangles (designs), it is hard to be sure one is publishing a “new” tangle. I usually post mine in CZT Facebook groups and ask if anyone recognizes it as something that has already been named. If people a) like it, and b) don’t recognize it, I’ll go ahead and do the step outs and share them. So, here is Springish.

My latest tangle deconstruction is inspired by this view as I walked outside and looked up through some tree branches on an almost spring day here in Philadelphia. This is what I saw:

Looking up through almost spring trees on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.

I liked the lacy effect of the branches with seed balls. I wish I could identify the type of tree for you.

I deconstructed the look and came up with these step outs:

A few days later, we had our 4th N’oreaster winter storm in March on the first day of spring and these people appeared on Rittenhouse Square.

Snowpeople invaded Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia on the official first day of Spring!

Here is Springish used on a few days of Carole Ohl’s Tangle*a*Day© 2018 calendar.

When it snowed on the first day of spring, I was concerned that the heavy, cold, white stuff might have snuffed out the budding spring flowers, but then the day after the storm, I found this:

Blooming flowers the day of the first day of spring snow storm on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.

For some other Boomeresque nature inspired tangles, check out Shorely and Aloha.

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