How do you do that??? (Part 2)


In the last post, I talked about the electronics that we take when we are traveling overseas for longer periods of time.  In this post, I want to talk about getting around in a foreign country.

Fortunately, our first trips were to English speaking countries so we were able to figure out our procedures while speaking our native language.  Here are some things that we have learned……

The first question is “how do we get local money”……we no longer purchase local currency before we leave the US.  The exchange rates and fees are very expensive and it simply hasn’t been worth it.  Instead, we head for an ATM in the arrival airport and get our first cash there.  We have yet to be in any country that hasn’t had multiple ATM’s in the airport.  We only carry a minimum of US dollars and NEVER carry traveler’s checks.  Many countries have no idea how to handle them!!


Before you leave home, it is important to decide how you will pay for your trip…both  for cash withdrawals and purchases of goods and services.  Be sure to check with your credit card company and also your local bank debit card to see how fees will be charged.  We discovered that the fees were double when we used the credit card so we now only use our bank debit card.


Only carry a Mastercard and/or Visa…..American Express, Discover and other cards are not regularly recognized.

For security, we each carry two cards….one bank debit card and one credit card.  AND, the credit cards are for two different accounts.  That way, if one of us loses our wallet, we still have credit cards that will work…….Trust me, we learned this one the hard way!!!!

Also, it is important to contact your bank or credit card company and tell them that you will be using the card overseas during the specified period.  If you don’t pre-authorize these withdrawals or payments, your card could be frozen.  And again, ask me how I know this!!!!

Ok…you are ready for your first foray into the unknown land.  The first thing that you want to do is write down the address of the apartment, house or hotel that you are staying in.   If you are staying in a hotel, write down the phone number as well.  This way, WHEN (not “if”) you get badly lost, you can ask for directions or, as a worse case scenario, hail a taxi and get a lift back to your temporary home.


Our favorite saying while traveling is….”Well, we are lost…..but we are lost in _____”(Rome, Paris, London, Bangalore, Kunming, Porto… get the idea)!!


When I step out into a foreign city, I always carry one bag/purse that holds everything that I need…

….my wallet with a driver’s license (for ID), credit cards and cash  (leave everything else at home…..your library card or coffee house punch card wont work here)

….cell phone

….a map of the city

……my reading glasses (so that I can read the map!!!)….actually these normally reside on TOP of my head and not in my purse.

….camera with extra batteries and flip video

….lightweight rain jacket and compact umbrella

….sheer scarf (for throwing over my shoulders if I am entering temples or churches that require more modest attire)…..I purchased mine for $5 from Walmart and I fold it over about 4 times and then tie it into a knot.  It resides comfortably in the corner of my purse until I need it (mine is white)….


AND….most importantly…..

….a small notebook and pen so that I can take notes about everything that I see.  I normally buy a Mead notebook that is about 6×9 and has a wire binder.

06674_M_6 I carry a small “click” type pen that will fit down into the spiral of the notebook.  I do not carry pens with removable caps because that is one more thing for me to lose!!!


I try to find a purse that fits comfortably over my shoulder but doesn’t hang down too far.  I like to be able to clamp my elbow down on top of the purse while I am out.  This makes it much harder for a pickpocket to do his worst!!!  I also try to carry a wallet that will fit into an interior zip pocket of the purse.  That way you have two types of protection for your valuable assets.   I do not normally carry a backpack, but if I am carrying one in crowded areas, I put it on my chest rather than my back.  It is simply too easy for someone to get his hand into your pack while you are busy looking at a local sight.  I also tried carrying a messenger bag,  but it was too bulky for easy carrying.  I try to carry bags that are black or another neutral color….I don’t want my bag to be the first thing that people notice about this lost tourist!!!!


If the country is not English speaking, I carry a VERY small dictionary or other book to help me if absolutely necessary.   In China, I am making flash cards with about twenty phrases written on one side in Chinese characters and then in English and also spelled phonetically on the back.  I will see if this helps or not!!!

If I am needing a travel guide, I tend to tear out the pages that I will need for that day and not carry the entire book.  Most of them are TOO big!!!  As an aside,  I think that Rick Steves’ puts out the most informative book, especially for European countries.

51sJNXr372L._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_When I got on to Amazon to find this picture,  I  realized that you can purchase these guides for Kindle so that would be an easy way to have the guide without it taking up too much space or weight!!!

I love cities that have Metro systems.  They are normally easy to navigate and you always know where you are going to end up.  Not so with busses as they can turn ANY and EVERY direction!!!!

OK….enough for now…..more to come

How do you do that? (Part 1)

Over the years we have had the opportunity to spend long periods of time in other countries.  Most of these trips have been 3 to 8 weeks in length, and we are currently preparing for 5 weeks in China.

Several people have asked me exactly how you go about traveling for such a long period of time.  Since we are in the process of preparing for another trip, I thought I would keep a list of the things we do and tips that I have……

Since I am a HUGE technology geek, lets start with that part of our travels….

Michael and I both travel with a computer.  His is for working (since most of these trips are work related for him).  I carry mine so that I can keep easy contact with my clients and, more importantly, my trip diary, photos, Facebook and Blogs!!!!

Since we are traveling to China this time, I have purchased and installed a Virtual Private Network (VPN).  I dont understand exactly how this all works, but when I sign onto the internet using the VPN, it acts as if my computer is located in Atlanta, GA rather than in a coffee shop in Kunming China.    This is important because China blocks Google, all related Google products (blogspot etc)  and social networking sites such as Facebook.   Also, I pay bills online thru my bank and using the VPN makes it nearly impossible for someone at the coffee shop to steal my personal information.

100 products logo copy

We also use our computers for communication with friends and family in the US.  Our favorite feature is SKYPE.  If you have never used it, SKYPE allows you to have a face-to-face video chat for free….no matter where the two of you are located.    It will also allow you to make international phone calls to landlines for only 2.3 cents per minute.  This is the method that I use to contact our Mothers (who do not have computers ) and also to make other necessary phone calls.


We also set our SKYPE account  to forward to our cell phone (more about that below) so that if someone called my SKYPE account and my computer was not connected, the call was forwarded to my local cell phone. 

Now SKYPE works great if you have internet in a hotel or other quiet place.  The problem comes when you are using it in a crowded internet cafe….you dont want everyone to hear all of your conversations and frankly the other occupants dont WANT to hear your conversation either!!   So, I pulled out the bluetooth headset that I bought for my cell phone, and low and behold, I found that I can sync it to my computer.   Then when I use SKYPE, all of the  incoming conversation goes thru my headset and I can speak quietly into the headset and it is easy for the listener to hear.


NOW, about phones…….if you use your standard Cell phone in a foreign country, it will normally cost over $1.00 per minute.  We have paid as much as 1.95 per minute!!!!   For a long trip, that is just not acceptable.  So, we have learned to purchase prepaid SIM cards for the country that we are visiting and use those for our phone calls (mostly local since we use SKYPE for international).   In order to do this you need to purchase an “unlocked” phone or get your Cell Carrier to unlock your phone.  (Not all companies will do this and not all phones can be unlocked).   Once you have this unlocked phone, you can put the SIM card in and that phone will now have a local (Italian, Chinese, etc) telephone number.   Michael and I each carry a phone and use this mostly for keeping in contact with each other while we are separated in the countries.  It is also nice for our hosts to be able to reach us using a local number.  You can normally use these phones to make international calls as well, however the rates vary greatly from country to country.   When we were in England, our card allowed us to make calls to the US for 9 cents per minute!!!


For this trip we are adding two other pieces of technology.   Michael purchased a Kindle so that he doesn’t have to carry 5+ books with him for the month.  So far he has enjoyed reading from it and we are anxious to see how it goes for this trip.


I also have purchased a Portable Hard Drive to use in backing up my photos.  It is about the size of a small notebook and will hold LOTS of data.  As I take photos, I will download them onto my computer, download them onto Michael’s computer, back them up to the hard drive and then erase them from my camera card.  The only way that we can lose them is if BOTH computers AND the hard drive are stolen or lost….hopefully not a scenario that we have to worry about.


I obviously carry a camera.  I know that there are tons of smaller ones around, but I LOVE my Olympus SLR!!!!


I have three batteries for my camera and have labeled them 1, 2 and 3.  I start out with all of them charged and with battery number 1 in the camera.  When it dies, I put battery number 2 in.  When I get back to home base (hotel or apartment) I re-charge Battery number 1 and put it back into my bag.  I found that if I used them in order, I would never have trouble figuring out which one needed to be recharged, and by having three, there is always an extra one floating around for emergencies.  By the way, I bought the two extra batteries online for $8 each!!!

Finally, I carry a Flip Video Camera.  It is wonderful because it is VERY small and VERY inconspicuous when you are trying to surreptitiously video some scene!!  I also like that it plugs straight into your computer and videos are super easy to upload and edit!!


Last, but not least you have to carry all of the cords for each of these devices.  Many of them can be charged from your computer which means that you dont have to carry a big plug with you as well.

When you travel to foreign countries, you need to carry plug adapters that are appropriate for the countries that you are visiting.  Most of the electronics shown above do not require that the voltage be adjusted (which would require a converter), but simply that the plug be modified to fit into the local sockets.  These are normally purchased in sets that have all needed adapters.  We now have several sets so that we have several plugs for whichever country we are visiting…..


Next installment……getting around……



Here I am in London…….



Here I am in Portugal……


In Australia……


In China…….


Now, there is ONE thing that is the same in each of these photos….that’s right, the brown bag.  It has been a wonderful travel bag as it easily holds all of my paraphernalia such as camera, Flip Video Camera, notebook, umbrella, rain jacket, etc.

BUT, I am now officially tired of having EVERY overseas photo of me contain that particular bag.

Since we are getting ready to spend 7 weeks in Italy,  I did some searching online and found a pattern for a bag that I wanted to make.  I dutifully bought the fabric, zippers, clasps and other bits and pieces.  This week I cut out all of the bits, fused some of the interfacing and got ready to sew.


THEN, my daughter said….”why dont you just buy a Messenger Bag”….it would probably have everything that you want, plus it has an adjustable strap that can be worn across your chest or shortened as a purse.   Dont you just hate it when your daughter is right????

Last night I found this bag on Amazon and I really like it.  It is not as colorful as the one I was going to make, but it might be better to have something that blends into the background rather than one that stands out and says “Steal me”!!


It arrives on Monday and if it isn’t what I want, I will probably be out of time and have to resort to the old brown bag…..oh well, there are some good memories associated with it!!!!

So much for trying to do some sewing!!!!

Blew Two – part 2


Yesterday I posted about the making of this quilt top……


Now I had to figure out how to quilt it…..

I figured that I wanted to having the quilting represent wind, but wasn’t sure enough about it to just sit down and start quilting.  Then, I started thinking about some of the ideas that I tell my students and decided to actually use one  of them myself….shocking!!!!

I took a photo of the top and  made several photocopies of it and started doodling to see what I would like.  Here are several of my first tries…..

 Scan_Pic0020 Scan_Pic0018 Scan_Pic0019

Well, I wasn’t happy with any of these and couldn’t figure out what was wrong, so I put it aside for a couple of days.

When I picked it up again, I immediately knew what was wrong…..wind would be blowing all in the same direction… wouldn’t go all over the place!!!!  Once I realized that, it was a simple matter to design the quilting.Scan_Pic0021

I used a metallic thread to do the quilting and am quite happy with the results._6015562

I decided to face the quilt rather than bind it.  If you are interested in learning an easy way to face a quilt, check out this website.   The only thing that I would change would be to make the facing a little bit narrower, especially for a small quilt like this one.


After I had completely finished the quilt, I remembered that I had thought of putting a swishy bead border at the  bottom of the quilt.  If I get REALLY energetic, I may take off the facing and add the beads, but dont hold your breath!!

In the long run, this is not only a good addition to the “Blue” challenge, but a fun reminder of our time in Kunming, China.

Sneak Peak at Next Project

I haven’t been posting much about my newest project because I haven’t been completely certain that I would be able to finish it. I’m still not certain about that, but thought I would go ahead and show you what I am doing and see if you have suggestions……

In 2007 we spent 2 months in Oxford, England. During that time we spent a number of days in London and I spent many hours taking the Underground to various attractions that I wanted to see. While on the train, I enjoyed watching the mixture of people that would come and go from the bench seat opposite to me…..the view would change at each stop.

Like most quilters, I kept composing quilts in my head featuring these different people. The only problem with this idea was that I cant draw at all and the thought of trying to draw people was even more discouraging. Here is the sketch that I did while on the train….Original drawing

Then, I bought the book, “Photo-Inspired Art Quilts” by Leni Levenson Wiener . One of the ideas that she mentioned was to use Photoshop to create your picture and then use the newly created picture as a pattern for your quilt. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I found a free online Photoshop course and have been enjoying it over the past 7 weeks. One of the first lessons was how to make selections in a photo and then how to move the selection into another photo…..EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED TO DO!!!!

I got onto the internet and did a search for photos of London trains…this is the first photo that I found and it was the perfect backdrop to the picture that was in my mind……

393430988_fd5a862cc6 I then found two other photos that showed the top of the train and the bottom of the train bench. With some manipulation, the picture turned into this…..

Final Bench for quilt (2)

I then started looking for pictures of people on trains but found the problem was that you couldn’t see the entire body so I changed the search to people sitting on benches. As I searched hundreds of photos, I picked the ones that would best fit into the photo

I pulled all of the people’s photos into Photoshop, cut them out of their picture and placed them into the bench picture, adjusting them so that they looked as if they were sitting on the bench. As I worked, I was amazed with how much change could be made by pulling parts from different photos and adding them to this one.

This is the final photo that I am using as my pattern…..

final - side (2)I am trying to remember exactly how many different photos were used in this shot….

1 – the bench itself, 2 – the top of the train, 3 – the bottom of the bench and floor, 4 – the scene in the window, 5 – the “Underground” sign, 6 – the boy on left, 7 – the bottom of his legs (original photo was cut off at the knees), 8 – his shoes, 9 – the woman, 10 – her sleeves (she was in a tank top and the others were dressed warmer), 11 – the girl, 12 – the man on the right, 13 – the yellow poles, 14 – the pole holders

SO, the pattern is ready…..made up from parts of 14 different photos.

…..more to come…..

Portugal Stairs #2


I have been working on the second in my series of stairs from Porto, Portugal.  This time it is a long set of stairs (100 in this first set and then another 114 after I turned the corner), and I decided to do it in a monochrome palette.

This afternoon, we were supposed to go to a friend’s house for the evening, but my husband started feeling poorly mid afternoon so we didn’t end up going.  Instead, we watched the University of Georgia football game (unfortunately we lost) and I did the hand Applique on this piece. 

It is amazing with these stair quilts that the perspective doesn’t appear until you put the “stair-step” side piece on and then…..WOW!!!!



This one will have even more perspective when I have done the shading, thread work and quilting…..something to look forward to doing!!


I have also been working on a charity quilt for our guild and quilting on a piece for a friend.




If you are in the US, i hope you are having an enjoyable “Labor Day” weekend!!

Bells, Baths and Bidets

Several people have commented on the quilt that is shown on the right side of my blog so thought I would show you a larger photo and tell you the story….you know that every good quilt has a story that goes along with it…….

In 1998, our family spent 10 days in Italy, including 3 days in Rome. When we first walked into our hotel we heard a Church bell ringing LOUDLY, so Michael and the kids both ran to the window to look out…..

This is what they saw…….this tower was extremely close to the hotel and right on our level……

As any good tourist does, the next stop in the hotel room was to check out the bathroom. This one interested us in several ways……..

Michael noticed the curtainless shower, Brian and Jenny (then 12 and 11) noticed the Bidet (something they had not seen before) and I noticed the cool tile on the wall…..

Much to B&J’s shame, I whipped out my tracing paper and made a tracing of this wonderfully designed tile.

After I got home, I graphed out the design and tried to figure out how to piece it with mostly straight lines. Here is the graphic that I finally used……

And here is the final project…….
It is a fun reminder of a great trip to Rome.

On a comic note, I have since contacted the hotel to see if the tiles were still in place and, if so, could they take a better photo and send to me. Needless to say, I have had no response from them, although I am sure that they talk about the crazy American lady!!!! We are spending a month in Rome in 2010, and I am planning a trip back to Hotel Miami and check it out for myself!!!!

Traveling again!!!

Well, I haven’t posted for about a week, but know that I have been at least thinking about quilting, and actually doing a little bit. I am in the process of quilting one of the scrap quilts that I made earlier in the year… will be a wedding present.

Also, I bought a wonderful abstract sunflower stamp that I think I can use in the borders of my rusted sunflower piece, so I cant wait to get back to it.

BUT, the biggest thing in my life right now is that I am leaving in about 6 hours for a week in Portugal!!! My husband is going to be working there so I am going to do some sightseeing.

I have set up a blog to detail our visit, so check it out if you want……

I will return to this blog when we get back home.

Until then……..

Last Day in TX

Well, today is the last full day that I have in my home state, so thought that I would share a few photos. This part of Texas (Abilene) is hot, dry and not many trees. Here is a scene as I was driving out to my M-I-L’s house…….

I have always been enamored with Prickly Pear Cactus and stopped several times to photograph some big bunches. I think that they might make a fun quilt design……

I loved this fence row outside of her house…..

Finally, when driving back to my Mom’s house, I passed this wonderful windmill….definitely lots of inspiration here…..

I am glad that I made this trip, but am definitely looking forward to getting home and returning to normal things. My husband is flying from Indianapolis tomorrow and we are hoping to arrive in Atlanta within an hour of each other… will be interesting to see if our plan works!!!!

Bye for now….

Another Texas Day (or two)

Yesterday, I spent the morning going thru various items that my mother was thinking of getting rid of and she wanted to see if I wanted any of them. I scored some jewelry, some embellishments and a few books. She has enough quilting magazines to start her own library, but I don’t have any place to put them at the moment, so I decided to leave them for now.

In the evening, two of my cousins brought tons of food and drink over to the house and 2 other cousins (and parts of their families) joined us. It was so much fun to sit at the table with four of my favorite cousins and laugh and tell stories, and….well, you know the drill. It was a wonderful night.

This morning, I went to church with my M-I-L and S-I-L (who surprised me by driving in from Dallas). Afterwards, we had the requisite Mexican Food at my favorite restaurant.

As I had flown in on Thursday, I had noticed a “Wind Farm” that had about 75 wind turbines and Esther (my wonderful M-I-L) drove me out so that I could take some photos.

This picture doesn’t do it justice, but I would love to make a quilt with a darkish background and machine embroider the windmills. They are so graceful and tranquil and it would be fun to try to capture that in a quilt. I am hoping that I am on the correct side of the aircraft when we fly out on Tuesday….if so, I will try to get an aerial photo of the field….it was magnificent.

Also on the flight last week, I spent some time playing with the rust piece and gathering ideas for how to quilt it. I am posting some photos of my rough drawings here….you will probably have to click on the photo to be able to see any of my drawings. I am sorry that most of these are on their side…..I have NO idea why it is happening, and someone here at the Starbucks is playing an online game and eating up the Bandwidth so it is taking FOREVER to download each photo!!

The first idea was to make different types of flowers. In this one, I was playing with the idea of doing the background quilting to look sort of like venetian blinds.

The second idea kept the different flower types, but used background quilting that had curves that sort of followed the lines on the rust dye……

On the third one, I only used Sunflower types of flowers, which I have decided that I like better. In this one, I kept looking at the nails in the center portion of the dye and seeing fence posts, so I thought about doing the background sort of like a fence….

In the final one, I did the sunflowers larger and I really like this idea best. However, I have now decided that I will need to go ahead and quilt the flowers before I can decide on a background quilting design, so that will be one of my first projects when I get back home. Before I start, I will spend some time looking at pictures and drawings of sunflowers to see if I can make them a bit more realistic. I have decided that I want the one on the right to have a perspective where it is looking upwards. Since I am NOT an artist, this may be a stretch, but hopefully I can find something online that will help me. I am also going to look at the shape of Sunflower leaves and quilt those in along the stems as well. I will probably do some grass-type design towards the bottom.

I am planning to quilt the design elements in a thread that matches the rust and then do the backgrounds with a beige thread.

If you have any wonderful ideas, I would love to hear them!!!!!