Fabrics

While in India last year, I had the chance to visit a fabric printing company. I’ve always wondered about how each one of those brilliantly colored designs ends up on a piece of silk or cotton.

When I say factory, it’s a term that I use quite loosely because it was an old town in an old building with artisans who have been in the business their entire life!

It’s actually a master a skill that has been handed down from each of their parents, sometimes grandparents or even great grandparents. I found them sitting either on the ground or tall stools that have probably been there just as long as the workers. The factory is open air and allows the fabrics to dry in the beautiful Indian heat. It sounds absolutely tedious, time consuming and just plain hard work. And if that was your thought, you would be right!

But the results speak for themselves.

Creating the stamps for printing was breathtaking.  I was most interested in finding out how they created each of these. I thought that the stamps would be made of metal, rubber or some type of resin but they’re not, they’re all hand carved into wood pieces. These can take a day to a week to create and each stamp will be assembled to create a bigger stamp. I can’t imagine having that job! There’s so much pressure of messing it up and with one mistake, my entire design would be ruined. However stamp by stamp, design by design, each one of the artisans hand carve the designs you see with their own microscopic tools; it is a beautiful process that they make look wonderfully easy.

When they’re done with the stamps they take them upstairs to the top floor of the factory; remember that this is an open air factory.  The top floor is open to the sun and there is often a slight breeze.

Each of the pieces is printed by hand on this floor.  The fabric is spread out over a long table and pinned down so that it is perfectly flat.  Then the artisans come to work.  They gather around the cloth with the chosen stamp and begin the design.  They begin to dip into different colors of ink; each color is a different layer.  They clean the stamps between each one of the rotations and as they are layered with color, they are delicately placed on each one of the materials.

It’s painstaking to watch because if you don’t match up the designs then they don’t line up right in the finish piece. But, if you’re off with a color or you have too much color on your wooden stamp, then your design gets muddled as well. One of the things that  I was most impressed about is the color choices. While the rest of the world has gone with muddy grays and vanilla cream colors, India still lives in a vibrant world of hopeful color. They choose colors of beautiful pink fuchsias, tangerine oranges. Spring grass green and the deepest of the ocean blues. And as they begin to work each one of these colors a beautiful design begins to emerge.

When the pieces are done being printed, they are unpinned from the long table.  They are taken to a clothesline and are hung in the sunshine to dry. It only takes a few moments to dry as the wind ruffles through each piece of material.  The sun also makes them crisp and warm to the touch.  It is a sight to see and you are left with a gift of a lifetime!

So many things we take for granted today come from a great tradition somewhere. The color and design in clothing and home goods is so thrilling, but when you think about where he comes from and how it all got started, you begin to appreciate every single moment that went into creating your favorite new heirloom.

I think about that today, as I pass on traditions to my daughter, teaching her how to cook with all the passion that my mother taught me. Some things can only be handed down from generation to generation. Some things have nothing to do with materials or even skills but instead have to do with moments of great thought, heart, and understanding. Sometimes it means going beyond the normal rush of everyday life and slowing down to really appreciate what is in front of you.

So, thank you to all the artisans I met that day. How thoughtful every single stamp, every single color choice, and every single movement each artisan put into creating these beautiful fabrics really do leave me speechless.

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Turkey’s Stray Dogs

In May of 2013, a series of violent protests began in Istanbul Turkey and spread through the rest of the country for the majority of that year.  My wife, Jennifer, and I had just spent much of March of that same year traveling through the Western part of Turkey not realizing what was about to occur. We visited Istanbul, Gallipoli, Troy, Ephesus, Kusadasi, Antalya, Cappadocia, Konya, and Ankara (Turkey’s capital). I could write several blogs based on places and events of that trip. I could blog about the cordial and welcoming Turks that we encountered. The delicious local foods that we enjoyed would be another subject. We stood in the theatre where the Apostle Paul spoke. We traveled by bus adjacent to the Silk Road, the ancient trade route linking China to the West. We walked the battlegrounds of the Trojan War at Troy.

But, being a dog owner, I wanted to share with you the special relationship between the Turkish people and the population of stray dogs (and cats) and how they are treated there. I noticed during our trip that there were a noticeable number of homeless dogs…everywhere. Many Turks are quite comfortable with, and even enjoy, having the free-roaming dogs around.
Free-roaming dogs have been documented in Istanbul for several hundred years at least, perhaps longer.  Today, dogs are found most anywhere – even in this patio area of a local restaurant. They are fed by families and business owners daily. Tin bowls for food and water can even be seen along the highways.

There is even a company in Turkey called Pugedon that has created a somewhat unusual but effective way to kill two birds with one stone – their vending machine in Istanbul takes bottles deposited for recycling and dispenses food for the city’s stray dogs.

Our guide told us that there are very few animal shelters throughout Turkey. The strategy instead is a trap-spay/neuter-vaccinate/treat and release program.  Free-roaming dogs are picked up off the streets and taken to local shelters where they are spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies and other diseases, treated for minor illnesses, ear-tagged for identification, and then released back to the neighborhood where they were trapped. You can see one of the tagged street dogs in the photograph below.

The most popular dog in Turkey is the Kangal. It is a breed of large livestock guardian dog originating from the Sivas province of Turkey. While the Kangal is often referred to as a sheep dog, it is not a herding dog, but rather a flock guardian that lives with the flock of sheep to actively fend off predators of all sizes. Typically used as protection against wolves, bears, and jackals in its native Turkey. The Kangals we encountered were very social except for the one protecting her pups.

This little guy was living in a market in Cappadocia. He had obviously sustained an injury and was limping. But all the store owners at the market treated him like their very own. I really wanted to bring him home.

During the harsh winter months, Turkish Malls will open their doors to stray dogs. The following photo is from a local newspaper.

If you ever have the chance to visit Turkey during safer times, don’t forget to take some treats with you. These homeless dogs and cats are very friendly and will often approach you for a treat or just a tummy rub.

I hope you enjoy the photos Jennifer took on our trip!

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To Travel (Alone) or Not To Travel? That is the Question

I’m often asked about how and why I travel so often…alone!

Is it an act of bravery, stupidity or out of necessity??

And the answer is, quite frankly, a little bit of all of them.

After witnessing both my parents passing, I made a truly conscious effort to change the parts of my life that weren’t making me happy and began to live the philosophy of Tim McGraw’s ‘Live Like You Were Dying’:

“Like tomorrow was a gift

And you’ve got eternity to think about

What you’d do with it

What could you do with it

What did I do with it

What would I do with it?”

Well, I wanted to LIVE this one marvelous life to the enth degree and experience all that it could throw my way. And just because I don’t have a traditional partner to do that with, doesn’t mean I should sit home alon. So, I put my big girl panties on and dove head first into an unbelievable abyss!

Anyone who really knows me, will tell you I am THE ultimate planner…albeit just to the left of Type A control freakishness. And solo traveling fits very well into my type of personality. No one to tell me what time to get up, no one with their own agenda, I get to do what I want, when I want and how I want…pretty awesome to be honest! And it’s equally awesome that my job has such a great vacation plan to afford me such unique experiences.
My first journey into this new found ‘live life’ philosophy took me to Tanzania and fulfilling a lifelong dream of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and then relaxing on safari afterwards. From figuring out flight times to trip details & training, special Visa requirements to shots, shots and more shots, I arrived in a completely foreign environment and met up with 10 strangers-all couples, mind you! What had I gotten myself into? After the requisite getting acquainted period and answering all the burning questions of, “How are you here by yourself?” we settled into the next 3 weeks of navigating terrain, climate changes and personalities. It wasn’t always easy and I realized I had to give up a lot of my control and just LIVE in the moment!

It was truly a life-changing trip for me.

From that moment on, it’s been a non-stop whirl of activity and I wouldn’t have it any other way. From the gorgeous and equally humbling National Parks that I adore so greatly to China, Hong Kong, Japan, Peru, Mexico, Nepal, Bali, Singapore, Amsterdam, London, Italy, Ireland, France and beyond….the world is truly an incredible oyster and I hope to continue exploring it for the rest of my life!

Sure, there have been challenges: Flat tires at 4am with no cell service, forgotten passports in another country, unique outdoor restroom facilities without the comforts of home, periods of silence and quiet reflection while not encountering a human being for days, misplaced luggage, flights being cancelled – you name it, I think I’ve been there, but I thrive on that and can’t wait for the next adventure to begin! I find complete solace in the prep work of a trip. However, it’s meeting the varied and incredibly friendly ‘strangers’ that walk into my life for short bursts  of time that has brought the most happiness. Some I’ve stayed in touch with and formed unbreakable bonds, others will never be seen again, but it’s the unspoken understanding that we are touching each others lives in ways that could never be measured that has made the biggest impact. I’ve learned how resilient the human spirit truly is. How we handle and figure out just about any circumstance if we take a good hard look at reality and how life is is such an incredible gift…we’ve only got ONE!! So what have you got to lose?

Go skydiving

Go Rocky Mountain Climbing

And maybe even go 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu

But most importantly

Love deeper,

Speak sweeter

And give forgiveness you’ve been denying….so one day you can truly say that you lived like you were dying.

Any tips I would share for a first time solo traveler? You bet!

*Solo travelers can blend more easily in a group so you don’t immediately stand out as a ‘fish out of water’

*Know in advance your destination point from airport to accommodations and approximate cost/time to get there-that way you can’t ‘be taken for a ride’

*Keep an extra copy of passport and money in more then one place on your person

*Walk confidently and with purpose-avoid “looking like a tourist”

*Never let anyone you are traveling alone, even if it’s just someone you’re asking for directions. Instead say, “I’m meeting friends at the Louvre in 15 minutes, I’m heading in the right direction, correct?”

*Leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend at home and stay in touch regularly via free International apps

*Most importantly, have a sense of humor! Something is bound to go wrong, but that’s the fun of it!

XX

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A Wonder on the Other Side of the World

When I decided to go India this spring, I knew I needed to get to the Taj Mahal.  India’s most iconic mausoleum, inspired by love, has been adored by millions with its beauty. My mom always told me to travel – I did not realize how much I would fall in love with traveling since she has passed.   She is always remembered when I travel, meet new people and learn new cultures.

The Taj Mahal is in Agra on a beautiful river basin.  I guess I was not sure what to expect when I saw it for the 1st time, but it was magical.  I have never experienced a building that literally took my breath away and the grounds that surround the Taj Mahal are perfectly placed to support its beauty.  It is so big and majestic, yet it is personal and reflective at the same time.  Once you step foot into the grounds you understand why it is one of the manmade wonders of the world.

I thought it would be fun to give you some of the fun facts of the building for you to enjoy:

  • Construction began in 1632 and finished in 1653 – it took 22 years to build
  • 28 types of precious and semiprecious jewels are set in the marble of the building
  • Turquoise from Tibet and Jade from China are used throughout
  • All the white marble was transported from Rajasthan
  • The Taj is cracking at an alarming rate as it was built on wood structures on the river bed

I would love to have your travel recommendations for the year!  What is your dream destination?

 

 

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Spring Vacation

Living here in cold Minnesota, I love planning a Spring vacation…a warm getaway before our beautiful Minnesota summer weather sets in.  I start planning right after the holidays are over.  It has to be somewhere warm with sand and sun.  As a family, we love to go to Hawaii –  Maui is our favorite island.  We have been visiting Maui since 1998 and our sons just love it.  There are so many cool things to do and see on the island.

There are some things that you should do at least once when you visit the state of Hawaii.  Among these, would be a Luau.  These are typically large gatherings with lots of tourists but it can be a fun experience.  The best part of the Luau for me is not the food, but rather the culture and entertainment value that the Luau shows provide. I really like the fire dancers 🙂

A whale watch cruise is something we try to do at least once while we are visiting!  I think it is our favorite excursion.  Because we like to travel during the time that the whales migrate, there is always plenty of activity. We have always been lucky enough to see whales – but even if you weren’t, the view of the island from the water is spectacular!

I love a beautiful sunrise and sunset.  Among the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen is the view from Mt. Haleakala, a dormant volcano 10,000 feet above sea level.  You will need to leave your hotel at about 3:30 in the morning (wear a warm jacket) to make the drive to the top…fingers crossed it is a clear morning. The experience is spiritual and it is clear to see why the name Haleakala means “house of the sun.”

 

One of our favorite day trips is driving the road to Hana.  This is a full day trip and you will want to be prepared.  Have a full tank of gas and pack a lunch, or stop in Pa’ia town at the sandwich shop for a box lunch.  This beautiful drive is very steep and winding with narrow roads and passes and over 59 bridges….46 of which are only one lane wide.  The views are breathtaking! If there has been rain, the waterfalls are flowing and you get the sense you are in a tropical rainforest.

These are just a few of the things we like to do when we visit Maui.  There are so many others…. the beach, snorkeling in Molokini Crater, dinner at Mama’s Fish House (don’t miss it) and hanging out in Lahaina town.  And of course, make sure you watch the sunset….at least once.

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My Valentine

Meet my Valentine, the love of my life, my “Sweet Lew”

I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate him this month in my blog since February is the month of love.  We will celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary this year and we have two wonderful sons who bring so much joy and love to our lives.  We are now empty nesters so we have a lot of time on our hands but don’t waste a minute of it.  We really enjoy spending time together and just hanging out.  He really is my best friend.

I would have to say travel is our favorite thing to plan for and do, whether it is hopping in the car and driving to Glacier National Park in MT, or taking a trip to Italy for my 50th birthday (best trip ever), or just a weekend up at the Northshore in MN, we always have a great time together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also enjoy being Great Aunt Melissa and Great Uncle Lewis!  We have 4 great nieces and 3 great nephews and are enjoying watching them become parents and let the next generation begin.

I consider myself so incredibly blessed that I found my true love, my life partner who stands beside me through all of the ups and downs in life.  I have always said he is the tree by the water, so calm and steady in my life.

Happy Valentine’s Day sweetheart, I love you!

 

 

 

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Invicta Adventures

1375991_10201259939885853_1848613689_nThe definition of Remote (distant/unlikely to occur) aptly describes Evine’s “Invicta Remotes.” Not only do we travel to distant/exotic locations, but when you see what has to happen from a cliff on the far side of a near deserted island, it is astonishing that our crew is able to pull off a live broadcast from these remote destinations.  These remotes are a metaphor for what Inivcta has been able to offer customers at Evine for the past 15 years. Prior to our partnership, high quality watches had been unattainable and unaffordable by other brands and were unlikely to find their way into customers collections…Invicta via Evine is making these quality timepieces available and incredibly affordable to our customers!

Blue Stallion FarmInvicta remotes have taken us to Invicta’s headquarters in Florida where we’ve broadcast from Invicta’s Warehouse, the Invicta Marine Pavilion on the Intercostal, and the Blue Stallion Farm.  The most difficult to plan for were the Farm remotes as the temperatures were often over 100 degrees during the day and in the 40’s at night. We never knew if we would be outside in the blistering sun or freezing rain. They were also the most difficult as the beetles and mosquitoes were relentless at night.  The freakiest thing that happened one night on air was when a screeching hawk with a frog in its mouth flew right above our heads!

CaboThe most luxurious locations we have traveled to are Cabo and the Riviera Maya areas in Mexico.  Our most difficult broadcast by far was from Staniel Cay in the Bahamas where the crew worked around the clock everyday pulling miles of cables to remote cliffs and beaches around the near deserted island.  They spent hours lighting shark invested waters for our night broadcasts.  I liken this remote to summer camp…the roughing it kind!  We braved the elements of extreme heat and rain (we escaped the day before the hurricane hit and destroyed the island) and bonded the same way I did with my fellow girl scout campers as a teenager.

I can not say enough incredible things about the remote crew…the lighting crew, floor directors, camera operators, models, stylists, visual staff, sales managers/producers, control room, directors, etc. who all work tireless hours in difficult conditions without ever a complaint.  I also want to thank Eyal Lalo and the Invicta staff for the amazing experiences, hospitality, and opportunities they have offered us at Evine.

Invicta Cruise1For the first time ever, Invicta is giving our customers an opportunity to join us on our next remote as we broadcast LIVE from the middle of the ocean on our February Invicta Cruise!  Our customers will have a chance to be a part of our live show and meet Eyal Lalo, Invicta Designers, Ambassadors, and Collectors.  If you can’t make it, join me on my Facebook page for photos of the day from February 10-13th!

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Happy Birthday, NPS!

Being a lover of travel, I’ve had the wonderful 1opportunity to see some incredible sites outside of our beloved country.

However, I’m always drawn back to the true ‘comforts of home’ when visiting one of our own backyard spectacular national parks.

This year marks the 100th Birthday of the National Park Services and if you’ve not yet visited one of the 58 fascinating sites, it’s time to update your bucket list!

Glacier National Park, to me, is heaven and where my love affair began with hiking and the great outdoors.
I’ll never forget the first time I turned one of the many winding corners3 on the Going to the Sun road and having my breath taken away by the serenity of Lake McDonald. Heading further up the road, each new twist and turn brought waterfalls and vistas that just kept topping each other in unsurpassed beauty. From Avalanche Lake to the Tears, Haystack Butte, up to Logan’s Pass & the Continental Divide where Bighorn Sheep stop traffic while crossing the road-it’s all a wow!

4Take your eyes off the road for a second and you’ll miss the ideal Wild Goose Island. Continue up thru the curves to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation where you might encounter a pack of wild horses walking on the road. Be sure to take time to pack a lunch, a good book and enjoy the solitude of being in the great outdoors.

5And finish your journey at the Many Glacier Hotel, where the Moose and Bear sightings are never guaranteed, but are always a delightful surprise when they do.

 

Boarding the plane to go home that first trip brought tears to my eyes and I was taken aback by the emotional impact those 4 days had on 4my life. 12 years and multiple trips later, GNP keeps pulling me back and although I have my
secret spots and hiking rituals, each day is truly never like another.

 

My wish for each of you is that you hear the whisper of Glacier calling and one day enjoy exploring her majesty.

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