Welcome to American Homestead. I'm happy you have found my blog. Make yourself comfy and see what's been happening around here. I write about the things that interest me ~ creativity, travel, food, nature and a happy life. I'd love to read your comments.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The DNA Surprise!

Photo from Google Photos

Just this week we got our family's DNA test 
results.  Last Summer my late sister Trishie 
and I went to a presentation at our local library
about DNA testing.  The lecturer said it would 
be best if our brother was the one to take the
test.  After consulting with Lynne, our family
geneologist, we decided to use the FamilyTree
DNA test.  Oh, how I wish Trishie were here to
see what we learned.

Well, we are obviously very European - 98% which was
not a surprise.  It was a bit of a surprise to see we are
mostly Scandinavian but not a total surprise.  We already
knew through a DNA test of a male cousin on our Irish
side that we had Viking blood.  I was quite surprised to 
see that we were more Scandinavian than anything else.
I have always been attracted to the folk art and culture
of Scandinavia but I thought that was from living with
my Norwegian roommate Heidi while in college.  I must
say, I fully embrace my Scandinavian roots and I'm ready
to join the Sons of Norway!

But here is the surprise that blew us away ~ we are 2%
Middle Eastern ~ whaaattt????
The results said some of our ancient ancestors would 
have come from the area of Turkey.  Turkey!  I was 
thrilled! It made me think back to my first trip to Turkey
which was 5 years ago this Spring.  I was flying to Istanbul
from Amsterdam and as I was walking to the boarding area
Mr. Wonderful was quite a ways behind me and it looked 
like I was traveling alone.  As I approached the line I noticed 
3 people at the end of the line that looked very Turkish and
I don't mean just physically, they were not in western dress. 
Now I don't mean they were in burkas and head scarves but 
they had clothing that was rather folk-like, almost with a
bit of a peasant look to it.  There was a man and two women
and when the man spotted me, he opened his arms in a 
gesture that would only be read as, "Come, welcome sister!"
The women turned to me and they all started talking to me
in Turkish!  I explained in English that I didn't speak Turkish
and three jaws dropped, they couldn't believe it.  But with 
typical Turkish hospitality, they welcomed me anyway.  Once
I got to Istanbul I realized, I fit right in here.  In fact as I was
spending the day in the park with the lawyer Ahmet, I said to
him, I could pass for Turkish, the dark hair, the dark eyes.
He agreed.
One night I was riding the funicular or as they call it the
Mountain Tram and an elderly woman and a man who 
was probably her son boarded.  Mr. Wonderful got up to 
give the lady his seat and since the man was older than me
I got up so he could sit.  He insisted I take the seat and the
woman and I smiled and giggled to each other and she held
my hand all the way up the mountain.  Again..."welcome
daughter".  It is a small world, embrace it!

And Heidi, notice on the map above, the Scandinavian area
that we are most likely from is in Norway!  Hei sister!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Port of Call: Aruba

We were traveling on the Coral Princess from Fort 
Lauderdale.  Aruba was our first port and after being
at sea for two and a half days we were ready to get 
off the ship and do some exploring.

On our cruise, we were only in port for a few hours
from about 7am until noon.  We are not big on excursions 
and generally like to explore on our own.  After reading
up on the island we found out that there are tours that take 
you to visit the Natural Bridge and then tell you that the
Natural Bridge was destroyed in a storm in 2005, they do 
show you a smaller version of a natural bridge but we knew
 this sort of tour would not be for us.

The ship docks at the Aruba Cruise Terminal and it is
just a short walk to get outside the terminal to taxis and
the main shopping area.  Aruba is one of the countries of
the Kingdom of the Netherlands and you can see the 
Dutch influence in the facades of the buildings on the
main drag, though with a pastel Caribbean vibe.  There
are casinos, restaurants and bars and the typical 
shopping venues found in most island ports such as
Diamonds International and stores of that type.

We exited the cruise terminal and approached the 
line of taxis.  There are fixed prices in Aruba and we
knew it would be $10 to get to our destination but 
we told the driver where we wanted to go he told us
the was a Sunday surcharge and now the fare would
be $13 each way for a 3 mile trip.  I really hate being
ripped off when I travel and prefer to walk away when
it happens.  I walked onto the main street and just 
behind the stores is the bus station, a few local guys
told me I could get to the beach easily and cheaply.
We could pay with US dollars on the bus since the
ticket booth was closed.  The bus arrived in a few
minutes and we hopped on, for a few dollars each we
rode the local bus and the driver told us when we
had reached our destination.

We chose to visit Eagle Beach during our time in Aruba.
This beach is often rated as one of the best in the islands.
And it is beautiful, a lovely wide beach with turquoise blue

We didn't have wifi on the ship so we needed to find a spot
on the beach with wifi so we could check our emails and
get a little work done.  We paid a guy for a few lounge chairs
under a palapa and settled in for what we thought would
be a few hours of rest and relaxation.  Very soon we were
slapping and scratching from some small insects that were
biting us.  We wrapped towels around ourselves and checked
our most important emails and then high tailed it out of 
there before we were devoured by the insects.

We said farewell to the beach and hopped back on
the bus to town.

We strolled over the the Wharfside Flea Market and met
up with a few friends from the ship who told us all the
stuff there were cheap souvenirs or other trinkets that
are brought over from Haiti.  By this point we had seen
enough, we headed back to the ship.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Happy 6th Birthday American Homestead Blog!

Today marks the 6th birthday of the American Homestead
blog and it is also my birthday but I'm older than 6!

I have been a bad blogger this year, in fact, I have only
posted 12 times in the whole year.  It seemed like blogging
was falling by the wayside but lately I am happy to see many
bloggers returning from long breaks.  So hopefully with the
New Year I will try to blog more often.  I do have so many
stories I would love to tell, things about my travels, the 
things I make, the things I eat, the things I collect, etc.

I do post everyday on Instagram:  @americanhomestead1

There are rumors that there may be some new technology
coming my way for my birthday so hopefully that will make
blogging a bit easier.  I take so many photos with my phone
these days, there are so many pieces of equipment it can be
hard to get them to work together in an easy way.

This blog started just as I was about to go on a big adventure
and that is still going on.  I travel a lot!  And I love it.  I have
traveled to 7 foreign countries this year, 6 of them are new
to me.  I leave next week to set sail to South America and I
will visit five new countries on my world list.

What is my World List you may ask?  Well, there are a few
milestones that travelers like to meet.  One is to
circumnavigate the globe, I've done that twice.  Another
milestone is to visit 100 countries ~ I'm working on that!
I am almost halfway to my goal.

So please stay tuned to see what the New Year brings.
I hope everyone enjoys the upcoming holidays no
matter what holiday you may celebrate.  Just be happy!

All the best,

~ Ellen

Monday, August 22, 2016

Before and After Silver Haul

I had a meeting in a town about an hour and a
quarter away from my house earlier this week
and on the way home I stopped at a thrift shop
for a look around and found a pile of old silver.
I imagine a family emptied out someone's home
and sent it all to the thrift shop.  Probably many
of these pieces were wedding gifts back when
people got silver for their weddings.  There were
so many cool pieces, a huge circular tray that
must have been 2' across, coffee pots, creamers,
footed water pitchers...  and I didn't buy anything.
NOT ONE THING!  I thought, oh, you have so
much already, where will you put it?

And then I regretted it.  I thought about it all
week.  I really wanted the huge tray.

This was our wedding anniversary weekend and we
were out of state all day on Saturday so I made a deal
with Mr. Wonderful.  I said if we got up early on Sunday
 and got all of our outdoor chores done, could we head
back down south and see if any silver was left?  He was
up for it and off we went.  Of course many of the good
pieces were gone, including the huge tray.  But I did
pick up 10 pieces.  And I got it all for $20 which is the
weekend limit I usually set for myself.  So it was a score!

I polished it all as I was watching the final Lewis on
Masterpiece and now it is all packed away in the china
closet.  I think we will have a silver themed Thanksgiving
and Christmas this year!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

American Homestead Pincushion/Ornament Class

This post gives information on my Ornament/Pincushion
Class that I teach to guilds, stitching groups and retreats.

There are many ways to use the projects that you create.
Here are the various ways you can use the ornaments.

You could also embroider a name and date on the back
to make it a special keepsake ornament.  I know people
who make them for their kids or grandkids so when they
grow up and have their own homes, they have a collection
of ornaments from someone they love.

You can also add a little pocket to the back to hold
a gift certificate.

If you decide to make a pincushion you can place them
on a metal candlestand which looks lovely.

You can also frame them, they look great grouped 
in three or four on the wall.

You can also put them on dowel sticks and
add them to a floral arrangement.

You have two choices to make:
1. What pattern do I want to make?  There are 13 to
choose from.  They are shown below.
2. What colorway would you like to work in?  There is 
a brighter group of fabrics called the European Folk
Art Collection and a deeper group of fabrics called the
Pennyrug Collection.  Here they are:

Patterns created in The European Folk Art Collection

Patterns created in The Pennyrug Collection

This is what you need to bring to class: (it's so 
simple, you can bring it in a little basket!)

Scissors: sharp scissors to cut the wool felt and thread
Small pincushion with a few pins
Needles: appropriate to your choice of thread or whatever
feels good for you.
For ornament: 2 - 6'' x 6'' squares of cotton batting (scraps
from your quit projects are great)
For pincushion: a sandwich size ziploc of fiberfill
Floss/Thread:  There are as many opinions on what is the
best thread as there are brands of thread so I let my students
choose their favorite.  I generally use DMC embroidery floss 
and the correct color numbers are shown below.  If you prefer 
another thread or floss then just search for a comparison chart
for the brand you choose.
For European Folk Art Colorway:  Ecru - 806 - 3347 - 742 - 816
For Pennyrug Colorway: 677 - 920 - 826 - 816 - 732 - 742 - 310

Now choose one of the 13 patterns.  The photos show a
European Folk Art colorway example on the left and a 
Pennyrug colorway example on the right.

Here is a video about the class:

I hope to see you sometime very soon!!  ~ Ellen

Monday, July 18, 2016

Grand Isle

This is my Grand Isle tabletopper pattern.  I love how 
changing colors can really change the look of a pattern.
You could make a different one for each season or holiday.
The one with the pumpkin is made from felted wool and 
the ones with the brighter colors are made with wool felt.

There is a funny story about this pattern.  Our relatives
Pat and Jim had purchased a summer home in Michigan 
in a town that started with the word Grand at the time I
was designing this pattern.  I looked on a map and found
Grand Isle and named the pattern for Pat and Jim's new 
town.  It wasn't until later that I found out they moved to
Grand Haven ~  ooops!  I think I should design another
pattern to honor Grand Haven.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Sint Maarten

Sint Maarten is a popular port for cruises.  Sint Maarten
is a constituent country of the Netherlands and shares this
small Caribbean island with the French Saint-Martin. The
capital, Philipsburg is where the big cruise ships dock.  It is
a very quick and affordable water taxi ride from the dock to
the town.  We were told to be sure to have the taxi drop us at
the Police Station but we didn't have a choice, we were just 
told to get on the taxi and were dropped off at another dock.
It is not terribly far away from the shops and restaurants

This is what you see when you leave the taxi dock,
it is a very clean, shaded area and you can see why 
the locals would want visitors to see this area first
as it is very inviting.  

The palm shaded area is flanked by these colorful buildings
 that house many shops.  Unfortunately these shops were not
open on a Sunday morning.  We considered taking a taxi to
the French side of the islands but were told most places are
closed there on Sundays.

We strolled along the cobblestone streets toward the more 
populated area of the town.  We passed by local homes
near the quieter end of town.

Many of the locals were in church since it was a Sunday
morning when we first arrived.

The capital's courthouse is a beautiful old building.

There are many colorfully painted building selling
jewelry, alcohol, souvenirs and quite a few selling
Delft since this is a Dutch holding.  We purchased
some sea salt since this island was once named the
Land of Salt, we also purchased some local spice
mix and vanilla extract.  We love to buy local food
products and then cook with them back home, it is
a way to bring your vacation home with you.

After a nice walk and some shopping we walked to the
beach and rented a few chairs and an umbrella for the
day.  The prices can vary from one vendor to another
but all the prices were quite reasonable.  The people 
working on the beach will bring you drinks if you wish 
or you can just walk up to one of the bars on the street
that runs alongside the beach.

When you have had enough surf and sand, just walk
over to the police station and hop a water taxi for the 
short ride back to the ship.

We had a nice relaxing day in Sint Maarten.  It was easy
and affordable to get to a beach, bars and shopping.  The
locals were friendly and nice though a few people in the 
shops seemed very bored and they did not get any of our
money.  The guy who rented us our chairs and umbrella
was very friendly and he had a deal for chairs, umbrella
and 6 beers for a decent price. When I told him I don't
drink beer, he reduced the price and said he would get
me anything I would want to drink from a local bar, it 
was all very simple, relaxing and easy.