Friday, December 20, 2013

December is a time for celebrations!

(Above:  Christmas decorations at the Hall's Croft house, part of the Shakespeare Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon.  Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

Steve and I have had a fabulous last two weeks!  We started with a six-day trip to England in order to see our elder son, Mathias Lenz Dingman, dance the role of "the prince" in Birmingham Royal Ballet's production of The Nutcracker.

(Above:  Natasha Oughtred as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Mathias Lenz Dingman as the prince, and Miki Mizutani as Clara.)

The company performed this classical holiday feature THIRTY-FIVE times.  Obviously, there are multiple casts!  We were able to see a total of three shows.  In two, Mathias was the prince.  In one, his girlfriend Laura-Jane Gibson was Clara!  I cried through each one.  

(Above:  Stratford-upon-Avon's central shopping street with Christmas lights.)

Instead of staying in Birmingham, Steve and I got a room at Hamlet House in Stratford-upon-Avon.  The entire town and the cozy accommodations were WONDERFUL!

(Above:  Our knowledgeable and ever-so-kind guide for the Stratford-upon-Avon walking tour.)

On our first day we took a walking tour.  It was so worth it!  Our guide was great. The cost was very reasonable and we received coupons that saved us quite a bit more money than the cost of the walking tour ... half priced tickets for the Shakespeare Trust houses, discounts at fabulous restaurants, and a pound off the admission to the Butterfly Farm.  Steve and I both highly recommend this walking tour.  (Click HERE for their website.)

That night we had a fantastic dinner in the charming, historic Garrick Inn.  Fine pub food, local beer, and plenty of old world atmosphere ... just the type of evening one dreams about in England! We planned to return to most of the locations on our "free day", the one without a ballet performance.

(Above:  Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon.)

That day was perfect!  We spent time in Holy Trinity, the church in which Shakespeare was baptized ...

(Above:  Shakespeare's Grave ... and a sign with the epitaph: 
Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.)

... and buried.

(Above:  The churchyard at Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon.)

Naturally, we also visited the churchyard.  Anyone regularly reading my blog knows how any burial spot is a source of deep inspiration for me.  This one was particularly wonderful with heavy moss, colorful lichen, wet fallen leaves, and a view to the Avon River.

(Above:  Sculptures in the garden behind the Nash's House ... an area that once also included New House, Shakespeare's last residence and gardens.)

Finally, we were off to see the Nash House, Hall's Croft, and the Shakespeare Birth House, all part of the Shakespeare Trust.  I took loads of photos but pared them down to a mere 211! LOL!  They are HERE

(Above:  Sweet bag, circa late 1500s. Silk, satin, and beads.)

The furniture, wall treatments, wattle and daub construction, and relics in each home were really interesting ... especially some of the embroidery.  I love all these historical pieces, especially when displayed in historic home settings and decorated for Christmas.  Every house was simply wonderful.

(Above:  The Remembering Tree, a yarn bombing by

Of course, the historic house weren't the only locations with fiber and stitch!  Right in the park along the Avon River is this Remembering Tree, a yarn bombing!  People were posing for photos, reading the sign, and really loving this unique public art.

(Above:  One of the costumed guides at the Shakespeare Birth House.)

Shakespeare is totally connected to fiber arts!  His father was a glove maker and a costumed guide discussed this trade, the tools, the tanning, and the time required to create a single pair.

(Above:  The Shakespeare Birth House ... the bed in the birth room.)

I was happy to visit the actual room in which Shakespeare was born and see a period bed on which a man's vest was displayed ...

(Above:  Period costume with great buttons.)

Of course I would like this!  What great buttons!  (There are plenty of additional photos from Stratford-upon-Avon on my Flickr! set.  I don't just snap photos of textile arts!)

(Above:  The Shakespeare Birth House ... holiday light show.)

In the evening we returned to the Shakespeare Birth House in order to see the brief light show.  Actors appeared in various windows and doors to recite some of the dramatic passages being illustrated through the projected film.  This one was Romeo and Juliet

(Above:  Steve in Selfridge's with a five pound Hershey bar.)

From Stratford-upon-Avon we trained into Birmingham for the ballet performances.  Of course we spent time in the annual Christmas Market but also in Selfridges ... considering a five pound Hershey bar.  Unfortunately, it wouldn't fit into our suitcases!

(Above:  The new Birmingham Library.)

We also visited the newly open Birmingham Library.  Admittedly, the exterior looks strange but the interior is fantastic!  It is so visually dazzling that I saved nine of my photos in a Flickr! set all its own.  Click HERE to access.  The views from the upper gardens are great too!

(Above:  My mother, my nephew Tony Papley, and my Dad at Tony's college graduation.  My Dad walked with the faculty as a professor emeritus.)

Steve and I returned to the States and went directly north from the Charlotte airport.  We arrived in Slippery Rock in time to celebrate my Mom's 75th birthday last Friday, December the 13th.  The next day was also a milestone.  My nephew Tony Papley graduated from college!

(Above:  My Grandma toasting her 95th birthday!)

Yet, the BIG celebration was on Sunday!  Grandma turned 95 and we threw a party in the community room of Greystone Manor, the senior citizens building in which she lives.

(Above:  My sister Sonya in front of the decorated tables.)

The party couldn't have happened without my sister Sonya's dedication to planning it all.  Sonya brought all the decorations, table coverings, and arranged the cakes, invitations, etc.  She found Grandma's cloth napkins and punch cups in storage.  She made all the blue card-stock placemats that featured a photo of Grandma on the Atlantic City boardwalk circa 1965.  She made thirty, individual party favors from recycled materials.  In fact, the centerpiece was created from spray painted twigs and pom-poms made from newspapers and plastic grocery bags!  Sonya had an assortment of twinkling lights, real greenery, feather boas, and pinecones.  All this "stuff" came in looking like a junk store.  Our cousin Joann looked horrified by the mess but in less than two hours, the entire room was transformed into a magical location for a very special occasion!

(Above:  My Uncle Larry and Aunt Gloria with my parents and Grandma.)

More than just a 95th birthday.  This was a family celebration for Tony's graduation, my Mom's 75th, my Aunt Gloria's 80th, my parent's 55th anniversary, and my aunt and uncle's 55th anniversary!  December is a really jam-packed time for partying in our family!

(Above:  Thirty people having Sunday brunch!)

Although Sonya probably could have managed it, LOL, the brunch was catered and we also had a professional photographer taking shots.  After the brunch, we transformed the room again ... into a reception for all the people living in Greystone Manor.  Grandma certainly was "Queen Bee" ...

(Above:  The party is over!)

... and she left in style too!  By the way, I shot TONS of photos and even some videos.  I posted all the links on my FAMILY BLOG.  Just click HERE to access.

(Above: Stained Glass LIV ... a first refusal for a client.)

Now one might think I haven't been working on my fiber art!  That would be wrong!  I took a little 24" x 18" art quilt named Appreciate with me to England.  I stitched on it while flying, training, and riding in the car.  It is progressing very, very well and will be shown later.  Since returning to Columbia late last Monday night, I've also completed the framing for Stained Glass LIV.  This was a "first refusal" and is currently at the potential client's home!  My fingers are crossed that a sale will result.

(Above:  Stained Glass LV in the process of being mounted on mat board and framed.)

I'm also in the process of mounting and framing Stained Glass LV.  This piece and Stained Glass LVI are also "first refusals" for a local church!  I'm excited!

(Above:  Stained Glass LVI on stretcher bars awaiting the melting process.)

So here is Stained Glass LVI on the stretcher bars, waiting to be melted!  There will be more fiber art coming soon.  In the meantime, since I do have at least this one image, I'm linking this blog post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.


Margaret said...

You've had such an exciting time with family and friends! So much art! So much music! So much beauty! So much colour! So many smiles -- and tears!

May your Christmas be blessed and your New Year filled with more of the same. :-)

Norma Schlager said...

What a wonderful post, so much going on. I LOVE the Nutcracker and it must have been so thrilling to see your handsome son in a starring role.

That yarn bombed tree was amazing and I always love to see your fabulous art.

Happy Birthday day to your grandmother. She sure doesn't look her age.

Regina B Dunn said...

Glad you had another wonderful trip. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family.

Sylvia said...

I loved this post! I will have to go back and view all your photo albums when I have a bit more time. My daughter lives in Little Hampton, so I envy your trip to England! I have only visited her area, we haven't even done London. Love the family celebrations! Thanks so much for sharing!

Wanda said...

Even though I know what you have been doing, to see it all posted like this, really Shows what a whirlwind Kind of life you lead! I'm very anxious to hear about the 'first refusals' now that I know what they are. The pics from Straford-upon-Avon are beautiful. Looks like a magical place. You always find fascinating places to go. I absolutely love the yarn bombing and am always excited to stumble upon such things. The tree is awesome, for sure. Did you know that in Pittsburgh, they yarn-bombed an entire Bridge??!! I've only seen bicycles and signposts but am still thrilled about them no matter what they are. I hope you are where you Need to be by this day of the year! Thinking of you!

Julie said...

What a fabulous time you had in the UK! I didn't know about the yarnbombed tree so thank you for showing that. And what a wonderful time you had with your family :-)

I hope you have a truly happy and complete Christmas and a fulfilling and successful 2014. Best wishes to your family too. xx