Zentangle Gift Tags

31 10 2013

When people buy things from my Etsy store, I think it’s important to send a “thank you.” Nothing wrong with just writing it on a business card, but as an artist, I enjoy doing something a little more creative. Sometimes I’ll do an origami animal with a note of thanks written on it or sometimes a card, but I ran out of origami paper and needed a back-up.

zentangle gift tags

zentangle gift tags

So I bought blank gift tags and did unique zentangle doodles on each. Later I’ll add some color to them and tie a colorful ribbon through the hole punched piece, then write whatever thank you message in the middle. Cute, right? And easy too!

a close up of one

a close up of one





Petite France Scene

25 10 2013

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A little something I tried this week, 5×7″ canvas. I almost never do scenes and wanted to try a scene from my Eurotrip. This is Petite France in Strasbourg. Intended to be just a sketch painting, but as usual got too absorbed. This will soon be for sale on Etsy along with a few other new paintings.
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Journey to the Castle, or Getting Lost in the Black Forest

15 10 2013

This was my Hansel and Gretel moment, my grand German adventure, the most perilous part of the trip! Basically.

Germany

Germany

We wanted to take a day trip to Baden-Baden (meaning bath-bath), Germany while in Strasbourg, France for a few reasons: One, you are so close to the German border, it’d be ridiculous not to go somewhere in Germany! Seriously. Two, In nerd fashion, I’m into genealogy (family history), and have a lot of German ancestry. Lots of them lived in the Baden region, and at least one was born in Baden-Baden and lived there almost 200 years ago. How awesome would it be to visit one of your family’s countries of origin and walk in their footsteps? That’s what I think anyway.

So off we went. With a massive train mix-up, we were off to a late start, but the OSB (Ortenau-S-Bahn) train is a pretty good way to go. You pass through lots of country side like the picture above – corn in Germany, who knew? And it has this nice musical announcement whenever it approaches a station…ICE line, you can learn from the OSB!

Then you have to change trains to a Regional at Appenweier station, which is super small and felt kind of desolate:

Appenweier Station, Platform 1

Appenweier Station, Platform 1

These Spanish people showed up at the station heading to Baden-Baden also. They asked who could speak English and we were the only ones that did, so we talked a bit and I finally got to use my Spanish! Which consisted of “solo un poquito” and a few random words. There was also an EXTREMELY loud couple of elderly German people.

Anyway, you get to Baden-Baden’s train station and then wait with a million people for City Bus 201. It goes to the town center but a lot of other places too, so you just have to guess. Leopoldplatz is a good stop if you’re going to any of the main tourist attractions. We were, but we also had to eat.

lunch spot in Baden-Baden

lunch spot in Baden-Baden

They have meat after meat but also some good cheesy potatoes if you’re not all about meat.

Then we wandered off to find the Trinkhalle. This is the old “drinking hall” which is now the visitor/tourist center. They can give you some maps and a sample of the spring water to taste, though the samples weren’t working when we went. 😦 They also have bathrooms, but it’s some Euros in change to use them.

The Trinkhalle is pretty nice:

Trinkhalle

Trinkhalle

Their porch/patio area has beautiful old fresco paintings:

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trinkhalle4

There’s a lot to see in Baden-Baden, but we were shorter on time than planned (when are we not?), and I knew I HAD to see the Altes Schloss. Altes Schloss means “old castle” and is sometimes called Hohenbadenschloss. It was built in 1102 (!) and was home to the Margraves of Baden for centuries. It’s up on a mountain in the black forest right on the city’s outskirts. Zomg.

So I asked the visitor center lady how to find this castle. She gave me a city map and directed us to walk up the street toward Friedrichsbad (the old spa) and then keep walking straight up until you get there (that is almost verbatim). She drew a straight line that went right off the map into nothingness.

“How is the signage? Will there be signs leading us there?” I ask.

“Oh, yes. Very easy to see. Lots of signs. They all say Altes Schloss,” she says.

HA!
I think visitor center lady likes to play jokes on tourists.

The first part of her directions were accurate enough. We got a glimpse of the Kurhaus, the famous old casino with a really pretty interior:

The Kurhaus

The Kurhaus

Then we turned left and continued on. The streets of Baden-Baden were pretty and busy with lots of restaurants.

Pretty, no?

Pretty, no?

We passed the spa and kept walking down a sidewalk. “Going straight” meant ignoring the sidewalk’s curve and following a driving road with no shoulder. Somehow that didn’t seem like a good idea. Eventually we followed the sidewalk….it started going uphill so that was good….and then it started going in the wrong direction. We asked a lady who kept trying to direct us to the “New” castle (which is owned, she insisted, by a Middle-Eastern princess). After walking in the wrong direction at least 3 times, a nice hiker told us a half-English set of directions that sounded plausible.
On we went.

..passing apple trees on our left

..passing apple trees on our left

Whenever I walk past a fruit tree I get this extreme urge to pick one of its fruits. I almost never give in….

my stolen apple - not ripe and therefore disgusting, but still made me feel triumphant

my stolen apple – not ripe and therefore disgusting, but still made me feel triumphant

We passed a closed restaurant seemingly in the middle of nowhere and continued until we reached a pavillion. Here’s a pic of it looking back after we passed it.

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Suddenly you’re in the Black Forest, covered in trees.

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Lots of the trees were the evergreen type we call “Christmas trees.” They smell so good!!! Florida forests smell like heat and dirt and humidity. I am jealous.

wild Christmas tree

wild Christmas tree

However, this was not a fun hike. It was about 90 degrees outside, and I still had no idea if we were going in the right direction. I pictured us getting lost, never finding the castle, never making it back, possibly ending up in another city, missing all the trains back to Strasbourg, and maybe getting eaten by bears. I’m pretty sure there are bears in that forest.

The fact that there was NO signage did not help. I’m not kidding. No mention of Altes Schloss or Hohenbaden anywhere until we were already well into the forest, where there were maybe 2 signs tops. There were “attempts” at signs that looked like this:

wtf?

wtf?

Can you see Atles Schloss on that? Because I sure can’t. Maybe a “Sc” but that could be anything.

Finally there was a sign and even one that came from this century like so:

castlejourney5

The walk gets pretty steep…but then finally, and very suddenly, the castle appears:

looming out of the trees

looming out of the trees

It was a beautiful sight.

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(I am not going to show you the parking lot we discovered right next to the castle – of all the times not to take a taxi…)

Does anyone know what this says? I've read it was built in 1102 though this is several centuries later.

Does anyone know what this says? I’ve read it was built in 1102 though this is several centuries later.

I noticed a completely darkened stairway and had to go check it out…

dungeons?

dungeons?

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There is also an impressive courtyard…

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Notice that thing in the window?

Notice that thing in the window?

It's a wind harp!

It’s a wind harp!

This is supposed to be the largest wind harp in Europe I think. I believe it has 120 strings, and I have no idea what it’s doing there. There is nothing in English anywhere at the castle and not even placards or anything in German. It’s very free and open – you can wander around the whole thing and touch everything.

me in the courtyard

me in the courtyard

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the general splendor

the general splendor

adorable wild flowers

adorable wild flowers

You can climb to the very top…

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It was totally pretty. Okay, so I guess it wasn’t all that harrowing, but this is a castle worth seeing. Just take a taxi and wear good shoes. The end!





Gingerbread Quest

9 10 2013

My goal in going to Europe was to eat a real French macaron in France and some real gingerbread in Germany. Luckily for me (due to events in Germany) Strasbourg is like the city of blurred lines – while it’s French, it’s so close to Germany (at times actually being part of Germany) – so you can fulfill most French and German food quests here. Let me demonstrate:

German pretzels in France

German pretzels in France

German gingerbread in France

German gingerbread in France

Ok, not food, but you get the idea.

Ok, not food, but you get the idea.

After flying Lufthansa (love!) into Frankfurt, we immediately had to catch a connecting train to go to Strasbourg. Except the train wasn’t actually connecting and was really leaving from the Frankfurt HBF, something our travel agent neglected to tell us. Whoops. So that was fun. We were sent to at least 4 different places in the airport itself before finally being sent on some random train there instead…with assigned seats…and so of course we had no where to sit and 2+ hours to go. The fun in Germany was clearly on a roll! But anyway we met a slightly creepy Helpful Stranger who thankfully let us know when we arrived in Offenburg so we could disembark and get lost once again. In the end, we did arrive at Strasbourg’s Gare Central and made it to our hotel which was like an oasis for the weary traveler. My view looked like this:

view from the Regent Contades

view from the Regent Contades

Then we were starving as usual, and we had great luck stumbling onto Le Michel with the most scrumptious quiche I’ve ever had:

michel1

beer, of course

beer, of course

something with rhubarb..looks a bit better than it tastes, but pretty tasty all the same

something with rhubarb..looks a bit better than it tastes, but pretty tasty all the same

In my mind, there are 3 must see attractions in Strasbourg: Notre Dame, the Palais Rohan, and Petite France. Try to go to Notre Dame before 11, because then they start shutting down admission in preparation of the astronomical clock doing its thing:

said astronomical clock

said astronomical clock

more clock

more clock

The beautiful inside of the church was too big to fit inside my 50 mm camera frame. :/

The beautiful inside of the church was too big to fit inside my 50 mm camera frame. :/

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My attempt at a panorama:

Notre Dame de Strasbourg

Notre Dame de Strasbourg

The church at night:

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It’s amazing to be in a cafe or souvenir shop and then peek out and see that church. So – If you’re into Versailles and such, you’d probably want to visit the Palais Rohan next. Leaving the church, it’s to the left, though there’s construction going on in front of it. Marie Antionette stayed there once! Ooh la!

front of the palace

front of the palace

Getting in was a bit confusing. The building houses like 3 or 4 museums, and if you just want to see the palace portion, your ticket won’t say “Rohan,” but instead “Museum of Decorative Arts” – except in French. They tell you to go into this stairwell but what they don’t say (at least in English) is not to go up or down the stairs, but instead directly to the right of them through a closed door…the kind of door that you’d probably be arrested for walking through in an American museum. Once inside there’s an attendant who can give you a guide to carry (English, French, or German), and they leave you alone to wander. I have no idea if they allow photos or not so tried to take some inconspicuously…it was too pretty not to.

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rohan9

rohan10

I mean, seriously, check out the opulence:

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view of Notre Dame from inside the Palais courtyard

view of Notre Dame from inside the Palais courtyard

There actually are “decorative arts” inside… part of it feels purely like a museum with lots of ceramics and, my favorite, and old clock room.

So then we headed for Petite France but had to stop in the Alsacean Museum… this is not one of the main “must see” areas, but I think it’s worth a look. It’s all about the “Alsace” region of France. The price isn’t too bad and photos are allowed everywhere. Plus there is this wall of vines that I’m obsessed with:

zomg. want.

zomg. want.

I took about 20 pictures but will spare you with only 2 more:

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alsacemuseum17

They have a lot of colorfully painted cisterns:

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…as well as costumes and things people would have worn and cooked with:

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alsacemuseum20

Okay, these aren't exactly things you cook with - I think actually farming equipment. But they could have doubled as torture instruments, no?

Okay, these aren’t exactly things you cook with – I think actually farming equipment. But they could have doubled as torture instruments, no?

No, really. It was a nice museum depicting a rich history of the French country lifestyle. Observe their adorable museum sign:

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There is no shortage of adorable things in Strasbourg. They have a….marigoround? Wow, I have no idea how to spell that. 😦 But anyway, it’s in the middle of this square and is over 100 years old:

placeguttenberg

It even has a pig!

It even has a pig!

Of course nothing beats the adorableness of Petite France (despite the name which has to do with venerial disease – not kidding, see here.)

It’s all flowers and water and half-timbered German-looking buildings….fairy-tale-esque.

single house on a tiny spit of land

single house on a tiny spit of land

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They have glass-topped boats you can tour the area in. They were always packed, so it must be a popular thing. (It’s a big tourist city from what I can see – mostly French though, with a few Germans).

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boat waiting for a loch (spelling?) to open

boat waiting for a loch (spelling?) to open

There it goes! After enough water fills in, the boat can get through.

There it goes! After enough water fills in, the boat can get through.

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The water is surprisingly clear. Where I live the water has so much tanin, it’s a constant orange/brown color.

Well, there was plenty more to see. You could spend days walking. Also, eating:

giant meringue!

giant meringue!

Rather nasty biscuits (cookies). Maybe they were supposed to be dunked in coffee like biscotti? Still, they look awfully pretty.

Rather nasty biscuits (cookies). Maybe they were supposed to be dunked in coffee like biscotti? Still, they look awfully pretty.

Finally - macarons!!

Finally – macarons!!

There were surprisingly few macarons, but all I needed was one. One beautiful raspberry macaron.

me with my macaron (and gingerbread - see it?)...no time to stand still for pictures!

me with my macaron (and gingerbread – see it?)…no time to stand still for pictures!

And then there were the storks – the city has a bird obsession. I was sad not to see any there…they must only come in Spring to have babies…but their presence was felt in every souvenir shop that sold stuffed animal storks, stork embroidered towels, stork snow globes, and even in some hotels/restaurants that named themselves after the birds.

See the stork statue to the left?

See the stork statue to the left?

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And beyond all the gimmicks, there’s the general splendor:

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…and the Gare Central, the train station, where I spent too much time:

garecentral

I know you’re waiting to hear about something weird, possibly like England’s “clotted cream,” and well I won’t let you down. While flipping through the (naturally) predominately French TV channels, I stumbled on this hidden German gem:

?

?

It was strange and intriguing at once – a grumbly voiced puppet creature.. what is his purpose? Why is he grouchy? Why is this 15 minute segment playing over and over again (seriously – it was on every night on repeat).

He becomes Harry Potter.

He becomes Harry Potter.

Then he becomes Sailor Moon!

Then he becomes Sailor Moon!

I have since learned that this creature is Bernd das Brot, a childrens’ network mascot, who Wikipedia describes as a “chronically depressed loaf of bread.” Not kidding. See here. I find this fascinating. Why would they make the mascot for a childrens’ network depressed? Why is he bread? Yet somehow…I love it.

Anyway, the last attraction we got to was the Botanical Gardens. They’re free and have a walk-in rainforest-like greenhouse as well as a Christmas tree exhibit….I guess “Evergreen” is the better term.

botanicalgardens1

mysterious plant

mysterious plant

insect hotel

insect hotel

Minus a day trip to Germany, which I’ll get into in another post, this wrapped up the trip. I fulfilled my original food goal, though in a different way than expected, with one of the Alsace gingerbread hearts. It was so beautiful.

alsace gingerbread1

I clung onto it for days, terrified for some illogical reason that Security wouldn’t let me carry it on the plane. I kept thinking of eating it and then not because I wanted to preserve it for home where I could properly enjoy it. Finally home and unpacked, I sat down to eat it in peace…and it was totally gross! I’m pretty sure it was close to a year old. Like eating spicy cardboard. Oh well. At least it was pretty. 🙂





Octopainting: accomplished

8 10 2013

Despite the travel posts, I did not forget this is an art blog!
Finally finishing my tree octopus painting. 🙂

image

France post still coming up next though…





Mind the Gap!

1 10 2013

Getting to Portsmouth was cray cray! The Garmin wanted to send us anywhere but Portsmouth, and the crowds were like 9A on a rainy rush hour morning. We got there far later than planned, which cost us a 1/2 day in London. Portsmouth is right on the water and is, luckily, pretty walkable. Across from our hotel was this:

Southsea Pier

Southsea Pier

If you walk alongside the water long enough, you’ll get to see one of Henry 8th’s castles (more like a fort, but still interesting) and “Old Portsmouth.” I only know they refer to it as “Old Portsmouth” because that’s what some English people said when they came up asking for directions. We got asked for directions an IMMENSE amount of times, oddly enough.

Old Portsmouth has lots of pubs and views like this:

a pub with flowers (they all have flowers!) and the Spinnaker tower in the distance

a pub with flowers (they all have flowers!) and the Spinnaker tower in the distance

But we were really there for the Historic Dockyards, because they have all these ships you can see.

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The main thing now is the Mary Rose, which was one of Henry 8th’s ships (an awful lot of things we saw were related to him – why is this?) that sank and rested underwater for 400+ years before being dug up and now restored. They’re actually still restoring it – drying it out, rather, by spraying all these chemicals on it. That’s what I’ve read anyay. And it looks like this:

what's left of the Mary Rose

what’s left of the Mary Rose

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The museum is quite nice actually – lots of artifacts over several floors. It was slow to see because people lingered around reading every placard. That surprised me – you never see people so detail-focused in American museums. Do we as Americans tend to be more impatient overall? Or perhaps more ADHD? Are English people more into history? Am I stereotyping too much?

on the HMS Warrior, I believe

on the HMS Warrior, I believe

This, above, was pretty awesome. The other boats are much more intact than the Mary Rose so you can walk all around them. If you have a claustrophobia problem, you may want to avoid the lower floors though. Unlike other ships I’ve visited, they let you get all the way to the bottom with the gravel stuff. You know what I mean?

Then there was this:

Yes.

Yes.

I lost count of all the “cream tea” references. Soon it became this big mysterious concept in my mind, and I became obsessed with trying some. We never seemed to have time until London, which, speaking of:

Bla-zing!!! Blinged out Buckingham

Bla-zing!!! Blinged out Buckingham

London was exciting! I’m not a real “urban focused” person, so I didn’t anticipate how much I’d actually like it. Except Heathrow Airport. I do not love Heathrow Airport.

We had only 1 day (plus like 2 night time hours) in London, so we were rushing around like crazy with barely any time to stop and eat. Our hotel was in Lexham Gardens (Kensington area), so that was good exploring. In my obsession with English grocery stores, I was very excited to find a Sainsburys and a Waitrose (Wait Rose?) right in the area. There was also this:

The British Museum or the British History Museum...or maybe something else entirely?

The British Museum or the British History Museum…or maybe something else entirely?

And this:

another helpful sign

another helpful sign

I’m a little sad about my ignorance – I feel like knowledge should be improved on while travleing, but we were always so pressed for time that you couldn’t generally do anything besides snap a photo. Anyhow.. being so close to Kensington, of course we had to see the palace! The gardens are free (very nice!) and worth seeing. I mean – the actual Kensington gardens are huge and okay but the gardens immediately around the palace are the very nice ones – very well cared for. The palace inside was an unexpected mix of old and new, like so:

old

old

new

new

The “new” were these spots of staged, creatively themed exhibits. Not all educational…some were and others were just strangely decorative, which I like, though it was not conventional.

This is pretty cool, for example.

This is pretty cool, for example.

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This was in the room with "gossip" coming out of grammaphones and things.

This was in the room with “gossip” coming out of grammaphones and things.

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They had nice clothes on display – a whole themed area with dresses worn by the Queen and Princess Margaret, mostly:

sparkles! :)

sparkles! 🙂

…and then a lot of clothes from Queen Victoria and such:

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The whole Queen Victoria section was very well done. Very thorough, educational, lovely paintings…and essentially walked you through her life’s timeline. I really liked this unfinished painting – you never see things like this:

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But my favorites were the King’s Apartments, because they had their original opulence and were so grand. Here’s the view up from the stairwell:

And this is just a stairwell!

And this is just a stairwell!

Actually my favorite thing was that they allow photographs (sans flash), because almost no one here does that (I am still upset about Biltmore Estate not allowing it during their flower festival and then not having postcards or anything to make up for it! Take a lesson from Kensington, Biltmore!)

So then we walked all the way through the massive gardens where we happened upon lots of these:

British goose

British goose

Seriously, LOTS.

a plethora of geese

a plethora of geese

The geese we have here look so different. The ones at Kensington were like geese and ducks combined. Like the sheep, I also wanted to pet one of these, but again resisted the urge. They just look so fluffy. 😦

Then we were about to die of starvation, so we wandered into Selfridges to admire the splendor and overpriced socks and found a food court area with…cream tea! Finally!

The cream tea set up: pot of tea, milk (or cream), a scone, jam, and "clotted cream."

The cream tea set up: pot of tea, milk (or cream), a scone, jam, and “clotted cream.”

Clotted cream is the most disgusting sounding food I ever heard of, so I was very excited to try it.

looks innocent enough...

looks innocent enough…

Crusty topping (ick)...but then buttery smooth insides (yum!)

Crusty topping (ick)…but then buttery smooth insides (yum!)

Once you get past the crusty exterior, it’s actually really good. Like…extremely whipped, fluffy butter with a sweetness. Why don’t we eat this stuff in America? Is it the name? It is pretty off-putting, and yet, worth it.

So then we went to the Tower of London and some other places. Next to the crown jewels (which they don’t allow pictures of – bad, bad!), this is the best part:

dragon!

dragon!

The views are pretty nice too:

The Tower Bridge from inside the Tower of London

The Tower Bridge from inside the Tower of London

Anyway, by 9 p.m. we were starving again and feeling like our feet were dead stumps from all the walking, so we had to bring it in for the night. The next day we flew to Frankfurt and then took a very confusing train trip to Strasbourg, France, which is coming up next.








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