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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.

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
waters.  



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.

www.americanhomesteaddesign.com


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
though.


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.











Friday, July 8, 2016

24 Hours in Old San Juan

For Lavender Linda and Captain von Trapp


A few weeks ago we were taking a cruise that 
departed from San Juan, Puerto Rico.  We
decided to arrive a day before the cruise so we
could spend some time in Old San Juan.


We stayed at the boutique hotel in Old San Juan
called the Casablanca Hotel.  When I was on the
cruise a few days later I had breakfast with a chef
from the Ritz Carlton in San Juan, when I told her
where I had stayed while in town she looked at me
and exclaimed, "that's where you stayed?  That's a 
great hotel, it's a boutique hotel, it's a really cool
place!"  Yep, my travel street cred went up a few
notches...


You've got to love a hotel that plays Casablanca 
in the lobby 24 hours a day.


By this time we were very hungry since we hadn't
eaten since we arrived at the airport in the wee
hours of the morning.  Walking along a street a
woman walked across the street to give me a 
postcard and tell me that the cafe she worked at
was having happy hour.  I asked her how long
happy hour was and she said until 7pm.  I said,
"That's more like Happy Day!"  I looked at Mr.
Wonderful and said, "Well, we are on vacation, 
let's go to happy hour!"  The place was called the 
Blessed Cafe and it was owned by a Jamaican
Rastafarian who wanted all his guests to have
a wonderful experience.  It was a small place
with a bar and another room with a few tables
and all the decor was related to Bob Marley
and the Wailers.  We ordered  a few drinks and
settled back in vacation mode.


Our taxi driver who drove us in from the airport
told us not to miss trying mofongo while in town.
It was on the menu so of course we had to try it.
It is mashed plantains with a pork mixture on top.
It was delicious!


After the Blessed Cafe we walked off our
lunch and popped into antique stores and 
small artisan boutiques.


We headed back to our hotel for a siesta.
The room was small since the building is old
but everything was very nice.  We had upgraded 
to a room with a balcony thinking we would have
one overlooking a quaint street but the balcony is
really just the walkway to your room, don't bother
getting this upgrade because...


...upstairs is a lovely rooftop terrace with large
soaking tubs.  Bring your favorite beverage and
enjoy stargazing while soaking in your tub.


When we awoke from our siesta, we were hungry 
again and it was time to hit the streets.  I wanted to see
the big church and hiked up the hill but the church was
locked up but just across the square I spotted a little tapas
place called Rosa de Triana.  Our plan was to stop into a
few places for a small dish and a drink.


We sat in the cozy courtyard filled with plants 
and fairy lights.  The cafe is known for it's 
Sangria so we had to sample it.  Since there
were no cruise ships in port, the town was quiet 
and we dined with all locals.  It was the type of
place where you nod and say buenas noches to
your fellow diners.


We ordered two tapas plates and the servings 
were so large we knew our plan for visiting a few
places that evening was going to have to become 
Plan B.  So we lingered over our food and drinks
and fell into slow down vacation mode.  At the end
of the meal the waitress served us complimentary
glasses of a local apple liqueur that was delicious.
I wish I had brought a bottle home with us.


Leaving the restaurant we walked down the street 
and through San Juan gate and walked along the
Paseo de la Princesa, the old city walls are on one 
side of the walkway and San Juan Bay is on the other.
It was an enjoyable stroll and we came upon an area 
filled with food vendors and artists selling jewelry.
The food and drinks looked great but we were far too
full to sample anything but we did pick up some cookies 
to eat in bed once we got back to our room.


We watched a bit of Casablanca in the lobby back at
the hotel and then headed up to bed.  I would suggest
to anyone who will be staying at the Casablanca to
bring along a DVD of the movie or download it to one
of your devices and bring along an HDMI cord so you 
can watch the movie in bed.


Mr. Wonderful was up at the crack of dawn
and ready to find a cafe for a coffee.  For myself,
I prefer to laze around in bed when I get the chance
and since all we had to do that day was eat something
and head to the ship, I opted for waking up slowly.
Opening the wooden shutters and looking out these
windows I felt like I could be meeting Papa Hemingway
for lunch.


When I finally got myself moving we hunted around 
for a new restaurant called Melt.  I saw a photo of
their food on instagram and wanted to go there.  When
we finally found it there was no Hemingway but we did 
sit next to the owner of the hotel in which it is located
and got a lesson in Puerto Rican history and politics.


Then it was time to head to the ship to set sail
for parts unknown.
A great 24 hours!