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.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Day in Seville

We left Estepona to begin our 2 1/2 hour journey 
to Seville in the dark of night.  As we drove we 
could see dawn breaking over north Africa.

The day was looking bright and sunny and I was
hoping to find lots of treasures at the Thursday
Antique Market in Seville.  We were making great
time and then the rain started.  We made it to the
city and got terribly lost and ended up in a part of
the city that was definitely not for tourists, we were
on the tiny streets that I call "mirror scrapers" in
our Citroen Picasso that I called Das Boot.  After a 
long backtrack we parked near the bullring and 
started our day of exploring.

We hopped a bus to the Macarena district in
the northern part of the city.  I went into an
antique store to ask about the market but 
they said it would be canceled due to the rain.

So we went to church instead.  Specifically
to the Basilica of Nuestra Senora de la 
Esperanza Macarena.  It is a small but
beautiful Neobaroque church built in the
20th century.

It is so well known because it houses the 
Virgin of Hope statue, the most revered
image in Seville.

The wooden statue dates from the 17th
century.  La Macarena is the Patron 
Saint of matadors.

You can climb behind the altar to 
view the church as the Madonna does.

Through mirrors on each side we can view
her face, including the crystal tears of the
Crying Virgin.

The museum attached to the church 
houses the floats, costumes and treasury
of the Holy Week Brotherhood.  These
items are used in the Holy Week processions
called Semana Santa which happen all over
Spain during Holy Week but are very popular
and elaborate in Seville.

This paseo shows:  When Pilate saw that he could
 prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, 
he took water, and washed his hands before the 
multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this 
just person: see ye to it.

The rain had stopped when we left the 
church so we decided to walk back to the
central part of the city.  We took lots of
photos, popped into a bakery for a little
treat to eat on the way...

... now, it may have taken a bit longer than
anticipated since I jumped into every other 
doorway to take photos of the tiles in the
vestibules.  So beautiful.

Seville is a very pretty city,  I always feel 
the best way to get to know a place is to
walk its streets.

We finally made it down to the beautiful
plaza near the Cathedral.

The Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede is
the largest Gothic cathedral and the 3rd
largest church in the world.  

I have been in A LOT of Gothic cathedrals
and I have to admit I am not a big fan.

I find them too large and too cold.  Now 
Mr. Wonderful and I differ on this subject.
When we are traveling around Europe there
is often a church on every block and we often
have this same conversation:

Mr. W:  Ohhh, look a church.
Me: We can't go into every church we see.
Mr. W: I'll just pop in really fast...
Me:  Grrrrr...

So here is my confession.  I had words 
with Mr. W in the cathedral.  Maybe it was
because we were up before dawn, maybe 
because we walked what felt like many 
miles, okay, maybe I was cranky but 
essentially I told Mr. W to find himself a 
church that travels and go visit churches 
with them.  Yeah, not my finest moment.
And I was in church.

I can appreciate the architecture ~ yes.

But I find that I can't help thinking
about Martin Luther...

An interesting fact about the cathedral is
the presence of the tomb of Christopher
Columbus, though there is a dispute about
whether or not his remains are actually here.

I soon escaped to the Patio de 
las Naranjos.  It is filled with the
beautiful orange trees that are seen
all over Seville.  Don't be tempted to 
eat them though, they are bitter and 
used for marmalade.

From the patio you can see the Giralda
Bell Tower ~ a former minaret of the 
mosque that stood on the site.

After a little time in a cafe I was in a 
better mood which is generally what 
happens when I visit a cafe.  We then
visited the Alcazar of Seville, a Royal
Palace and formerly a Moorish fort.

I have heard the Alcazar described as 
a small Alhambra.  I would agree, I 
found it to be more colorful than the

The gardens are breathtaking, even
in February.

And there was one after another...

after another.

The rains started again so we walked
back to our car and headed home and 
thought we were doing so well when 
once again we missed the road we needed
and this time it was in rush hour traffic.
When we finally found our way we had
a pretty frightening trip home through the
mountains in a downpour.

But we had to get home because we were
going to see Flamenco that night.

Then home to pack because we were moving to
a different village the next day and we had to be
up before dawn again since we were headed to
Granada the next day, another 2 1/2 hour trip
through the mountains in the other direction.

And this is why we often feel we need a 
vacation after our vacation...

Monday, February 24, 2014

Eggcup Pincushions

When I travel, I like to bring home a little gift for
my friends.  Something that evokes the feel of the
country I have traveled in.  

I explored many of the villages along the
southern coast of Spain, I was looking for
something sewing related that also 
was Spanish.

I strolled many flower bedecked lanes, 
popping into shops but I couldn't find
the right thing...

Daily, I would stop off in a cafe to 
contemplate my conumdrum.

Haha, there's something for me.
That's my name when I'm in Spain.

Finally, it dawned on me at one of the 
morning markets.  I'd have to get a little
crafty but I could take an everyday item
and make it into a gift that reflected the
feel of Spain and be sewing related.

I took a decorative eggcup (handpainted
in Spain), then I made a yoyo and stuffed 
it with fiberfill then popped it into the space
where the egg would go and voila! 
I hope my friends enjoy them.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Threads of Memory ~ February

Mercer County Star

We are quilting along with Barbara Brackman's
Block of the Month, Threads of Memory.


This is how I made my block, it may
differ from the original.

Fabric Requirements:

Fabric A: Red print
4 - 4 1/2''squares

Fabric B: Green
1 - 6'' square 

Fabric C: Large Light Print
2 - 6'' squares - Mark a 
diagonal line on back.

Fabric D: Blue
1 - 6'' square

Fabric E: Small Light Print
4 - 1 1/2'' squares
4 - 1 1/2'' x 2 1/2'' rectangles

Fabric F: Red
8 - 1 1/2'' squares - Mark a 
diagonal line on back.

Fabric G: Fussy Cut
1 - 2 1/2'' square

Make Small Center Star: 

Make Flying Geese Units:

Place a Fabric F 1 1/2'' square on left
side of a Fabric E rectangles and sew
a thread width below drawn line.  Open
and press to the corner, trim back 2 
layers of fabric to 1/4''.

Repeat process on the right side of 
rectangle.  Make 4 of this unit.

Layout units as shown and sew
together in 3 rows.  Press seams 
in rows 1 and 3 to the outside and
seams in row 2 to the inside.

Sew rows together and square to 4 1/2''.

Make Quarter Square Triangles
(Outer Center Units)

Pair 6'' squares in the following combinations
with right sides together:
1 - B/C    1 - C/D
Sew 1/4'' away from each side of drawn line,
cut on drawn line and press seams to the
Fabrics B and D.  On the Fabric B/C units,
mark a diagonal line on the opposite
diagonal from the seam.

Pair a B/C unit with a C/D unit with
right sides together as shown.  Be 
sure to have seams lock against each 
other.  Sew 1/4'' away from each side 
of drawn line, cut on drawn line and
press seam open to reduce bulk.

Squaring a Quarter Square Triangle is easy 
if you follow the directions!  Place the diagonal
line of the ruler along the seam line as shown.
Since we want a 4 1/2'' square, place the 2 1/4''
intersection at the center of block (as shown
with the arrow), now trim the top and right 

Rotate the unit and place the 4 1/2''
lines of the ruler along the left and bottom
edges and trim the remaining untrimmed
edges.  Make 4 of this unit.

Layout units as shown and sew together
in 3 rows.  Press seams in rows 1 and 3
to the outside and seams in row 2 to the 

Sew rows together and press final seams
open to reduce bulk.  Square to 12 1/2''.

Check out everyone's work on Dustin's Flickr site:

If you like what you see here, please
become a follower of this blog and leave a 
comment, let me know you are out there!
~ Ellen

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Seeing the World Through Wine

For Anthala

When I see people taking great photos, I will
often ask them if I can see the shot.  It is a 
great way to share ideas and information.
On one of our first nights in Spain we were on
the beach watching the sunset and a group of
3 young people came on the beach and sat a
few chairs away from us.  One of the young
women in the group was in the sand at one 
point taking photos with her phone.  After
the woman's friends had gone back to the 
resort I yelled over to ask if she was taking
a photo of the glass of wine or through the 
glass of wine.  She called back to say she was 
on the phone with her brother but would 
show me when she got off the phone.  After 
a bit she came over and Rob & I got into a 
fabulous conversation with her.  It was one
of those instances when we made an instant
connection with a fellow traveler, we all had 
so much to share and talk about, it was 
wonderful.  It was the same connection we
have made many other times, such as Tess,
Adithya, Ahmet, Sumi and Avnish, Olivia, 
Barb & Steve for example.

We were in such a fabulous conversation we 
didn't realize the sun had completely set and
a lot of time had gone by.  Suddenly Anthala's
friends returned to the beach.  They had been
texting her and searching for her and were 
quite concerned when they couldn't reach her.
Whoops!  Sorry about that...

Finally, we got around to looking at her photos.
She was taking a photo through the glass of wine
and it was very cool looking.  We decided we 
should do a series of these shots as we travel
using the local wines of the region we are 
traveling in.  So here is my first shot, we have
had a busy trip and quite a bit of rain so this was
the first chance I got to shoot the sunset through
the local Spanish vino blanco.  This will be the
first in the series.

It was great to meet you Anthala!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Gambas al Ajillo

In Marbella, Spain today, the winds are
howling, the palms are swaying, the waves
are crashing and we are taking a day to just
hang out at home.  This afternoon Mr.
Wonderful decided to go for a massage.  He 
was telling Hailey, his massage therapist, that
he was going to make a shrimp dish for dinner
tonight and this is the recipe she suggested.
It is gambas al ajillo, often thought of as the
perfect tapas dish ~ easy to make and delicious.
We moaned with delight while eating this and
sopped up every bit of the sauce and garlic 
with fresh baguette ~ heaven.


Saturday, February 8, 2014


I HATE to complain.  I'm okay with firing off an
email when something is not right but to confront
someone in person ~ oh no...  Last week we stayed 
in a beautiful resort in Estepona, it was lovely.  They
said they wanted us to feel at home and we only 
could wish that our home could be so beautiful.

Yesterday we moved to Marbella for week two of
our vacation.  Marbella - land of the jet set and 
Saudi Princes.  We had never stayed here before
and were excited because we expected it to be
great... it wasn't.  Our first condo was in one of 
the original buildings and it just looked old. 
We spent the night but knew we couldn't spend
the week in it, so we complained.  Well, I wrote
emails that got us nowhere and Mr. Wonderful
did the face to face complaining.  Anyone who 
knows him knows he is a very easy going guy,
so if you have to be complained to, I guess it is
better by someone like him.

They couldn't move us back to the resort in
Estepona but they did move us to another condo 
in a newer building.  Same decor but in better
shape.  The kitchen ~ I have to say I despise
stainless steel appliances, I call it CSI Kitchen.
I think of food as a passionate creation and I 
don't want to prepare it in a place that looks 
like a morgue.  It is so Kitty Bartholomew in the 
90's or Martha post divorce...

The drapes in the living room are gold, in the other 
condo they were a sickly salmon as were the pillows.
I didn't want to touch them.

But what makes the move worth it is the view
from the patio.  Yeah, I could look at that all day.

And the view from bed is nice too.

I think it is necessary to sometimes complain
to get what will make you happy.  After all we
all pay a lot of money when we travel and we 
shouldn't allow ourselves to be miserable.  In 
the other condo we would have been miserable
and that would have made a week of  precious
vacation time be awful.  Now I'm not saying 
complain about every little last thing, that would
be hateful.  But telling a hotel professional about
your problem can lead to a good outcome for all.