Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I was just telling Ray, yesterday, that I need a good book to read. I have been reading crap* and working too hard and feeling stressed. I have minimal control over the working and the stress, but I control what I read and I feel better about everything else if I can occasionally escape into a good read. I am one of those people who must have a book to read at all times. Truly, I can't imagine not reading before going to sleep, or when I need a break from everything else. It is just part of my everyday life. I read a lot of fiction, but I am picky. I don't read romance novels and very few mystery novels.

The other day I was browsing a yard sale, when the proprietor, a man about my age in a tank top and baggy shorts, with a cigar stuck in his face, said, "Hey, I think this box of romance novels has your name on it. I'll make you a deal!" I was stunned. I physically recoiled. Do I look like someone who reads romance novels?! I turned on my heel, went straight to my car and drove away as quickly as I could.

Old Friends

Coincidentally, last night I was reading blogs and Diane Perin Hock, who always has great book recommendations, had this meme about books on her blog. I thought I'd give it a shot.

One book that changed your life: Life-changing is a tall order for a book, but one book that stands out in my mind as really affecting me was Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger. It was probably because of my age and my place in life, when I read it. I was in college and I wasn't going through the existential crisis that Franny was, but I could feel what she was feeling and knew those people she was so tired of—"the haters"—the snobbish, the intellectually superior. I understood her need for escape, for turning inward and lolling and indulging. And then, in the second story, her brother Zooey tells her stories and points out the obvious, yet not so obvious truth that in her search for religion and meaning she is missing the holy all around her. "You don't even have sense enough to drink when somebody brings you a cup of consecrated chicken soup--which is the only kind of chicken soup Bessie ever brings to anybody around this madhouse."

I read this book again every few years. I own a worn hardcover copy and it has dried leaves and notes tucked into it. At the end I feel as Franny does. It leaves me peaceful, smiling at the ceiling.

One book you’ve read more than once or twice: Franny and Zooey, (see above). Another book I have read several times and am probably due to read again soon is The World According to Garp, by John Irving. It is funny, tragic, sad, bizarre, but the characters are moving and human and make you care so much for them. When Garp chases down cars that speed through his neighborhood to lecture the drivers on safety and the danger to his children, anyone with children will identify with that irrational fear and hyper awareness of how dangerous the world can be.

One book you’d want on a desert island: Oh, this is just too hard. If I had only one book, I'd probably read it and then walk into the ocean.

One book that made you laugh: Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris. Actually, anything by David Sedaris makes me laugh.

One book that made you cry: Beloved, by Toni Morrison, really brought home the inhumanity of slavery in such personal terms.

One book you wish had never been written: Well, anything with a message of hate. Mein Kampf comes to mind, though I've never read it.

One book you’re currently reading: Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keefe, by Laurie Lisle. I am slogging through this book. I am interested in Georgia O'Keefe, but this seems a very dull, dry biography. It is also a poorly printed book and irritating to read because the type is ugly and blotchy looking.

One book you’ve been meaning to read: The Yiddish Policemen's Union, by Michael Chabon. It's on my nightstand. I started reading it, but my mind wandered. I couldn't focus. But it has gotten rave reviews and sounds quirky and funny, so I am going to give it another go. Maybe it's a book for a long airline flight or a stormy day.

*And that "crap" that I have been reading? The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks. Pure schmaltz. This book was a big bestseller, but it is so gaggishly romantic and goopy and poorly written I was embarrassed for the author. Yech. If you want it I'll send it to you—don't pay money for it—but honestly, you don't want it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Projects, projects

While I haven't been doing much artwork, I have kept busy with artsy-craftsy projects at the new house.
We have discovered that our new neighborhood is a wealth of yard sales every weekend. Look what I found today. Cute little wicker chair, just Sofi's size, but painted a dreary tan.
I spray-painted it and like the new color better. I think I need to make a little cushion for the seat.

I think this little chair will live at my house for visiting children.

I have been saving wine corks for many years. I am finally putting together the bulletin board I've had in my mind. It is on the door of a closet in my utility room, and visible from the kitchen.

It looks like it is going to require about 500 corks, which I am hot gluing one at a time. Hope I have enough—we may have to start drinking lots more wine if not! A purist might use only real cork corks, but I am including all those new-fangled plastic corks as well. The push pins work equally well on both kinds. As I glue these on I am trying to glue them to show the name and/or graphics on the corks. I notice there are a lot of Charles Shaw corks! That's the cheap Trader Joe's brand, also known as "two buck Chuck." We are not wine snobs—we try most anything short of Boone's Farm and Ripple. (Do those still exist?) There are also quite a few Smoking Loon brand corks. Those are the orange plastic ones that say, "Whooo, Whooo, Whooo, Cough, Whooo..." I confess I buy it for the label. Greatest wine label ever, in my opinion. Anyway, aren't all those corks pretty? I just love them.

Here's a finished project.

This is also in the utility room. This little countertop was covered in chipped blue formica. Last week I tiled it, using some tiles I got at the rebuilding center and some Mexican tiles with fruits and vegetables on them. I've been hauling those Mexican tiles around for years. I knew I'd find a use for them someday. The string bag holds some of my cork stash. Sometimes being a packrat pays off.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The skeptic seeks help from a higher power

Desperation makes one do things that are inconsistent with her normal mode of operations. Ray doesn't even know this yet, but a couple of days ago I buried St. Joseph in the front yard. In case this seems completely bizarre, this practice is supposed to aid in the selling of a house. You can read the details here.
Of course I didn't really do it the way you are supposed to. The instructions are to bury a statue of St. Joseph. Not having a statue on hand, and lacking the patience to order one off one of the many internet sites that sell them, I improvised. I perused the images of St. Joseph available through a Google image search. Most did not speak to me. The ones of him holding an infant Jesus seemed wrong to bury. Then I found this one:

He has his carpenter's square and a plumb bob in one hand and I think those are lilies in the other. He looks like he could get the job done. I liked him. I printed him and carefully cut him out. I sealed him in plastic, put that inside another plastic bag and buried him near the "for sale" sign with his head pointing toward the house. Positioning is controversial. Every account seems to call for a different placement—head toward the house, head toward the street, upside down, on his back, etc., etc. My gut told me, "on his back, head pointing toward the house." As I put him in the hole I silently implored him, "Please, sir, St. Joseph, sir—bring us a buyer for this house."

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Independent study

My friends, Gerrie and Reva, have been taking classes this summer at the Oregon College of Art and Craft. I've been jealous. They have been having serious fun and brought great piles of hand-printed fabrics they made in the classes to our STASH meeting last week. I haven't taken any kind of a class for a long time and mostly I'm not too interested in most classes, but it would be fun to mess around in the dyes and resists and such and come home with a pile of usable fabrics.

I decided I should create my own class of one, or probably it would be more accurate to call it an "independent study." (So much more serious sounding than "playin' around with fabric," don't you think?) My textbook is Rayna Gilman's new book, Create Your own Hand-Printed Cloth.

I chose a technique I have never tried—using blue school glue to create a resist on a silk screen to print. I put some of the glue into a fine pointed plastic bottle and drew all over the screen with it, then let it dry very well.

Then I printed, using purple, thickened dye on several solid colors of fabric. This is my screen printing setup on the patio table.

I have been doing traditional screen printing for many years and use a board with hinge clamps which I find very useful. My board is lightly padded and covered with a vinyl fabric. Here are some of my prints:

This red one shows pretty clearly areas that were flooded with too much dye and areas that did not get enough dye.

This last one shows that the glue resist is beginning to break down. It happened very fast, from one print to the next there was a big change. When I washed the screen the glue washed out with the dye. I was pretty obvious that it had reached its breakdown point.

My results were not stellar, but were instructive. My conclusions:

  1. I lost a lot of detail because either the lines I made were too fine for this technique, or the print paste/dye was too thin. It was probably a combination of the the two. The dye simply filled in a lot of the fine lines.
  2. I don't think I care a lot for this technique because it is one that has you printing the negative (background) space. Lots of room for unevenness and globbiness with so much dye going through the screen. I think I prefer a stencil method that allows you to block the background and print the positive design.
  3. I think I have some usable fabrics, but they will be cut up and probably further painted or printed. It will be fun to see what I can do with them from here.

By the way, Rayna's book is terrific. I will be continuing my independent study and trying more of her techniques.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Salad Days

Wikipedia defines the term "Salad Days" as:

"an idiomatic expression, referring to a youthful time, accompanied by the inexperience, enthusiasm, idealism, innocence, or indiscretion that one associates with a young person. More modern use, especially in the United States, refers to a person's heyday when somebody was at the peak of his/her abilities—not necessarily in that person's youth."

I define it as "days when it is too hot to cook and something crisp and cold tastes better than something hot and heavy."

Last week my quilt group, STASH, was scheduled to meet at my house and I decided to feed them lunch (sometimes the hostess provides lunch, sometimes we go out) and I decided to find a new, interesting salad recipe—one that would be tasty for our two vegetarian members as well as the rest of us carnivores. An internet search turned up this Mediterranean Barley salad that sounded intriguing. Forget about the "too hot to cook" part of my definition. It involved roasting vegetables in a very hot oven, as well as sauteing and simmering. It involved many pans and bowls and cutting boards and knives and spatulas and garlic presses and lemon juicers—in other words, it dirtied a lot of dishes. I whined about that part a little. But that's because I've gotten impatient with cooking in my old age. BUT—the salad was really good! Even better as leftovers lunch for Ray and me the next day. I'll probably make it again after all.

Here's what it looked like for the STASH group:

Gerrie took this picture. I stole it from her blog. I am flattered that she found it blog-worthy. Something else to note here is that this is at my new house. We are using real dishes and real cutlery and cloth napkins and placemats. Very civilized, no? You can't see them in this picture, but we were even sitting on diningroom chairs, not folding chairs.

We are moving in little by little. The dining room is moved. I had been holding out, trying to keep the old house looking furnished and normal, but enough is enough. We need to move. There is a real luxury in being able to move a room at a time, put everything away and take the empty boxes back for more. Every move I've ever made in the past has resulted in a mountain of boxes in the garage that takes months to unpack.

And that bare dining room? I don't think it's such a bad thing. You can now see the floor. The room feels much more spacious. I'm not convinced that "staging" and furnishing a house you are trying to sell is all it's cracked up to be. Have people no imaginations? Couldn't you walk into this bare room and get sort of warm and fuzzy imagining your grandmother's china hutch and antique table settling right in? At least you know that the rug wasn't hiding a big stain on the floor and that the china cupboard wasn't covering up cracking plaster.
Whadya think? Was this a mistake? Should we keep moving stuff out?
P.S. It's another salad day today. Ray had to go over to central Oregon for a meeting in the morning, but before he left he made a bowl of tabbouli salad, one of my summertime favorites, so I would have dinner in his absence tonight. Cold chicken and tabbouli—perfect.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Breakfast and a love story at IHOP

One morning last week Ray, Sofia and I had breakfast at IHOP in Issaquah, just across the parking lot from our motel.

We were ordering our breakfast when an elderly gentleman came over to the table and set a card on the table in front of me and said, "I'd like to treat you to breakfast." It was an IHOP reward card that offered a free breakfast when all the dots had been punched, as this one had. He went on to say, "I lost my lady a year ago, so I have no one to treat to breakfast. I'm retired and have more money than I'll ever be able to spend, so you folks have a nice breakfast. One of 'ems on me." We thanked him profusely and he went back to his table to read his paper and finish his coffee.

Pretty soon he finished up and came back over to our table. He had a photo to show us. "Here's a picture of my lady. She was 19 when this was taken, just a couple weeks before we got married." The photo was very old and cracked from riding around in his wallet. A small black and white snapshot of a pretty young girl in a '40s style bathing suit. "She was lovely." I said. "Yep," he said. "I'm the luckiest man in the world. We were married for 64 years. We had 9 kids, 18 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren, and none of 'em ever did drugs. My daughters smoke, (sadly shaking his head) and that breaks my heart—but no drugs."
He told us how he had first seen his wife at a dance at the lake and had gone to the dance pavilion every weekend for the next two months, hoping to see her there again. Finally she was there and he got up the nerve to ask her to dance and ended up driving her home. They sat in his car in her parents' driveway and talked for hours. "That was the beginning." he said.
He carefully returned the photo to his wallet. He gave us a big smile and patted Sofia on the head. "Yep, luckiest man in the world. I don't know what she saw in me. Now, you folks have a nice breakfast." And he was on his way.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle

During our three-day childcare gig with Sofia, we spent one morning in Seattle, which is just 17 miles from Issaquah. We specifically wanted to see the Seattle Art Museum's new Olympic Sculpture Park. We packed up Sofia and the stroller and expected a warm, sunny day. We got to Seattle and it was overcast and a chilly breeze was blowing in off the sound. We were not dressed for that weather and ended up wrapping Sofi in a little blanket I had thrown in thinking I would cover her car seat while the car was parked so it wouldn't be so hot when we put her in it!

The park consists of former industrial land near the waterfront that has been reclaimed and planted to encourage wildlife. A Z-shaped pathway leads up a hill from Elliott Bay to the park's pavilion at the top of the hill, with sculptures all along the way. Near the bottom is "Schubert Sonata" by Mark de Suvero.

"Seattle Cloud Cover" by Teresita Fernandez is screened glass that overlays the view of the city in an ethereal ribbon of undulating color.

On the left is one of three large "Safety Cones" by Dennis Oppenheim.

Ray and Sofia paused for a quick photo under Alexander Calder's "Eagle".

One of my favorite pieces is Claes Oldenberg's "Eraser", which looks like a huge version of an old-fashioned typewriter eraser that has escaped one of the nearby office buildings and is racing, hellbent, toward the freeway.
It was nice to get inside the pavilion and out of the cold wind. Inside was a temporary exhibit, created especially for the pavilion by Geoff McFetridge called "in the Mind". Sofia was quite taken with it.

I'm looking forward to going back on a warmer day!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A little change of pace

We've been on a little trip this week. Emily took a class about teaching languages using storytelling techniques in Issaquah, Washington. We went along to take care of Sofia during the days Em was in class. Issaquah is only about 17 miles from Seattle, but we'd never been there. We liked Issaquah. You'd never know it from the boring city web site, but it is a lovely place, on Lake Samamish and surrounded by mountains that they call the "Issaquah alps".

We spent our days looking at the world through Sofia's lens. She reminded us to always stop to smell the flowers.

The flowers were at a charming shopping center called Gilman Village. It consists of historic homes and buildings from Issaquah's historic past that were moved to the location and repurposed as shops and restaurants.

After nap and lunch we located the hot spot for toddlers—the playground next to City Hall, with its Sofi-sized swings, slides and climbing equipment.

The best parts were watching the other kids, interacting a little and running on the grass.

"Sofia, Sofia, what do you see?"

"I see a black bird looking at me."

Sofia's current favorite book is "Brown Bear, Brown Bear." She has it in both the English and the Spanish versions. It was read quite a few times on this trip. I couldn't help but think about it when she spotted the black bird "looking at me". I wonder if she made that connection. Emily mentioned that she kept thinking about Sofia during her class, as the class presenter was talking about the natural ways that people can attain language. She said several times the presenter would say, "think about how a baby learns to talk." Sofia is just starting to use some words, mostly words that are the same in English and Spanish, as she hears both languages spoken. She says "baby" quite clearly and it applies to real babies, her doll, as well as cats and dogs! About a week ago as they were leaving our house, Emily said, "say 'bye, bye, Grandma.'" Sofia said, "Ba ba, Na Na" and then repeated it. She hasn't said it since.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Living in Limbo

It's wearing me down. We haven't sold our old house and are reluctant to move until we do. We will move eventually, but for now I think the house shows better with furniture in it. I know it takes time to sell a house. Especially now, when the housing market is so bad. It has taken us longer than this to sell houses in the past, but it's getting to me. Put your collective mental energy on this, will you? Do whatever mumbo jumbo or spells or chants or voodoo work for such things. I'm about ready to bury a St. Joseph statue, or whatever it takes.

We have spent two nights at the new house. We bought an inflatable mattress and put it into the lovely green and cream room. We will sleep there sometimes from now on. It felt good to wake up in the house and feel what it is like in the middle of the night and make coffee in the kitchen. We have no TV to entertain us there, so we sat quietly and read. I took my small sewing machine out and made the curtains for the green room. I like them.

On the Fourth of July, Emily and Cayo barbequed at their house. Cayo made mojitos. Andy came over and we all had a nice, relaxing and quite delicious holiday.

Doesn't Sofia look like she is saying "Yesss! My Uncle Andy is here!" ? I took a picture of the two of them last July 4th too. Andy hasn't changed much. Sofia sure has!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Portland Children's Museum

Emily, Sofia and I made our first visit to the Portland Children's Museum yesterday. I've heard about this museum since I moved to Portland, but had never gone before—never had a little kid to take there before. Even as young as Sofi is (15 months) there was lots there to entertain her.

The big picture frame, where you stand to have your picture taken is pretty neat. It is made entirely from dried pasta and kitchen utensils, all painted silver. Can you tell Sofia was a little aprehensive. She didn't know what to expect. (you can also admire Emily's cute new haircut)
First stop was the "Baby Garden" with lots of soft surfaces and things to climb and crawl over that are not very far off the ground. Plenty to see and touch as well.

Next stop was the "Dig Pit", a room full of rubber "gravel" and foam "rocks". Sofi tried it first without shoes and did not like the feel of the stuff underfoot. Then she plopped down and started trying out all the different sizes of shovels for digging.

I think our favorite room of all was the "Grasshopper Grocery" complete with shopping carts, a nice produce section full of hard plastic produce, shelves of boxed foods and a bakery section. At the checkout counter you can pass each item over a scanner that beeps just like the real thing. Sofia was very careful about the produce she chose. She found the perfect carrot that she carried around for a long time.

Don't those fruits and veggies look real? They're not. Sofia goes to the grocery store with Emily quite frequently, so she knew exactly how this works. As she examined apples and plums it was pretty obvious that she has been observing how her Mom picks out fruit. She even sniffed one of the peaches!

It was a fun afternoon. If you have little kids visiting Portland I really recommend the Children's Museum. (Paula and Beth — your grandchildren need to go here!) There are a lot of other areas geared toward older children, so I know we'll be going back as Sofia gets older.

The Children's Museum is across the parking lot from The Oregon Zoo in the old OMSI building.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Paint and fabric

I keep painting . . . and painting . . . and painting at the new house. Remember when I showed you this "before" view of the office?

Here's how it looked today.

I love this cream and mossy green. It doesn't look great with the rosey carpet, but that carpet is temporary.

The doorless closet you see on the right was used as a computer desk/nook by the previous owners and has a very half-baked counter with patched blue formica in it. We have desks we will put into the room, so are going to turn the closet back into a storage closet with shelves. I thought about looking for doors, then decided I might like the softness of a curtain there instead. I had an idea of something quite bold and graphic—maybe one of the great swedish fabrics from IKEA, but when I looked at their fabrics nothing quite grabbed me and nothing really spoke to the green. I know, I do things bass ackwards. Should have chosen the fabric first, then matched the paint to something in it. But I just wanted, wanted that earthy, acidy green. It seemed like the antidote for the sweetness of the pink and blue we were getting rid of. I ran into the Mill End Store (big local fabric store, not really mill ends) and looked at the decorator fabrics, which did not inspire. Then I spotted a bolt of cotton duck in the exact (I mean perfectly exact!) wall colors in a cool stripe. Not at all what I thought I wanted, but totally perfect.

Some days the planets just align and even if you can't always get what you want, if you try sometimes, you just might find that you get what you need.

PS: It was even on sale. 25% off.