Wednesday, September 30, 2009


We are home from our East Coast vacation. It was wonderful and we are happy we went and happy to be home. Tonight I uploaded about 350 photos that I took. You will probably be seeing quite a few in the weeks to come as I go through them. Looking at the photos is one of my favorite things after returning from vacation.
We went to Delaware to visit our friends, Carla and Bill. I have known Carla since we were sorority sisters at Idaho State University and we have stayed in touch for all these years. Many years ago we lived relatively close when they were in Northern California and we lived in Southern Oregon and our husbands and children became friends as well. It is truly a rare blessing in life to have friends like these. When they moved to Delaware several years ago I wondered if we would see them again, but we made it happen. Following our visit in Delaware we went to Washington DC for several days and continued our time with Carla and Bill there, as well as their daughter, son-in-law and grandson, who live in the DC area.
We have traveled quite a lot and love to travel. Neither Ray, nor I, had been to Delaware before, so we were discovering new territory. We loved the history and the lovely small towns in the coastal areas. We didn't see a single Starbucks or Macy's in Delaware—I'm sure they are there in the larger cities, but it seemed a place that has, so far, escaped the "same-ification" so much of this country has experienced.
One of the things we really started noticing were large stars on the fronts of houses in Delaware and Maryland. We were puzzled and wondered if there is some significance to them, or if they are just a regional kind of decoration. (Like the butterflies in Idaho?) I took these pictures from the car window.

Isn't that pointy attic window great? Love the details on old houses!

I found a little information on this web site. It seems it depends on who you talk to whether they mean something or are just decorative. I haven't decided whether they are tacky, or charming or just interesting . . .

Thursday will be the reveal of the final 12 x 12 quilts. I will also have something else to celebrate and share here, so check back later!

Oh, and let me know if you know anything more about those stars!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

National Book Festival

We have been in Washington DC this week and today we were lucky enough to be here for the National Book Festival, which is held in a series of big white tents on the Mall. When we planned this trip we weren't aware that this was happening, so it was a happy coincidence that we could take this in. Lots of people!

The biggest part of the Festival is talks by many authors. You can find the author you want to hear in the program and just show up at the appointed tent at the appointed time. The tents are filled with folding chairs, but we weren't able to snag a chair before they were all filled when we went to hear John Irving speak. We got there in time to hear most of Julia Alvarez's talk as well. She is the author of several books about the immigrant experience. She wrote How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents which I read and enjoyed. She was really a great speaker and talked about the experience of having her books banned in a number of schools. I loved her idea that in schools it would be great to help organize parents' reading groups, because she believes that parents who support the banning of books are not really readers themselves and do not understand how it works to live another kind of experience and broaden your view of the world through reading.

I was really thrilled to hear John Irving talk. He is one of my favorite authors and his thoughts on writing were so interesting. He starts a book with the last sentence of the book and works backward to the beginning. He said it is not a device or gimmick, just something that developed and works for his kind of storytelling. His comments on writing were very thoughtful and thought-provoking, especially his thoughts on hard work and practice and rewriting and continuing themes. I have always loved his work and the underlying themes of vulnerability and coping with tragedy with a philosophy of hope and redemption. He is a very good speaker and seems a serious and thoughtful man who works hard at his craft. I sat on the ground and could only catch occasional glimpses through the crowd, of the speaker, but it was well worth it.

Another of today's highlights was a visit to the Smithsonian Museum of African Art. Wonderful.

I have taken so many pictures! But I will need to get home to sort through and decide what is worth sharing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Missing in Action

Did you wonder where I was? Delaware, that's where. We have been visiting friends here and seeing the sights. Never been here before so it has been a good adventure. I thought I would be writing blog entries, but honestly, it is such a pain when I am sharing Ray's computer, trying to download photos on a different computer, etc. So, it isn't happening so much. But I'll be home soon and catch you up on everything!Meanwhile, here are some pictures from Milton Delaware. This is a tiny town, but world famous as the home of Dogfish Head Brewery, where our friend, Bill, works. We took the brewery tour yesterday and tasted some of their beers. Mostly really good. Only one I had to dump in the "bucket of shame" during the tasting part of the tour.

Besides beer-tasting, we have enjoyed the beautiful weather and charming little towns. This is a real agricultural area. A visit to a farm stand alongside the road produced the pictures below.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Reservation

When we were in Pocatello several weeks ago we went out to the Fort Hall Indian Reservation one afternoon, mostly to check out the casino, which was built long after we moved from the area. As casinos go it is pretty modest. There are no table games, no restaurant or lounge, only machines and Bingo, but I managed to come out about $6 poorer anyway.

The Fort Hall Indian Reservation is between Pocatello and the town of Blackfoot, Idaho. While it was quite close to Pocatello, it was not a place I was ever very familiar with, other than what you see from the freeway that runs through it. It was named for the historic Fort Hall on the Oregon Trail. The fort was not a military fort, but rather a trading fort and was owned by the British Hudson's Bay Company. The land was established as a reservation for the Bannock and the Shoshone tribes in the late 1800s. The view from the freeway is of desolate, sagebrush covered hills, but much of the reservation is actually rich farmland and there are also phosphate mines, that produced phosphate for fertilizer for many, many years.

When we were kids you still saw teepees on the reservation and many of the Indians (which is what we called them then—"native American" was not a term anyone had heard of yet) who we saw shopping in town still dressed in the old styles and men and women both wore their hair in long braids. Nowadays they dress in Levis and western shirts, just like everyone else and the houses you see from the freeway are just like the houses in town.

Our High School sports teams were known as the "Pocatello Indians," supposedly in honor of our association with the reservation. In recent years there have been requests from the tribes, who feel that this is demeaning, that this be changed, but to date it has not. I remember feeling uncomfortable about that name, even as a student. As someone once pointed out, "would a school ever call themselves the Springfield Caucasians or the Lake City Hispanics?" Of course not.

The one place on the reservation that I was familiar with was the trading post, which looks pretty much the same today as it did 40 years ago. It became popular when I was in High School to go out to the trading post to buy moccasins. Beadwork on buckskin has always been a native art that the Bannock-Shoshone tribes have excelled in. When we bought them, you could get a handmade pair, with a small beaded design for less than $10. If you wanted more beading the price went up. We wore them with our jeans. They were soft and comfortable, almost like wearing slippers and as you wore them, they conformed to the shape of your foot. They are still selling them at the trading post, along with all kinds of beaded purses and jewelry and accessories like belt buckles. The price has gone up—a lot! The kind of simple moccasins we used to buy are now selling for $75, which still seems pretty inexpensive considering the time that must go into a pair.

I saved the last pair of moccasins I bought years ago. They are pretty well-worn and missing the ties, but I knew I would probably never have another pair.

You can see the imprint of my feet, even toes, if you look carefully, on the bottoms.

I wonder what the future of Indian reservations will be. This one didn't look very prosperous, but it never did. I had a lot of classmates in High School, who lived on the reservation. I didn't see any of them at the reunion. When I looked at the class lists with current addresses, it looks like most have moved away.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"It's a song about love between my brothers and my sisters, all over this land . . ."

Maybe you had to have been there to know how much this meant. Still means. Peace, Mary Travers.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Buried treasure

Today Ray was doing some yard cleanup and in the process of retrieving some debris from the creek, he found these two items buried in the mud at the bottom of the creek. How mysterious! I wonder how long they have been there and how they got there. Both are in perfect condition aside from being quite filthy. The glass paperweight (?) cleaned up pretty easily. The bottle is still quite dirty on the inside. I am soaking it in some vinegar and baking soda. I tried using a bottle brush, which dislodged a lot of gunk, but did not get it entirely clean as you can see. Hard to tell how old these things are or how long they have been there. There are no identifying marks on either. The heavy glass object is quite beautiful. It is a solid half sphere, faceted over its surface, likely cut by hand, judging by its not-quite-perfect symmetry. The bottom is cut in a starburst pattern. Even though it has been buried in the mud for who knows how long, it really sparkles in the sun.
You just never know what new gift the universe will hand you on any given day. I wonder what else the creek has hidden, waiting to be discovered. Pirates' gold???

Friday, September 11, 2009


"To pay attention, this is our endless and
proper work. "
-Mary Oliver

Last week I got together with an old friend that I have not seen for probably 40 years. It was a wonderful day and a gift to reconnect with someone so special. During the course of our conversation she quoted the line above, by poet, Mary Oliver, and the connection it made for me was this blog. Writing a blog and taking pictures, has had many positive and unexpected effects on my life. Not least of these has been discovering the rewards of paying attention—remembering conversations, noticing the beauty in small things, finding the lessons in living life, seeing the faces around me in a new way. Today is my four year blog anniversary.

My blog anniversary will always be tied to the anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. So it is a day of bittersweet remembrance. For some reason, today, I have been thinking mostly about the passengers on United Flight 93, who caused the highjacked plane to crash into a field in Pennsylvania. What an extraordinary effort. Perhaps the purest act of bravery and patriotism I can remember.

The photo, above, is my favorite taken this summer. I took it when we were in Southern Oregon in July, walking with my friend Muriel. I looked up and saw the beautiful moon and sky. I had my camera in my backpack. And, thankfully, I was paying attention.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


I have spent the past two days in a workshop with Laura Cater-Woods. She shared some of her mixed-media/fiber techniques and we had two days of what she calls "non-toxic fun"! Our instructions were to bring a bag of "stuff". Here's my stuff dumped out on my table.

I don't take very many classes, but I was looking forward to finally meeting Laura, who I have "known" online for so many years. I also enjoyed sharing a table with my friend, Virginia, who I don't get to see often enough. At the beginning of the first day Laura asked us to introduce ourselves and tell what we hoped to get out of the class. I said I hoped to be pushed out of my comfort zone. We all laughed when one woman's response was, "I don't expect to learn anything, I'm just here for the social experience!" I have always suspected that's the real reason a lot of people take classes and workshops. It was refreshing to hear someone actually admit to it!

The techniques we learned are a kind of fiber collage that creates pieces of fabric that can be combined in other works, or could stand on their own. Here Laura demonstrates a way of combining unspun fibers of various kinds into a felt-like piece.

Later she demonstrated a technique for combining various fabrics and papers and fibers into a layered, collaged piece. She called this "paper fabric". (Or was that "fabric paper"?)

I found myself well outside the borders of my comfort zone and the first day Laura commented on my worried look. By the second day I was getting into the swing of it and feeling a little more comfortable.

Here are two of 5 small pieces that I started using my collaged bits and wisps. These each measure 5" x 6". These will be stitched on and worked on more and probably all five will be combined into a small accordian book, similar to some that Laura showed us.

I may never use these techniques again, but it is always good to learn something new and take the opportunity to experiment. If I finish something it will be a nice remembrance of the workshop and meeting Laura. And really, I think the parts are kind of nice so far—do you?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Do, doodly, doin'

I haven't shown anything creative in ages. I hate to go so long without pictures of what I'm up to so today is catch up day. Nothing big, just some little projects.

Well maybe this one is kind of big. I'm making a mosaic for the garden. Here's my design.

Here's whatI have done so far.

As you can see I am changing up the colors a little bit, but the overall color scheme is close—based on tile I could lay my hands on. This is about 35" in diameter and will be in the center of a little circular patio Ray is building out front under a big tree. We have discovered our back deck is so hot and sunny in the late afternoon that it isn't a nice place to be most days. In contrast, the front of the house is shady and lovely, so we decided a nice little place to sit and listen to the creek, and maybe even eat dinner out front was a neccessity. I decided it needed a little artsy funkiness, so I had the mosaic idea. It's a learning and inventing process. Ray poured a concrete circle that this will go onto. I am gluing the broken tile pieces to a mesh background that will go into grout on the concrete, then be grouted on top. This is going to take awhile. Fitting all those pieces together is slow going and back-breaking. But I think it will be very cool when finished. Has anyone reading ever done anything like this? Am I on the right track?

When my back can't stand leaning over the mosaic project any longer I come in and work on this little quilt for my friend Paula's newest grandchild—a girl who is due any day now.

I keep saying I'm not making anymore baby quilts, but then I do. This one is smallish and will have a fleece back. This is not an heirloom quilt. Winter baby in Salt Lake City will need a little something to wrap up in or tuck around a carseat or toss on the floor for tummy time. I liked the kitty cat fabric, so took my color scheme from it.

I am taking a class, starting tomorrow, from Laura Cater-Woods, so I am packing my supplies for that.

I haven't taken a class for years, but I am really looking forward to meeting Laura and learning something from her. I have "known" her online on quilting listservs for years and admire both her art and the way she articulates her ideas. I don't know what to expect, so I just keep tossing things into the bag, including my snarled nest of embroidery threads. I will take pictures to post here. At least I will try. Last weekend I took my camera to the Pittock Mansion where I saw an exhibit of Erte prints. Planned to have lovely blog material of the house, the gardens, the view and Erte, only to discover I had the camera minus the memory card. See it here and pretend like I took the pictures. Phooey.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Taking control

Bejeweled—how can I quit you?

What did I do yesterday? Precious little, besides sitting on my backside in front of this computer. And what did I accomplish with this computer? Nothing. And I went to bed a little bit disgusted with myself. Labor Day weekend is here. It is the traditional turning point, from Summer into Fall. For me it is time to take control.

I joined Facebook awhile back and in so many ways it is a great thing, but it's out of control here at my house. Because I am a member of quilting listservs and online groups, and because I blog, I guess, I get lots and lots of "friend" requests from people I don't know. I'm not talking about virtual friends who I really feel like I know even though I've never met them face to face. I'm talking about names and faces I've never seen or heard of before. I accepted a lot of those, when I saw how many "mutual friends" we had. This needs to end. I need to get rid of the guy who only friended me to try to sell me thread. I need to get rid of the quilter with the offensive (to me) political and religious views. Heck, I need to get rid of the ones who post five times a day about what they just ate or that they just returned their library books. I DON'T KNOW YOU. I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR LIBRARY BOOKS! Sorry to yell. It's not your fault, it's mine. So I'm "hiding" and I'm even going to do some "unfriending." Going to whittle this thing down to a managable size.

Don't misunderstand me. Most of you are staying. Most of Facebook delights me. Anne's headcheese sandwich was the highlight of my day yesterday. Oh no, wait, maybe it was my niece's saga of the van full of mice. Good stuff!

The damn game
Another aspect of the dark side of Facebook—games. It started with SCRABBLE, introduced to me by Elaine. This is good. It is benign. It tests your brain and creates interaction between friends. And SCRABBLE is slow—takes up very little of your time. Then came FARKLE, a virtual dice game, which involves only a little strategy and a lot of luck. It captivated me for awhile. Then I discovered BEJEWELED. Beware people. This game is THE WORK OF THE DEVIL!!!! Sorry. Yelling again. Once again, my own fault. This is where my yesterday went. Hours. Hours I will never get back. It has no redeeming social value, no skills to develop, no hope of ever mastering it. I'm done with it. (Oh Lord, help me be strong...)

Google Reader
Google Reader is another good thing that can take you to bad places. It makes it easy to read one's favorite blogs, by giving you a list of only the blogs with new entries. You can even download a little button that simply whisks you from one new blog entry to the next, by-passing the list. How can this be bad, you ask? It encourages you (well, me) to subscribe to blog after blog after blog. Before you know it you have queued up 43 new posts to read on Go Fug Yourself. I find making fun of celebrities' bizarre outfits and hairstyles great, amusing fun—but really so much snark is not good for you. So, buh, bye. I also dumped the Portland blogger who complains about everything and the design blog that seems to have run out of interesting things to say, and, and, and... I have lightened the load considerably.

OK, this is a good feeling. I'm not telling anyone else what to do. You're adults and you can make your own decisions and besides that's another thing I'm deleting—blogs that pontificate and tell you what to do. I am not even swayed by the sound of Ray playing BEJEWELED behind me on his computer. I am woman. I am strong.

Perhaps now that I have my virtual act together, I can tackle my closet and then do some laundry. Maybe I can make some art.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Going to camp

The day after my reunion, my brother took us for a drive up into the mountains just outside Pocatello. We stopped to visit Camp Taylor, where I spent happy, happy days and weeks every summer for many years, as a Girl Scout camper and later a counselor. In those days it was called Camp Tendoy. I don't know when or why the name changed. It was a place I loved and where I felt totally at home.

There was no one there when we walked up the road. Obviously the camping season has ended. The place was deserted and picnic tables were piled up in front of the dining hall. This building was built one year, replacing an old and very decrepit lodge where we ate in the first few years I went to camp. It was a cheerful place with the light streaming in the big windows and its view of Scout Mountain. Today it is a little the worse for wear, but brings back a lot of memories.

I still remember the excitement of arriving at camp, finding the cabin to which we had been assigned and choosing our bunks. My friend, Lea, and I always wanted top bunks, so were insistent on getting to camp early. Here we are, a long time ago, staking out our top bunks in Cabin 1.

This group of cabins were pretty new when we were campers and smelled like pine and varnish. I was dismayed to find that they are now painted an obnoxious shade of green and smell of mildew and mouse. Cabin 1 as it appears today:

This cabin, up the hill, a bit away from the other cabins, and the only one with a fireplace, was old when I was a camper. I was glad to see that only the door was painted the icky green.

What hasn't changed is the peace and beauty. The pines and aspens and wildflowers. The little creek that runs through. The rustle of the breeze high in the trees and that intoxicating smell of fresh air and evergreen.

It was never a fancy camp. No pool or waterfront. No horses. But I remember it for singing and for hikes and crafts and building fires and cooking outdoors and learning the names of plants and trees and telling stories around the campfire and sharing secrets in the dark and toasting marshmallows and snuggling deep into a cozy sleeping bag and falling asleep to the sound of crickets and a hooting owl. I remember learning to play the ukelele and keeping a notebook of all the songs I learned and singing with Lea, who made, even me sound good with her beautiful harmonies.

"I know, I know, you belooooooong to soooooombody newewewew,
but tonight, you belo-ong to me..."

Me, as a teenage counselor, third from the left

I remember stars. Dizzying. Just so many stars that you could almost feel the earth spinning through the Milky Way. Misty mornings, flag ceremonies, Taps. Friends—Lea, Kathleen, Renee, Elaine, Midge, Ruthie . . . I really, mostly remember my friends and how much fun we had.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Class Reunion

Yes, you are right. I have been gone from the blog for a long time. I went to Idaho for my High School Class Reunion. Forty-fifth, since you asked. This is my nametag, with my Senior picture on it. Thank goodness for these nametags. I would not have known a lot of my classmates without them.

And those Native Americans who appear to be sniffing me? Our school mascot. Even now, the students at Pocatello High School (also known as Poky High) are known as the "Pocatello Indians". Don't blame me. I never liked the idea.

It is a strange concept, the High School reunion. To think that 3 years of one's life is so significant that everyone associated should gather every 5 or 10 years. Questionable. And yet, we do. But I find that the people I am most interested in seeing are those who I knew well before we got to High School.

This year's focus was definitely about age and who had died. In one corner of the room a powerpoint slide show played endlessly, showing the names and those old senior pictures of the members of our class who are gone. You'd be talking to a group, remembering something funny and suddenly someone would look up at the slide show and groan, "oh m-a-a-a-n—what happened to her?" Sad stories, one after another, as well as mysteries. We were so sad and puzzled by the suicide last summer of John G. our sweet, cute, successful classmate. His face would rotate up onto the screen and a pall would descend over the crowd. Beyond understanding.

I reconnected with Lea, my old Girl Scout buddy, from so many years ago. We went to camp together and sang harmony around the campfires. We had sleepovers at each other's houses and declared ourselves "best friends" many, many years ago. Our lives have taken different paths, but we were like fourth-grade buddies again the other night. She told me that after her husband died, suddenly and unexpectedly, seven years ago, she went on a mission for her adopted Mormon religion. She worked with African refugees and she simply radiated happiness as she talked about the experience. She is as warm and funny and generous now as she was as a child. And she is the grandmother of 25 grandchildren!

Some observations after 45 years:

  • Our generation was the first to recieve the polio vaccine, but there were a few who had polio before the vaccine. It was such a terrible disease and now we see those who had it as small children once again suffering terrible late life effects. If you never had to see friends afflicted with this disease, you are more fortunate than you probably realize.
  • The "Franklin Clique" (those cute girls who came to our High School from Franklin Jr. High, one of four in the city) were snooty then and are snooty now. Geez.
  • Our class president grew up to be an insufferable windbag.
  • The "smart guys" have aged a lot better than the "cool guys".
  • When you grow up in a Mormon community, your classmates are going to have an unbelievable number of grandchildren. (One I talked to has 51—no lie!)
  • I really am an introvert. Talking to all those people exhausted me.
  • The people you really want to see don't come to the reunions.
  • Despite everything, I'm glad I went.