Saturday, January 30, 2010

Me and Rosarita

Many, many years ago when I graduated from college, I moved to the big city. I left my home and family in Pocatello, Idaho and headed for the hustle and bustle and bright lights of Boise! (OK, laugh if you will, but it is the biggest city in the state of Idaho.)  I got a job and I got an apartment where I lived by myself for the first time in my life. I missed my family and I really missed my mother's cooking. Mom was an outstanding cook and having grown up in the Southwest, her specialties were Mexican or Tex-Mex dishes. Oh, those enchiladas! Mom usually made everything from scratch, including the sauces and it was a big production. Cooking for myself after a hard day at work was whatever I could make quickly. An early discovery was canned, Rosarita brand enchilada sauce. It tasted almost as good as Mom's. Now there are a lot of canned enchilada sauces, and I have tried them all, but, trust me, Rosarita's is the best. Rich and earthy, spicy but not too hot and more chile flavor than tomato. I could build myself a tasty stacked enchilada for dinner in no time. A little omelet, smothered in some Rosarita and sprinkled with cheese and green onions. A toasted cheese sandwich dipped in Rosarita. I considered Rosarita sauce my main staple.

Years went by and my cooking repertoire expanded and I lost touch with Rosarita for quite awhile. I looked for her in the stores, but never saw her. I assumed, sadly, that Rosarita was no more. Then last year when we moved, I started shopping at a different store and there, in the ethnic foods section I found my old friend Rosarita! We are BFFs again. And I have been remembering just how versatile this can of sauce is. It's not just for enchiladas!

Tonight I made a delicious and quick-to-fix tortilla soup, with Rosarita's help. It was so good, really! Here's how I did it. Took less than an hour. Amounts are sort of variable. I was making it up as I went along.

  • Cooked two very large chicken breasts in the oven at 375 for about 30 minutes

  • While chicken cooked, I fried half a chopped onion in a little olive oil until starting to brown

  • Added one can (14 oz) of diced tomatoes, filled can with water and added to the pot

  • Added can (20 oz) Rosarita enchilada sauce, plus another can of water

  • Added can (4 oz) chopped green chiles

  • Clove of garlic, minced

  • 1/2 tsp. cumin

  • added a rounded soup spoon full of chicken boullion paste
While all that simmered, I sliced 5 fresh corn tortillas into strips (about 1/4"). Sprayed a cookie sheet with vegetable oil and spread the tortilla strips on it. These went into the oven with the chicken.

  • Took chicken from oven and cut into chunks and added to soup

  • Took the tortilla strips out when they were very crisp and browning a little

  • I added a little more water—actually I ran some boiling water into the pan I had cooked the chicken in and loosened the brown bits and juices and added to the soup
Ladled hot soup into bowls and garnished with shredded cheese, avocado chunks and the tortilla strips.

I know this sounds like a lot of cans of stuff, which is not the way I usually cook, but it is so fast and so tasty! Today I wanted to spend more time in my studio than the kitchen so it was perfect. I love a good tortilla soup. I'm not a fan of corn and rice and a bunch of stuff in my tortilla soup, but you could add whatever sounds good to you. If I'd had some cilantro I'd have sprinkled some of it on top. A squeeze of lime juice is also good if you have it.

There you go. I have broken those sacred blogging rules by not only telling you what I ate for dinner, but giving you the recipe.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Working, working

I started working on a new quilt yesterday. It will be a large one for me. It must be an exact, prescribed size, which is never easy, in my opinion.

It has been cold and my workroom is heated by a wall heater, so until it warms up things are cold in there. I like to carry my little pot of tea in with me to warm both my insides and my hands until the heater is up to speed. I was given this little 2-cup teapot by a sweet friend (who will read this and know who she is) and I have loved it so much. It holds about two cups and has a mesh basket inside to hold loose tea. I have been drinking black tea with cherry and almond. It smells as good as it tastes.

This quilt needs background. I saw a technique that my twelve by twelve friend, Terri Stegmiller used and knew instantly that this would be the perfect way to construct the kind of background I need for this piece. It required me to pull out every piece of brown-ish fabric that I own and cut scraps in triangle and trapezoid shapes.

That is a tissue box sitting on my work table. Don't you always look for the coolest box designs when you buy tissues? I do. Much more important than the quality of the tissue inside. Ha! When they are empty I use the box as a little waste basket in my sewing area. tiny fabric scraps and thread snips go into the box until it is full and then discarded. By then there is usually another empty to take its place.

This part is a little tedious. I am cutting up scraps and scraps and scraps. Since this quilt is for an invitational show I'm not sure how much I can show beforehand, but I will deifinitely keep showing this background as it grows. I haven't used this technique before, but I am liking how it looks so far. It's going to take awhile.

I have to tell you how much I appreciate all the comments left on yesterday's post. Lovely, supportive words from old blog friends and new. Thank you!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Imperfect Reflection

Today I read a post by Dena Dale Crain about "Blogging for Quilters." If you are thinking about starting a blog, especially hopeful that it will bring you fame and fortune and sales of your artwork, she has a lot of good information there. By her standards, though, my blog probably doesn't measure up. Maybe I should worry about this, but I don't. She asks at the outset, if you are blogging, are you doing it "properly and successfully?"

Properly? Oh, sigh. That makes me tired. Am I "keeping my present and future readers informed about what I am doing and what I am selling?" Yes, sort of. Sometimes. Maybe. Er, not so much.  "Not selling yet?" she asks, "Why not? Don't be naive!" OK, OK, I am selling. I set up an Etsy Shop awhile back and flogged it to death here and sold quite a lot of stuff, but I have not had the time to restock lately. I should probably be doing that instead of writing this.

Successfully? What? What is successful? Since I didn't have any concept or goal about what would constitute success when I started writing this blog, I can't really say if I have been successful. If it means has it opened my eyes to things I had never noticed, connected me with terrific people and opportunities, given me another creative outlet, put me in touch with my own life in a way nothing else ever has, then, yes, I am blogging successfully. If it means, fame, sales, and how many search engines access the blog daily, well, I just don't know about that stuff.

Don't get me wrong. I have no argument with Dena's advice and I think she has given this some very good, analytical thought. I was just taken aback by such a single-minded approach to blogging. At one point she says if you aren't blogging to sell something you should switch to Twitter or Facebook where you can share your personal thoughts and photos there.They are, apparently, only worthy of a couple lines and a square inch or so.

You know what I love in a blog? Someone who can write really well. That is what I aspire to. Beautiful photos that take me to another location or a glimpse into someone else's world. I love that too. Humor. The human condition, well told. Travel. The world. Food, though I am with Dena in that I'm not very interested in what you had for breakfast. But I do love those favorite recipes and a great, tasty discovery shared. Art. I love the art, but it is even more enjoyable for me when I have learned something about the artist and what makes her tick.

My blog is an imperfect reflection of me. I'm sure it could be more professional, but it is what it wanted to be. Not for everyone. I am getting old and life is short—too short not to do what I do for my own enjoyment mostly. And for the record, even when you are young life is too short. Maybe I share too much of my mundane life, or maybe not enough. Maybe I'm unnaturally interested in other peoples' lives or maybe reading about them just provides some comfort in knowing how much we are all alike at some deep level. I just never thought of blogs having to be business tools.

Maybe Dena's advice will help someone start a successful blog. I hope it doesn't dissuade anyone who won't want to follow her rules. They can follow my rules instead! No, really I don't think rules are needed for something as personal as a blog. If you wanted my advice, and you probably don't, I'd just say what I'd say about art in general—be authentic. And if you can be funny or profound or make things beautiful—bonus points.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Looking down on it all

Finished. I am working my way through January as if I were actually getting paid. Ha! This is my second "Bird's Eye View" piece finished this month. They will be submitted next month. The first was Mt. Hood from the Air which has taken its place in my blog banner above. It was not intended for the blog, but when I was contemplating changing the look, it suddenly seemed perfect. For one thing I think it is the only quilt I have ever made that is that horizontal in orientation. Then, there is the fact that Mt. Hood is sort of the definitive landmark here where I live. When we can see Mt. Hood, we know it is a good day.

Now, this second piece, by contrast is not a real place. It exists only in my imagination, but it is an impression of scenes I have seen from the air. It needs a name. If you have any great ideas leave me a comment. I do love the greens and there are some really beautiful color changes when you look at it closeup.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Getting through January

It just keeps raining. Yeah, it goes with the territory. January. Oregon. It is so dark we have to turn the light on in the kitchen to make lunch. But it does cheer me up a little to see this one, lone daffodil blooming in the kitchen window. These are days I miss Idaho winter days with their bright, blue skies and the sun sparkling on the snow, but I talked to my brother in Idaho this morning and he said it was actually kind of gray today and the snow was old and brown and dirty. That made our rain seem not so bad. And you can see beyond the daffodil that the grass out back is green. In Idaho, in January the grass is a dismal brown. January is a month to just be gotten through and it is almost over. I have gotten a lot accomplished this month. A lot of writing. Another article for Quilting Arts and my chapter for the Twelve by Twelve book. I have also finished two pieces for the "Bird's Eye View" show.

I get cabin fever in January and wish I were going somewhere. Ray and I drove out to the Farm and Ranch Store that I discovered in my search for a bootjack. I knew Ray would love it and he did. We wandered through the whole store and bought some seeds. It's still a bit early to plant nasturtium seeds, but they are waiting.  I think Ray is a little tired of my nasturtium fetish, but I still like to plant them in places where they can cascade over the sides of something. They are my summertime thing, but I like that you can just poke their big, wrinkly seeds right in the ground as soon as the ground starts to warm up a little.

My friends and I continue to walk, even in the rain. I think that really saves me during these winter months. Last winter Beth's ankle was injured and we didn't walk, but went to the gym instead. I really hated walking on a treadmill instead of out in the fresh air. I'm glad to be outside again. The pond is home to so many birds and the trees and bushes have their own kind of winter beauty.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hope for Haiti

Did you watch? I hope they raised a lot of money. I think maybe my very favorite performance was by Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris. I never thought I would use the words "Justin Timberlake" and "favorite" in the same sentence! Will wonders never cease? I still don't know who Matt Morris is, but he was terrific.

The mood of the show was somber and most song selections were serious and well chosen. I also loved Shakira's performance, but I have to say the Neil Young/Dave Matthews duet was a real downer. A dirge. But I see from the comments on YouTube that a lot of people loved it. Whatever works, I say. All in all, a great effort for such an unbelievably tragic cause.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Taking my own picture

I have been working on my parts of the Twelve by Twelve book and one of the things the publisher wants are photos of each of us in our studios. I took this photo this morning for that purpose. I may try again, or I may use this one. I don't think it's too bad. The vain part of me doesn't much like my saggy, aging neck, but it is what it is.

I am tracing an image onto fabric, using my lightbox. I took the picture by setting up my camera on a tripod, then setting the timer. To me it looks like I feel when I am doing this. I didn't dress up or put lipstick on for the picture and my shirt was pulled off a hanger in the laundry room, unironed.

Pictures of me always surprise me. I look so much older than I feel. But probably not older than I am. Of course I never see myself from this angle. When I look in the mirror I see white hair. The side view shows me how dark it still is in the back. Somehow I think the little blog profile picture up in the corner looks more like me because that is what I look like in the mirror. I pull myself up as tall as I can, suck in everything that can be sucked and smile a big cheesy smile. Today's picture is probably more like what the rest of you see.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

You were right. . .

. . .those of you who told me I needed a bootjack. Exactly what I needed. It works perfectly. You step on the back with one foot, and stick your other foot in the U-shaped opening and pull. Then you do the same thing with your other foot.

So easy. No grunting, no strain, no getting your hands in whatever you have on your boots.

I found my bootjack at a store called Coastal Farm and Ranch, out just beyond Hillsboro in farm country. I feel like such a city girl. I didn't know it existed and what a great store! I wandered around for nearly an hour, with my bootjack, just looking at everything. They carry all kinds of boots and work clothes, as well as other casual clothes, any kind of rope or twine you would ever want, tarps in a gagillion sizes and colors, tools, woodstoves, car stuff, pet supplies, animal feed, wheelbarrows, wheels, chain, hardware, ranch-y furniture, lighting, cages for animals of all sizes, many things I could not even identify, but I'm sure were dandy, etc. etc. etc. They had the greatest looking buckets I have ever seen. They were heavy duty plastic in all the colors of the rainbow. I guess this is so you know which bucket is for the chickens and which one is for the pigs, but I just thought they were great looking buckets. Outside the store there was more—fenceposts and water troughs and tubs and on and on.

So, thanks for the tips on the bootjack. It opened up a whole new world of possibilities!


Thanks, too, for even more comments on the blog redo. Candied Fabric mentioned that the new template looked skinny. I agreed, but I had not been able to see a way to change that. I finally figured out that I could tweak the html and change the width. I like it better. I also brought the size of the font down a notch. Bigger than the default, but not as big as I had it. I am so impressed with how much Blogger has improved their layout tools.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

That dotty pattern

I told you I'd tell you how I got that dotty pattern on the fabric for the 2nd Birds Eye View piece. Have you ever done a rubbing? You can transfer the design from anything with a raised pattern, onto paper or fabric, by putting it under the fabric and then rubbing across the top with a crayon or pencil. It is a great way to create pattern or texture.

I had an idea that I wanted to add some simple texture to my green fabrics and started searching around the house for something to rub that would impart a random pattern of dots and came upon this piece of fabric. Do you know what it is? It is fabric with little plastic nubs that is made for the feet bottoms of children's pajamas, so they are not slick. It has been in my stash, probably since my children were toddlers! It seemed like it might be perfect for my fabric. What I really liked was that the dots are not lined up in even rows, so it really is a random-seeming pattern.

I glued a piece of the fabric to a piece of foam board to make a rubbing plate for myself.

The lighting in my studio makes this look pink. It isn't. It's white, but it wouldn't matter what color it was.

I laid my green fabric on top of my rubbing plate and gently rubbed using my Caran d'ache watercolor crayons.

These wonderful crayons go on like regular crayon, though a little softer, then when you hit them with water, the color blooms and they are like water color. I generally paint over them with diluted acrylic medium to both release the color and to make them permanent on the fabric.

I varied the color by going over different areas with different crayons.

Bigger and better

Thanks for the comments about my blog spruce-up! It was gratifying to see several refer to it as "clean". That was my intention. A blog interface is a bit like one's desk. It can get quite cluttered over time and sooner or later it needs to be cleared off so you can see what's there. It drives me a little crazy to look at an artist's blog and be so distracted by all the stuff lined up down the side, sometimes both sides, that you can't appreciate the artwork being shown. Another thing that baffles me, as long as I am complaining about other peoples' blogs, is why artists will choose a blog template with huge expanses of bold, bold color for its background. I'm sure you've seen them—hot pink, chartreuse, violent violet—then they expect you to focus on the delicate piece of artwork they have posted. What are they thinking? Neutral, I tell you, is the way to go. Black, white (my personal favorite) or gray. But that's just my opinion. Do what you like—it's your blog.

The "bigger and better" refers to my blogroll, which I thought I would just delete, but according to some of your comments, would be missed. So I have cleaned it up, categorized it, deleted defunct blogs and added some new ones. I think it is much improved. I listed all the fiber artists by name rather than blog name. I could never remember who went with which blog name. Look down at the bottom of the sidebar to find my blog lists.

I also increased the font size. Did you notice that? I think it helps.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A little redecorating

I have finally, after far too long, converted my blog to Blogger's "Layout" format and it seemed like a good time to make a few changes. There's a new image up top and I have deleted the long Blogroll in the sidebar. Do you miss it? It was getting unwieldy, in my opinion.

It's a work in progress. Comments are always welcome!

Another Bird's Eye View

I am working on a second piece to submit to "Bird's Eye View". This one is also a scene from an airplane window, though drawn from imagination rather than a photo. I have always loved the way fields seen from above look like a patchwork, and how many different shades of green they are, depending on what crop is growing in the field. So this piece is as much a study of greens as it is a landscape. It makes me think of the farms in SE Idaho where I grew up. That area was really high desert and mountains that has been converted to rich, volcanic farmland with the magic application of water. This is where those "famous potatoes" come from, as well as sugar beets, wheat, safflower and many other crops. Above you can see all the pieces fused in place. I used many of my collection of green solid fabrics and used my pastels and watercolor crayons to add additional color and texture. I discovered a nifty way of making that dotty pattern. Tomorrow I will give you a little more info on that part of it.

Below you can see that I have started quilting. I am using variegated thread to add even another level of color and texture.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Green rubber boots

These boots were a Christmas present from Ray. Today I wore them for the first time. We went out to the garden center yesterday to look at bare root fruit trees on sale and got carried away. We came home with a small truckload of stuff for the yard, so today we went out in the drizzly rain to decide where it was all going to go. Understand, I don't do much actual planting, but I help with placement. Ray is really the brains and brawn behind the landscaping, but I'm glad he asks for my input. I think he has a little tendancy to line things up and spread them out too much. I favor grouping and staggering. We compromise and it seems to work out.

One of the things I love about living in the Northwest is that even in the midst of winter—January for goodness sake!—there is still green and even now things are sprouting buds and coming back to life. The rain keeps it all looking shiny and clean and the moss dresses up even the inanimate objects with zippy, brilliant green touches here and there.

Walking through the garden center yesterday, at one point I stopped in my tracks and could not walk away until I found the source of the most intoxicating fragrance. Sarcococca. Wonderful! We bought two and carried them around the yard today imagining where we would most like to enjoy that perfume. Sitting on the new, not-yet-finished little patio, walking up the front walk? Serendipitously, Kim wrote about sarcococca on her blog yesterday. We were on the same wavelength. Her photo of brown hydrangea flowers looked just like the one out front here that I feared was dead. But today it has green buds on the stem.

Right now the yard is a jumble of stuff, but it will all come together. It is all potential.

New plants to planted.

These will turn into something.

I came in the house and couldn't get my boots off. I'm serious. Could. Not. Get. Them. Off. I pushed, I pulled, I stepped on the heel of one and tried pulling my foot out. Nothing worked and I was beginning to feel a little panicky, like when you can't get your head through your turtleneck, but it has gone far enough that pulling it backward threatens to rip your ears off. (This doesn't happen to you? Well, your head isn't as big as mine, I guess.) I finally called Ray and he pulled them off. This is a problem I need to figure out. There must be some aid made for this purpose. Let me know if you know what it would be.

My friend, Ginny's husband Chris has gone to Haiti with Medical Teams International. He is an orthopedic surgeon, whose skills are urgently needed there. People are dying from complications and infections from broken bones. Incomprehensible. One of the Drs on the team is keeping a blog that you can read here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

We love the faces

Joan continues to post her wonderful stitched faces. Laura has been posting faces. I just found a bunch more to post. Here are a few more of my own faces.

Fabric portrait of my grandmother Hazle, on her graduation day.

Detail from "Judith's Garden" now part of the Thomas Collection of Contemporary Quilts

"Passion and Pain," my Frida Kahlo portrait for the Twelve by Twelve project

"Patron Saint"

"Red Earrings"

The faces below are culled from my photographs—inspiration from all over

Masks on the wall of an Ecuadorean hacienda

Masks in an Ecuadorean market

Painting by Oswaldo Guyasamin

Pastel portrait of my daughter by my son-in-law

Pre-columbian, Mexico

Pre-columbian, Mexico


Busy working on some new work that I will post here soon.

So sad for the people of Haiti and everyone lost and injured. A friend's husband who is an orthopedic surgeon is on his way to do what he can. Knowing how helpless most of us feel, it must be so gratifying to have a skill that is needed there and be able to go, though I can only imagine how difficult this will be for volunteers such as Chris. Keep good thoughts for all those volunteers. I don't need to tell you they need money, but also blood. Donate if you can. Reminds me that one of the best books I have read in recent years is Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. It is about Dr. Paul Farmer and his work in Haiti. Really wonderful book. I recommend it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I have been watching the small quilts that Joan Samuelson has been posting for the last few days. They are wonderful faces. I love faces in art. I create a lot of faces. Here are some of my quilted faces:

I think a lot of people think drawing or painting or sewing a face is very daunting because it is all about making it look like a real person. Nawww—that's what photography is for. To me it is about how you abstract the idea of a face to create personality. A face can be expressed in just a few simple lines or in great detail. Quilting a face is tricky. There is the danger of making the face look wrinkled and aged when not intended. I deal with that by doing minimal quilting on faces. I love examining all the vastly different ways artists portray faces. Aren't they fascinating? They say the human face is the most compelling image there is. I find a lot of great faces in Latin American art.

A painting by Ecuadorean artist, Cristobal Gonzalez Guzman

Another Ecuadorean, Eduardo Kingman

Pre-columbian, Mexico

Print of Che Guevara from photo by Alberto Korda

Seen on the street in Taxco, Mexico

I am thinking about faces I want to make.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The problem with calendars

Every January I have the same problem. I feel like I need some kind of personal calendar to keep track of things—meetings and appointments and trips and obligations. Something I can carry with me, in addition to the one hanging on the wall in our office. Ray, of course, has the perfect solution in his iPhone, but I can't justify, nor do I really think I want one of those.

I have been through the gamut of personal planners, those big, fat leatherbound ringbinders that hold everything you ever knew or thought you knew, plus a pen and a ruler and calculator. I have tried pretty spiral bound books with beautiful photos on the pages facing each calendar page. I have spent some years just winging it with scraps of paper stuck in my wallet and a good memory. I have found that I am just not a Dayrunner® kind of person. Anything that bulky eventually gets left at home or rattling around the backseat of my car. I have had the best luck with the cheapo little pocket planners that you buy at Rite Aid Drug, but they get pretty beat up and dog-eared after awhile in my purse.

The other day I happened to be at Rite Aid and noticed all the calendars were half price, so I picked up a little purse-sized planner. Then I came home and made this little wallet/cover for it. Maybe it won't be trashed by April this time.

I chose several coordinating fabrics from my stash and pulled out my roll of heavyweight fusible interfacing and started measuring and cutting. Once I started working this out, I got kind of enthused and decided it would be handy to include space for a little notepad as well. Of course notepads don't come in the same size and shape as the calendar, so I made one with a cardstock cover that almost matches my calendar cover. My wallet has a pocket on each side of the inside that the planner and notepad covers can slip into.

When I made my notepad, I used bond paper and cut it to the same size as the planner pages. If I had had a good, beefy stapler I would have stapled it, but I don't, so I used some heavy cotton string to sew the pages into the cover. I perforated the pages, so they will tear out without making a mess of the rest of the pad. Neat trick I learned years ago for perforating paper—sew through several layers with your unthreaded sewing machine. I added a small pocket to the inside cover for business cards and receipts.

I like the layout of the calendar pages—a week at a glance with lines for writing appointments and such. Better, I think, than little bitty squares to write in. That was a lucky find.

I jazzed up my basic wallet cover by cutting a motif from one of the coordinating fabrics and fused it onto the cover, then I painted the outside of the cover with clear, acrylic gel medium. It will protect the outside, make it waterproof and I hope make it more durable. The final touch is a piece of black elastic cord that slips around it to keep it from flopping open inside my bag.

I am pretty pleased with how it looks and its small size. The test will be whether or not I actually use it.