Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I was thinking I might need rocks to go with my water. I started with a commercial print, then added watercolor crayon in steps.

I hope these look a bit like rocks when/if I finally use them. The original fabric looked like something the cat hacked up. Then the stages sort of reminded me of some kind of breaded cutlets gone a little bad or moldy pita bread and finally some mis-shapen potatos. It's like an inkblot test. What do you think these look like?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


The theme for the 12x12 challenge this time around is "water". This seems like a no-brainer, but I am having a very hard time getting an idea that excites me. Could be that I haven't spent time on art or quilts for what seems like months and my creative muscle has atrophied. Blehhhh. My brain has been occupied, nay, obsessed, with the projects at hand.

It is making me OLD. And tired. I want it all . to. be. finished.

But I digress. Water. I took a day off from the HOUSE earlier this week to think about the water theme. I decided that maybe some fabric would inspire me. I think I have been hanging with Gerrie a lot because I decided to try painting some watery fabric. I started with a piece of hand-dyed fabric from my sister-in-law's company. It already had a sort of watery feel to it.

I added some color with watercolor crayons, then painted over them with diluted acrylic medium to set the added color. While the fabric was still wet I sprinkled some dishwasher detergent over it, to add some bleached spots.

Later I realized that I probably should have spritzed it all with a little more water to get the bleach working, but some of the larger granules discharged. After it was dried and then washed with anti-clor to stop the bleaching, then washed again, it looks like this.

I think those bleached speckles are reminiscent of sparkles on water. Maybe I can draw some inspiration from this piece of fabric. I think it needs to be something pretty simple.

Today when I was out at the new house I took a break from laying flooring in the utility room (yes, I am laying flooring. I am too OLD for this...) I walked outside to inspect the creek. It is running clear now and it was sparkling a little like my fabric piece. It sounded great, too. I wish I could get the sound of water in a quilt.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


As Beth and I walk each day we observe the natural world along the Fanno Creek Trail. I am not a "birder"—don't keep a list, nor am I very knowledgeable about birds, but I love birds and I've been curious about the birds we see along the trail.

A couple weeks ago another walker on the trail pointed out this amazing nest, built in a swinging blackberry vine that trails over the top of the golf course fence.

Can you see it? It is made from moss and lichens and hangs on the vine like a pouch with a small hole near the top. The first time we saw it we also saw the female bird going into and out of the hole. The walker who alerted us to the nest also gave us totally erroneous information about the kind of bird that made the nest! That sent us to our bird books and the web and we, Beth and I, concur that it is a bushtit. (OK, stop your snickering—this is serious science here!)

image taken from a web site

They are tiny, darty little birds that we have been seeing whizzing around the trail. I'm glad to know their name and I am really enchanted with the nest.

Audubon's bushtit with the distinctive nest

Thursday, April 24, 2008


We discovered a large rhubarb plant at our new house. I know many people don't love rhubarb, and frankly I'm not a fan of a lot of the things people do with rhubarb, but I love rhubarb pie. The kind my mother made, with eggs. Many people swear by the rhubarb/strawberry combo as pie filling. Ehhh. Awfully slimey for my taste. I'll take the rhubarb custard filling any day.

So when I was invited to a social gathering and asked to bring my "favorite recipe" the rhubarb seemed to decide for me what that was going to be. Ray cut a bunch for me and brought it home yesterday. Turned out to be exactly the right amount for two pies, according to my mother's recipe.

So I made two pies—one to take to the social and one to leave with Ray.

I can't help but think about my mother when I make a pie. I do not pride myself on my pie-making abilities. My mother made wonderful pies. My dad loved my mom's rhubarb pie more than anything. My daughter learned from her grandmother and is another skilled piemaker. I always say piemaking skips a generation, but I do make rhubarb pies. My mother's pies were not only delicious, they were beautiful. She could make a perfectly fluted piecrust with her eyes closed. I struggle to torture the edges into semi-even little crimps.

The lattice top is a bit skimpy on the smaller pie. I ran out of pie dough. That one will be Ray's.

Done. They look good, don't they? You should smell them. Mmmmmm. The custard is sugary and crisp-y on the top and creamy inside, with bites of tart rhubarb. Mom would be proud (though she'd wonder about those edges). This may well be my favorite recipe indeed. Easy, too.

Rhubarb Custard Pie
Combine 1-1/2 C sugar, 1/4 C. flour and 3/4 tsp. nutmeg. Beat into 3 already slightly beaten eggs.
Add 4 C. 1" slices rhubarb.
Line 9" pie plate with pastry, fill. Dot with 2T. butter or margarine. Top with lattice crust; flute edge. Sprinkle lightly with sugar.
Bake in hot oven (400°) 50 to 60 minutes. Cool before serving.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The best things in life

I took a lot of pictures of Sofia yesterday and most of them came out blurred and horrible, but I like this one a lot. It was the picture I almost didn't take—she was finished smiling and posing cutely—but I liked her look of concentration and the fact that she sits, surrounded by her toys and books, absorbed in a small cardboard box that checks came in. I watched her figure out how it opens and closes. I watched her put her yellow block inside and carry it through the house. She played with it for nearly an hour, finally discarding it as she crawled into my lap, ready for a nap.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spring—for a minute

I took my camera along on my walk this morning. The weather was beautiful and they are saying we are going to get a snowstorm this weekend. Bah. Humbug. Anyway, I thought I'd enjoy spring while we still have it.

The plum trees that grow all along the trail are in bloom right now and are spectacular. Aren't these huge for plum trees? This is where our trail starts, next to the baseball diamond.

I seldom have good luck taking pictures of birds. By the time I futz around and get focused they are long gone, but this morning we stopped to watch a pair of flickers guarding their nest. Here is the male. The nest is there on the left—very messy looking, leafy nest. Isn't he pretty?

Here's the pair.

I love my super zoom on my camera! Gerrie just got a camera like mine. She is going to love it.

When we got to the bridge over the creek we saw a group of rare, headless ducks.

Har, har—just kidding! They were regular old mallard ducks, busily eating something found at the bottom of the creek.

The Oregon Grape is blooming. Very sneezy stuff, but it is so beautiful.

Beautiful day for a walk. Do you really think it's going to snow? I can't believe it. Nah, they must be wrong.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Here comes Crazy Legs

Emily called tonight after dinner. She was laughing so hard I could hardly understand her at first. She had decided to see if the outfit I made for Sofia last summer finally fit her and Sofi was running through the house in it, barefoot, whooping. I could hear her in the background. That's one of her shoes in her hand. Emily hung up to take a picture and emailed me a couple.

Sofia, since turning a year old, has become a character. She's been walking for a little less than a month, but has embraced the concept and lurches around like a drunk, but with great enthusiasm. She is mighty pleased with herself.

She has also, unfortunately, put it together that when I show up at her house her parents are about to leave, which doesn't make her happy. Today she got pretty upset about her Dad getting ready to go to work. I was sitting on the floor with her, trying to distract her. She spotted my purse on the chair, went and dragged it across the floor, put it on my arm and then stood in front of me and waved "bye-bye" at me, sobbing pitifully all the while. That seemed like a pretty clear message—"you can leave now, Grandma." After Cayo left she settled down and made peace with me and we had a good afternoon, then she had the grace to cry a little bit when I left after her Mom got home. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

All dressed up and waiting for someone . . .

We had a our first Open House today. It was a perfect day. Beautiful weather—warm, sunny. We have prepared the house, removing lots of our belongings and paring it down to the essentials. We put an ad in the paper. We put an ad on craigslist. We made sure our signs were visible from all directions and tied balloons to them. We put flowers on the table, along with extra flyers and a sheet listing improvements we've made to the house and a plant list for the garden.
I baked chocolate chip cookies for our guests (and to impart that delicious aroma to the house) and put out a pitcher of sparkling water.

Then we sat back and waited for someone to come. And they came! We had a good turnout. People liked the house. We met some really nice people. I don't know if anyone who came today will make us an offer, but they spent time and really looked and seemed interested. I feel encouraged.

Mid-afternoon a realtor called. He had seen our ad and wanted to let us know what a huge mistake it was to try to sell our house ourselves. I explained that we wanted to try it ourselves and might, at some point, engage a realtor to help us and we have one picked out if we need her, thank you very much. He wouldn't give up. "Do you understand what has happened to the real estate market?" he hissed. Well, duh, yes I do. He wanted to come by at 3 tomorrow. No thanks. OK, then 5. No thanks. He could drop by around 7 then. No thanks. Well, then what would it take to get just 15 minutes of our time to find out how we could actually sell our house with an aggressive, professional salesperson, such as himself? He was snarling at this point. This was where I told him that the more he talked the less likely it was that we would ever consider his services. And I hung up.

Other than one very unpleasantly persistent realtor, it was a great day.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What a little paint can do

I am always astounded by the transformation that paint can make in a room. This is what our livingroom looked like when we bought the house.

This past week we finally turned our attentions to some of the space outside the kitchen. This is how the livingroom looked today.

We're not even done, but to me this is a stunning transformation! It seems the dimensions of the room have changed entirely. I am so happy with the way this is beginning to look I can hardly tell you! What seemed like such a boring fireplace even looks like it has possibilities.

For June, who recently painted her office "Sweet Baby Rose" and was bemused by the name of the color, my dramatic wall color is "Spiced Carrot". I think the person that names the Miller Paint colors has a good time.

Friday, April 11, 2008

It's Here!

I felt like Navin Johnson in The Jerk* (one of my favorite movies—I know, dumb, but it tickles me everytime I see it) when I arrived home today to find three complimentary copies of the new Quilting Arts magazine had come in the mail. I could relate to Navin's excitement at seeing his name in print.

After my last post I got lots of news of "sightings" from people, that had me dashing around the Portland area—"I saw one at Fred Meyer's"—"They had it at Borders when I was there yesterday" etc. I think these folks were hallucinating. I still haven't found one in a store here—and I have looked! I also got an email from the features editor at Quilting Arts telling me that they were sending copies, but it might have been delayed by their preparations for Quilt Market this week. I was really impressed that she knew about my blog, and took the time to email me. I have to say everyone I was in contact with at QA was so responsive and so helpful regarding the article. And, by the way, doesn't it look great?!

The copies that came today were in a US mail plastic bag with the message, "we're sorry your package was damaged . . . " And the inside envelope was wet. The magazines are wet on the edges. Darn Post Office. I think that's why I didn't get them sooner.

* Navin R. Johnson: The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here!

Harry Hartounian: Boy, I wish I could get that excited about nothing.

Navin R. Johnson: Nothing? Are you kidding? Page 73 - Johnson, Navin R.! I'm somebody now! Millions of people look at this book everyday! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity - your name in print - that makes people. I'm in print! Things are going to start happening to me now.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

OK, this is driving me nuts

I can see the cover of the new Quilting Arts magazine on the web site, but I can't seem to lay my hands on a copy of the magazine. There is an article that I wrote in this issue. All the subscribers have their copies and several have emailed me and left comments about my article. Since I don't subscribe I buy the issues I want. I have been to Powell's books nearly every day for the last two weeks and to Fibers in Motion a couple of days ago. Neither of them has the new issue.

Look, you can see the table of contents on the web site. That's my frog quilt! There's my name!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Fiddlin' around

I have been so immersed in house remodeling/cleaning/selling/painting/etc. that I have not done anything creative with fabric in waaaaay too long. Our small STASH group decided we needed a new challenge, so we settled on "tree". Last night I started fiddling with some ideas.

I carved a little stamp and stamped and painted some leafy fabrics. Then I sketched. I was looking at our old lilac out front and looking especially at the shapes and angles of the bare branches.

Today I scanned the sketch and cropped it to something that I liked.

Too many branches. I started taking branches out and simplifying.

I like that better. I took it into Illustrator and started tracing and adding some color to get a feel for what that might be like.

Now the trunk looks spindly and off balance. The background is a little icky too, but it's just a start.

I think this has a ways to go, but it's a start. This is the point at which I have to let it simmer in the back of my head. Most likely I'll get some kind of idea just as I'm drifting off to sleep.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Birthday gifts

Today is my birthday, but we celebrated it last night when Ray took our family out to dinner. We went to a nice restaurant and had wonderful food. Sofia sat in a high chair and ate a banana and puffed rice and smiled and flirted with everyone who walked past her. What a social little person she has become. As we were leaving I overheard people at the table behind us. "Ohhhh, look at that little girl. Isn't she daaaaaaarling?" Yes, she was. She has had a tough, grumpy week with new teeth coming in, but she was in fine form last night. I considered it my birthday gift from my granddaughter.

I got other gifts too. Emily gave me a gift certificate for a special "spa pedicure". I can hardly wait, but think I'll hold off until closer to sandal-wearing season. Ray had to order my gift from him and it hasn't arrived. I know what it is (since I hinted so strongly at what I wanted). It is an immersion blender, so I don't have to put my cruddy old blender in my lovely new kitchen. I know some folks consider kitchen appliances and gadgets unromantic as birthday gifts, but I consider it very romantic to get something I really want. My sweet son-in-law also gave me something I really wanted. He painted these little paintings for my new kitchen.

He had painted some similar paintings for Emily and I told him how much I liked them. They are fruits of Ecuador—papayas, mangoes and tree tomatoes. I don't know how many places tree tomatoes grow. They are virtually unknown in the United States. They are not really tomatoes at all, but are the same color and are beautiful oval fruits with smooth, shiny skin. In Ecuador they are the basis for the hot sauce called aji that is so popular. They are also used for juice, which is very delicious and the most beautiful color.

The first time we visited Emily in Ecuador we arrived in Quito late at night and Emily, who was coming to Quito from Cuenca the next morning, arranged for us to be met at the airport and taken to a small family run hotel in Quito. The next morning we found the charming dining room of the hotel and were served glasses of fresh, rosy-hued tree tomato juice. It was literally our first taste of Ecuador and we have loved it ever since. So I especially love the tree tomato painting.


This is my kitchen cart. It started as the IKEA BEKVÄM cart. I stained it, added a handle and towel bar and used some of my extra Talavera tiles on the top.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Further proof . . .

(that less is more)

Do you remember way back when I was planning this kitchen and asking for opinions about the tile on the backsplash? I had this fully tiled deal in mind and was just trying to figure out how much of the Talavera tile and how much of something else and what configuration. I ordered enough of the Talavera for two rows and planned to order plain tiles to go with it, then things got a little complicated by the placement of all the outlets and the realization that those tiles were going to be interrupted by outlets. I hummed on all this for awhile and grumbled a bit, and put off making a decision. Then after the countertops went in I brought in a few tiles just to see how they were going to look with the counters and suddenly that single little row I set up looked perfectly perfect to me.

I looked at trim pieces to finish the top and even those seemed like too much. Once again the "less is more" principle kicked in. And I have leftover tile. I used some of them to tile the top of a little rolling work station cart.

The kitchen really is finished now and I love it. I was there today sealing the grout and the sun was pouring in the skylight and and garden window. I am glad I made the choices I made. It has warmth and color. So many of the contemporary kitchens I looked at were beautiful, but very, very neutral—grey or brown granite, brown cabinets, wood floors, white or cream walls, stone colored tiles—and I knew I would grow bored with that kind of kitchen. I can hardly wait to start moving my stuff in and using it here. I think this rug that we bought in Mexico last year will look great in front of the sink. (Or maybe not. Take deep breath. Repeat. "Less is more, less is more")

Can you believe this kitchen used to look like this?

Ripped from the headlines . . .

How cool to find my friend, June's, picture in the bottom corner of the front page of the Metro section of today's Oregonian. She has been terrorizing her neighborhood again—er, painting her neighborhood again. Actually the picture and caption were just to illustrate the beautiful spring weather we are finally getting here in Portland. I love the picture. It is perfectly June-ish—casting a critical eye on her work.