Fall Reading List

In my reading life, autumn is really the only time of year where I have a preference regarding the type of book I want to read.  Spring, summer, and winter, anything goes..but in fall, I want to read spooky books.  Books about witches, New England, and creepy crawlies are where it’s at in this season.

For over a month now, I’ve been knee-deep in these Halloween reads, and I’m already planning for next year.  If you’re a Halloween reader like me, here are some suggestions from the books I’m most looking forward to:

Halloween TBR List

  1. Dracula by Bram Stoker
    I’m so awful about reading classic novels…but what a more perfect time to read Bram Stoker’s quintessential Halloween novel than now?
  2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
    Though this is a children’s book, this vibrant read about ghosts adopting orphaned Bod sounds like the peeeerfect Halloween read.  Plus, it’s Neil Gaiman, so…  😛
  3. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
    Another classic Gaiman book that I should have read already.  Behind the times…that’s me!  Ha.
  4. The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
    This witchy novel is next up on my TBR list for this year.  Written by a descendent of one of the first women accused, tried, and hanged as a witch in Salem, this haunting story of Martha Carrier is sure to be a fascinating look into history.
  5. The Afflicted Girls by Suzy Witten
    Anything about Salem and/or witch trials screams fall reading to me.  This supernatural spin on a tragically fascinating era of history is perfect for getting into the Halloween spirit.
  6. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
    I’ve been jonesing to read this one for years, but never actually gotten around to it.  This lighthearted classic Halloween read about orphaned sisters and their crazy aunts would be perfect for snuggling up under a blanket with on a chilly October evening.  (Must locate my long-lost copy…)
  7. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
    This classic horror/thriller novel is a must-read for me…eventually.  I’ve heard amazing things about this spooky read, but I may have to work myself up to this haunted story.

My favorite autumn read (as of now) is The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe.  But I’m always looking for my new favorite spooky book…

What’s your favorite thing to read in the fall?

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PS: Connect with me on Goodreads here!  🙂

Creative Overload…and a Trip to the Pumpkin Patch!

Well…it looks like the creative fire I’ve been burning for the past few weeks is down to a mere smolder.  As you all have seen a hint of, I’ve been pretty much *killing it* creatively over the past few weeks.  But it looks like I’ve reached my limit and crashed…hard.  *think roller coaster racing to the top of large hill, running out of track, and plummeting toward the ground*  (Okay, that might be a liiiiiittle bit extreme…but does this creative burn-out ever happen to you?  It’s a bummer.)

Anyway, on that front, I’m taking a bit of a break from any hard-core “making” endeavors in order to let my creative brain re-charge.  But goodness knows I can’t let a day of this lovely fall season go to waste, so I’m striving to indulge in the autumn weather in other ways…like a trip to the pumpkin patch!  🙂

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*Pumpkins as far as the eye can see….bliss.*

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Crappy iPhone shot of me & my favorite pumpkin…ha!

Have I mentioned I love fall??  🙂

What’s your favorite fall activity?

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Made in Peru

I’m a shopper.  Always have been and always will be.  This was frustrating to my parents when I was a child — no gift shop could be passed up, every excursion required a souvenir (even just grocery store ones), and infomercials…let’s just say they were dangerous.  Now that I have grown up and the urge to shop has not receded, they have accepted my habit.  (Though my mom still tries to push her budgeting advice…  No one uses a checkbook ledger anymore, Mom.  Sheesh.)  Knowing what was in store for our Peru trip, they accepted their fate and dutifully traipsed through market after market until there was literally no more to be seen.  (Thanks family!)  As I am thoroughly excited and overly entertained by my new acquisitions, I thought I might show some to you all and share a little bit more of this colorful culture.


 

Peruvian Acquisitions: Part 1 of 53

(Just kidding  : P)

Of course, me being a knitter and it being Peru, shopping for yarn was top of the list.  For most of the trip there was not a skein to be found, but — thankfully — on our last day in Cusco, we happened to drive past the only yarn shop for miles.  (I think I was being drawn there.)  While I’m a big-time knitter and very passionate yarn buyer, I generally don’t have the budget to purchase large quantities of yarn at a time.  (This is partially why I have never knit an adult sweater…)  However, this shop was different.  This shop had 10-ball packs of baby alpaca yarn for $30.  I could hear the Hallelujah chorus.

Yarn1Apologies for the *shine* in the photos from the packaging…this is due to my unwillingness to try and deal with 40 loose balls of yarn on my back porch.  There are dogs…you understand.  : P

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Look at the Peruvian girl with her little alpaca friend on the label! So cute!! 🙂

Wanting to make the most of the opportunity, I made sure to purchase a lot.  I toyed between four & five packs for a while, before finally settling on four due to lack of available suitcase space.  What I ended up with: two packs of natural/undyed, one pack of dyed grey, and one pack of burgundy.  It was a good day.

As I mentioned in my Peru Re-Cap post, I didn’t find any yarn until the very end of the trip — this bunch was actually purchased on our very last day in Peru, just minutes before we went back to our hotel to begin packing.  (Talk about under the wire.)  As such, there was quite a bit more shopping that occurred throughout the rest of the two-week excursion…

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A favorite item of mine were these beautiful woven alpaca scarves — these were found and any and every market we passed…(talk about enabling).  I have never tried weaving and, honestly, the mechanics of it totally baffle me.  So to me these seemed like art.

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Such intricate patterns…

For most of the *cough* four scarves that I bought, the seller claimed they were hand-made.  (I question this, but chose to buy them anyway.)  As I’ve mentioned previously, the prices of goods in Peru are extremely cheap compared to American standards — especially for hand-made items.  These scarves cost an average of around $7 each.  (Incredible!)

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Ahh, 100% Peru…. (Ha!)

Because of the intracity of these patterns, the fabric of these scarves is pretty dense — but they’ll be perfect to bundle up under a coat collar this winter.

I also managed to snag this super soft & comfy woven blanket.  Now I KNOW this one isn’t hand-made…but it was so colorful and so squishy that I couldn’t resist…   I can’t wait for it to be cold so I can cuddle up in this!

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The last large item that I managed to grab — my pride & joy of the trip — was a “hand-knitted” alpaca sweater.  (Again, I question the truth of this claim…) I was told before leaving that Peru had beautiful knitted sweaters and that I should plan on buying one while I was there.  Therefore, I was constantly on the lookout for the *perfect* sweater — it must be hand-knit, it must be cozy & fit well, and it MUST have alpacas on it.

After searching markets and stores for over a week, I finally ran across this one hanging up in a shop that we entered somewhat unintentionally.  (It was fate.)  It fit very well — in that way that makes you want to curl up beside a fire somewhere — and the seller claimed it was hand-made.  (As a knitter, I did check this out, but the results of this examination were inconclusive.)

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See that little fair-isle mistake? Hand-knit, perhaps?

Either way, hand-knit or not, it was perfect.  I snatched it up immediately and wore it for the rest of the trip.

Those who know me in real life know that I have weaknesses just like anyone else — (as much as I try to hide these online).  One of these weaknesses?  Trinkets.  Especially when the trinkets cost less than $2 per item.  Here is a small (really small) selection of the neatest small things I picked up:

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I may have developed a somewhat unhealthy obsession with these little guys. I now have…oh, about 50.

Bet you’re wondering how I got all of this in my suitcase, aren’t you?  Well, let’s just say, I know what’s really important.  Dirty laundry?  Nah…  Ha, just kidding.  But we did actually buy big duffel bag for extra space.  It was necessary.  Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the shopping in Peru.  Seeing the different styles of garments and accessories was another really interesting way of experiencing the culture.  I may have overloaded just a bit…but hey, when am I going to be in Peru again?  😉

What’s your favorite of my Peruvian souvenirs?  (Hint: Maybe a giveaway soon?)

Happy Saturday!

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Peruvian Adventure 2014 Re-Cap

Okay, okay…I’ve been promising Peru updates for over a week now and haven’t delivered.  I’m the worst…  After getting back home last Sunday, life picked up just where it left off and I found myself struggling to catch up…catch up with work at my day job, catch up with work for my Etsy shop, and — of course — catch up on sleep as well.

For those who are new to my Andean journey–I was lucky enough to spend July 28th-August 10th touring the wonderful, wooly country of Peru. As part of this amazing adventure, I toured through cities and countryside, traveled by plane, train, and automobile — (in an experience that I can only describe as “interesting”) — and took photos of every llama I saw.  Every.Single.One.  : P  In addition to seeing all of the lovely culture and scenery that Peru had to offer, you can imagine that, as a knitter, I was on a certain mission…  Happily, I can say that this mission was achieved!  But more on that later.  🙂

With this blog post in mind throughout the entire trip, I traipsed all across that country with a DSLR camera, thinking with every shot about what you all would most like to see.   I burned through two memory cards and took a grand total of 974 pictures BY MYSELF.  (This does not count the photos that the rest of my family took…)  I captured just about every sight I saw on that trip…and got a lot of really great photos in the process.  (This made for quite a job to look through and pick out what was most essential to share, let me tell you.)  But FINALLY, pictures are uploaded, edited, & organized, and sharing can begin!

Organization for a post like this can be a little overwhelming.  So I’ve decided to just share a quick run down of the most interesting parts of our journey and share some of my favorite photos from the trip.  (Be warned, there are a lot.  Narrowing down over 900 pictures is difficult.)  Ready for photo overload?  Okay, here we go…

(Disclaimer: all photos used in this post were taken and edited by me and are not to be used — other than for personal use — without my express permission.  Thanks!)

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Arriving in Lima on the 28th, my sister and I met up with the rest of our family (who was already there) and began our adventure.  Though we were in Lima for three days, we didn’t do too much, as we were trying to get acclimated to the new environment.  However, we did make a few excursions into the city.  The first thing we saw in Lima was the Convento de San Francisco.  The Saint Francis Monastery (in English) is a beautiful Baroque-style church and convent that is part of the Historic Centre of Lima.  One of the most memorable parts of the tour was definitely the catacombs…  Used as the primary burial place in Lima during (I think) the 17th century, over 30,000 people were buried here as they believed being buried under a church would help them to be closer to God.  After being discovered in 1943, these mass graves were excavated, resulting in the bones of thousands being arranged, not by person, but by type of bone, (i.e., skull, femur, etc.).  This has resulted in multiple pits of various bones with little to no identification — some of these are even in (slightly creepy) designs.  (Here is the Wikipedia page if you would like to learn more about the Convento de San Francisco.)

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Convento de San Francisco

Leaving Lima, we headed to Cusco — but not to stay.  Upon landing in Cusco, we got the heck out of Dodge as quickly as we could so as not to be negatively impacted by the altitude.  Cusco is at about 11,000 feet in altitude, so in order to adjust to the altitude more gradually, we travelled first to a  countryside town called Ollantaytambo (pronounced O-yan-tay-tambo) — a town at about 8,000 feet in altitude.

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Made a brief stop for photos on our way through the mountains and saw these ladies selling their products.
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Ollantaytambo
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View from hotel balcony in Ollantaytambo

While in Ollantaytambo, which is a small town in a valley of the Andean mountains, we got our first real taste of traditional Peruvian culture.  Our time spent here was not hurried…the main attraction being the Incan ruins on the side of a nearby mountain.  But there was much to see in the way of Peruvian markets and (sometimes) hand-crafted items.

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There are lots of unsupervised dogs in Peru…this one was at the base of the ruins in Ollantaytambo.  Cutie.  🙂
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I’m almost too big for the Incan doorways. There probably weren’t very many 5’10” Incans….
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Large marketplace full of “traditional” Peruvian items. (aka, my crack… Ha!)

One of my favorite parts of the whole trip was getting to peruse the marketplaces.  These were all over, and people even walked the streets selling their items.  (This got annoying after a while…)  Though many of these items are mass produced, it was possible to find hand-made items through asking the merchants specifically.  Additionally, these markets presented a plethora of negotiating opportunities, as many merchants mark up prices for tourists.  Thankfully, my sister is pretty fluent in Spanish and was able to translate these negotiations for us.  As the USD to Sole exchange rate greatly favors the American dollar, we were able to score lots of these goodies at prices unheard of in the US.  (i.e., hand-woven alpaca scarves for the equivalent of $7!)  I had lots of fun with this.  : P

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Peruvian natives are experts in taking advantage of tourist situations…(this is meant in a complimentary way).  In addition to the masses of markets, stores, and independent sellers, it was not uncommon to see Peruvians walking around in traditional dress, taking photos with tourists for tips.

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These precious little baby goats were only 5 days old at the time of this photo.

After spending a few days in Ollantaytambo, we caught a train heading through the countryside to the base of Machu Picchu.  This was a huge bucket list item on the itinerary as it is now considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

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Created in the early-mid 15th century, Machu Picchu took about 50 years to build, but was inhabited for less than 100 years.  Though the name Machu Picchu is associated with the ruins themselves, the name is originally derived from one of the mountains present at this site.  Located between the mountains of Machu Picchu (meaning “old mountain”) and Huayna Picchu (meaning “young mountain”), the Machu Picchu Incan city was used as a place where people could come and study, as the Incas considered the joining of old and new to be the optimum place for learning.  Due to news of the Spanish invasion into Peru in 1550, the Incans abandoned Machu Picchu and fled into the mountains to avoid the Spanish Conquest.  Because of this, the Spanish never found Machu Picchu and, therefore, it was not destroyed with the many other Incan cities invaded at the time.  (Visit the official Machu Picchu website or the Wikipedia page to learn more about the history of the Machu Picchu site.)

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As we left at 6am to avoid long lines, our first views were a little foggy.
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There we go!
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Knitwear at Machu Picchu!

Needless to say, seeing Machu Picchu in real life was incredible.  As I’ve said before, this was a bucket list item that I never thought would get crossed off, and I feel extremely lucky to have experienced this wonderful historic site.

After spending a couple of days at the base of the mountain — in a town that is also called Machu Picchu — we headed out on the train again, back to Ollantaytambo, and then, by car, on back to Cusco.

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Beautiful hotel (that I can’t remember the name of) where we stopped for lunch on our way to Cusco.
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I just really like this photo. 😛 Doesn’t it kind of look French?
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Spotted! Alpaca & owner walking on the side of the road. (Sorry for the blurriness…this photo was taken through the window of a moving vehicle.)
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More alpacas/llamas… And, is that a sheep?

During our car trip to Cusco, and while touring around Cusco, we had Peruvian guides providing interesting information about everything we saw.  One of my favorite facts was about how a llama got its name…  Apparently, when the Spanish conquered Peru, they asked (in Spanish) what the name of this animal — that they had never seen — was.  As the Spanish word for ‘name’ is ‘llama’ (pronounced yama), the Peruvians (who spoke Quechua) thought they were naming it…thus, it is now called a llama.  Cool, huh?

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Arrived in Cusco!

Our last stop of the trip was the ancient Incan capital of Cusco.  This vibrant city is everything you think of when you think of Peru.  It’s got the beautiful architecture, the mountains, the history, and all the culture you could imagine.  While we were in Cusco, our primary excursion was a vehicle tour around the city and the surrounding mountains.  (Let me tell you, Incan ruins…they’re everywhere in this country.  Ha.)

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Plaza de Armas — considered one of the most beautiful churches in Peru.
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More Incan ruins…and more knitwear!  (PS, recognize this hat?  😉 )
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Traditional flower of the Incan culture.
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Found this woman crocheting away while selling her wares. (I’m not sure how ‘traditional’ Angry Birds hats are though… haha!)
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Couldn’t help but snap a photo of this lady in her more modern traditional dress.

As I said before, being a knitter, I was on a certain mission while being in a country with as many alpacas and llamas as Peru has.  I searched high and low for alpaca yarn while touring markets and shops…but to no avail.  However, thanks to a tip from a fellow knitter online, I was able to search out a yarn shop while in Cusco!  Behold, Michell…

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Once we had a vague location in mind, my family and I traipsed through the city on a mission to find this store.  After walking through narrow and winding Cuscuan streets, we arrived to find it closed for lunch…  Ugh.  Thankfully, however, it was scheduled to re-open soon after we arrived, so we waited — under threat of thunderstorm — until the owner arrived to re-open the shop.  (My family is so supportive of my addiction…bless them.)

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Open! Hooray!

Finally making it inside, I was greeted by a literal WALL of beautiful alpaca yarn.  I was in heaven.  Unfortunately, I was unable to buy one of those glorious cones due to lack of suitcase space…but I did come away with several (*couch* FOUR) packs of baby alpaca DK weight (10 skeins each) in various colors.  Plus, each pack of 10 skeins cost approximately the equivalent of $30 in the US!  It was a good day.  🙂

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A vision of beauty.

For anyone looking for this shop in the future, it is located just off of the San Francisco Square, on a street that is called both Grenada and Theatro.  About a 10-15 minute walk from the main square.

We apparently found the “knitting” part of town on this excursion as, on our way walking back from the yarn shop, we spotted several Peruvians knitting, crocheting, and even spinning while going about their business.

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Well, that’s pretty much it!  After our journey to the yarn shop, we headed back to our hotel to pack, as we were heading home the next day.  A nice conclusion to the trip though, don’t you think?  Ahh, to end a great trip with great yarn.  Bliss.  : P

As I mentioned, this is only a teeny-tiny fraction of the photos that I took on the trip.  But I hope you enjoyed taking this journey with me!  I truly had a blast on this trip and feel truly fortunate to have been able to experience this culture…but I’m SUPER glad to be home, (funny how travel makes you appreciate your home).

For those of you who followed along with my journey, whether through my earlier blog posts, Instagram posts, or just by actually getting to the end of this post (Bravo!), thank you!  I’m really enjoying this blogging adventure, and hope you are enjoying it as well.  🙂

Now that I’m back to normal life again, I’m glad to say I’m crafting away and will have lots of knitting, dyeing, and even sewing projects to share in the near future!  So stay tuned!

So, what do you think of my Peruvian adventure?  Would you like to visit Peru someday?

Happy Wednesday!

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Small Town America Festival

Hometowns are very easy to take for granted, have you noticed?  Especially when you’re raised in a small town where “everybody knows everybody” and things move a little bit slower.  As a kid, this can be a great thing…but once you reach high school, living in a place where the movie theater is hottest place to hang out — (because it’s the ONLY place to hang out…other than the Super Walmart…) — it gets a little old.  Now that I have lived away for several years and seen more of the world than I could have previously imagined, it’s much easier to see the good things about small, rural hometowns.  Spending some time in my own town, located in the Bluegrass region of rural Kentucky, I’m trying to observe and experience all of the eccentricities found here — and I’m loving every minute of it.  🙂

Over this past weekend, my hometown hosted a Small Town America Festival.  A street fair in our town square celebrating the uniqueness of our little town.  If you’ve never visited this area before — and even if you have — I thought I’d take you on a little tour.

Welcome to Small Town America!

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See the man smiling for my photo? I love how friendly small town Southern people are. 🙂
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It may have been a cloudy day, but the heat did NOT let up… Dog days of summer, right?

Though this was a small festival — only taking up about two blocks of the main town square — there were lots of wonderful craft products to peruse.  Quintessentially small town, you can absolutely see the time, effort, and love that these people have put into their products.  As a passionate crafter myself, I can definitely relate, and I have a great appreciation for all things hand-made.  Though knitting is less popular here than sewing/quilting, it was great to walk around and see how many other creative people live in this wonderful little town.

Here’s a little sample of the creativity of small town America:

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Sometimes I wonder why burlap is still a popular trend…but then I see adorable things like these, and I know longer wonder.  Makes me kind of sad that summer is almost over and I can’t make proper use of these whimsical little pillows.  But not to worry!  Every season is a perfect season for burlap.

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Autumn…
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Winter…
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And basketball season, of course! This is Kentucky after all… 😉

True to any craft fair, there were knitters to be found.  Well, A knitter.  This young lady was busy knitting up a storm right at her booth, selling items to benefit CSI Ministries.  (Not familiar with this one myself, but I’m always supportive of knitting for a cause!)

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Looks like there’s some arm-knitting going on over here as well. Has anyone ever tried arm-knitting?

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Anyone need a housewarming gift?  I think these were metal decorations for potted plants…but I can’t honestly be sure…  Ha!  Still, they were very neat.

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And, last but not least — my favorite booth/item of the festival…faux-quilted ornaments.  The ladies at this booth were beyond friendly and happy to talk all about their sewing endeavors…though these weren’t actually sewn, as I first believed.  Actually, each one of these little ornaments has 250 pins hidden inside!  Incredibly detailed work.  I couldn’t resist one of the adorable Halloween ones.  (Is it weird to have a Halloween ornament?  Oh well…)

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The orange & purple one insisted on coming home with me. : P

Well, that’s only a sample of the great things being made in the middle of rural Kentucky.  Though this place is often stereotyped and under appreciated, I can attest that it is a gem of a place.  The people are friendly, the landscape is beautiful, and creativity is alive and well.  🙂

Have you visited small town America?

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