Saturday, December 24, 2005

From near the equator

We arrived in Ecuador nearly a week ago. It was just about midnight on Saturday. We saw daughter Emily and son-in-law Cayo waving from the overhead balcony as we got off the plane. It took forever to get through the passport check and collect luggage, then we were swept out into the moist Quito night and two waiting cabs. At over 9000 ft. the altitude in Quito is always an adjustment. The first day I usually have a slight headache and woozy head and feel a little out of it. Walking quickly, especially up stairs or uphill wipes me out. But it was great to be here. The next morning we had breakfast at a favorite restaurant, The Magic Bean, in the touristy part of the city known as Mariscal or "Gringolandia". Looking out across the rooftops to the Andes soaring above the city, shrouded in clouds was pleasant deja vu and brought back memories of past trips.

Emily and Cayo had to work for the first part of the week, so husband, Ray, son, Andy and I went to a resort in the Rain Forest called Arasha. On the bus, we passed the monument to the equator and our route crossed and recrossed the equator on our way. I wondered whether the equator exerts an influence on one--does your blood flow differently as you move between hemispheres? I am yet to be convinced that water goes down the drain in opposite directions north and south of the equator. But it seems somehow significant to cross that divide.

Arasha was luxurious and very beautiful. It is not the kind of place we usually go, but a special treat and our Christmas present to one another. I will post pictures later.

Back in Quito, we were able to visit the school where Emily teaches briefly. It always makes me very proud of her to see how she interacts with her students. The school is Colegio Americano, The American School, in Quito. Her students are mostly children of well-to-do Ecuadoreans who are being educated using the American system in English. These children will most likely grow up to be part of Ecuador´s power structure and one hopes they are learning well, but on that day they were like all squirrelly teenagers on the last day before Christmas break. Yesterday we fought the crowds at the mall and the superstore and today will prepare for Christmas.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Christmas Quilt

Because of our trip I didn't do much decorating for Christmas this year. No tree, no stockings on the fireplace, or reindeer on the table--none of the boxed up stuff came out. I did pull my Christmas quilt out of the closet and toss it over the arm of the sofa. Instant Christmas cheer!

Thirteen years ago we moved from Ashland, Oregon to Portland. In December, 1992 I went to my last meeting of Mountain Stars Quilt Guild and I won the Christmas tree blocks everyone had made. After I moved to Portland I decided to put them together using some nice red and white homespun I had saved when I closed my shop. It comes out every Christmas. It is very cozy for wrapping up in on Christmas morning and makes the sofa a great spot for a winter afternoon nap.

Each block is different fabric, made by a different member of the guild. Some of the fabrics are strange old fabrics, but altogether it is a charming quilt. I especially like this block that defied the rules--"plain muslin background fabric" by using a fabric printed with toys under the tree.

I quilted it with intentionally big, fat stitches, using a big needle and crochet thread. I was working on it at a guild work day here in Portland and an elderly member of the guild looked over my shoulder. She patted my shoulder comfortingly and said, "don't worry Honey. You just keep at it and your stitches will get smaller."

Had I not won those blocks I would never had made a quilt like this. I am always so happy that I have it every year when I get it out again.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


I think that is the correct Spanish word for "candy". This is a busy week. We leave for Ecuador on Saturday before dawn. I am finishing up a newsletter job and other work. I am trying to get my clothes together and my Christmas shopping done and today I finished up my big candy project. Above you see the filling of tins and containers. I ended up with rum balls, peanut butter balls, sugared walnuts and cranberry candy. The cranberry candy was problematic, but very tasty.

I am trying to maintain a Christmas-y spirit even though I am feeling a little panick-y at this point. I got email from my daughter today. I think she is getting excited to see us. She proposes that Sunday we help her and a friend/coworker put together gift baskets for their domestic help and some poor families. She is making arrangements for transportation and entertainment for us. I am looking forward to all that, but most of all I am looking forward to spending time with my daughter. I am thinking about speaking Spanish (poorly!) and taking pictures and eating Ecuadorean foods that I love and gasping and wheezing at that high altitude and browsing the markets. This is going to be great. Feliz navidad!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Simple Still Life: December's:Capture the Light

Simple Still Life: December's:Capture the Light

I decided to do this again this month. I liked the theme for December of "Capture the Light". It reminded me of a quote I have always liked and so I decided my entry would illustrate those words.

I took these pictures to start with:

I liked the second better than the first, but I liked the branches seen out the window in the first picture. I liked the second picture, but wasn't crazy about the reflection of the lamp in the window. I replaced the reflection with some of the branches from the first picture. I also loved the purple-y blue color of the outdoor view, so I intensified it a bit for the final version, then added the quote at the right side.

I copied this quote into a notebook many, many years ago, and I don't know who first said it or what it is from, but it seems perfect for this time of year.

Winter evening in Portland, Oregon. This will serve as my Christmas greeting to all of you. May your lives be filled with light even on the darkest days.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Small is beautiful (sometimes)

Today Gabrielle was talking about small fiber works on her blog. She was talking about a current trend among art quilters to make small quilts, even postcard size quilts, and wondering about the relative value of small work, which she put in the category of "studies" and "play". She believes "at some point we need to move onto developing some larger pieces incorporating all we have learned from this play."

I had a strong immediate response, which was that a small format is every bit as legitimate as a large format. The two are different things. Small pieces require their own approach and are not simply miniaturized versions of something that should be large--at least when thoughtfully executed. I offer, as an example, this piece that I bought from Rosemary Claus Gray.

This piece is about 5" square. I love it and can't imagine it in any other size. It is the soul of simplicity, yet perfectly balanced with complex color and the beautiful layering of sheer fabrics.

On the other hand, I have to agree with Gabrielle that much of what is being done has no real composition, no real design. It looks like a swatch cut from a larger piece or a sample of multiple techniques. The fabric postcard craze is just that, though some lovely pieces are being made. Still a lot are the "swatch" variety or a hodgepodge of stamped and collaged images without much originality. I participated in one of the first rounds of fabric postcard exchange. I have to admit it was a lot of fun, but not something I wanted to do again. Making the postcards did not feel like doing "real art" and I approached it more as a design exercise.

Many people made one of a kind postcards for each person. I came up with one design and repeated it. When I was finished I was ready to go back to doing something more challenging.

Ironically, a portion of my day today was spent preparing and mailing off my Fine Focus entry. This exhibit consists of pieces that are all 12" or less on any given side. That may be one reason that Gabriells' discussion pushed my buttons the way it did!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Foggy morning

This morning it was not raining, but it was crispy cold and foggy. Beth and I went on our morning walk and enjoyed the dry, cold weather and the eery whiteness.

I liked the graphic quality of these bare branches with the nest high in the top.

We haven't seen the "dachshund ladies" for awhile. They are fair weather walkers. They say the dogs get too muddy when it is rainy and wet out. But they were out today and the dogs seemed to be happy to be walking again. We always stop to chat and pet the dogs. The black one, Sabrina, knows us and if she sees us coming up behind them she stops dead in her tracks and refuses to move until we have caught up and given her a proper greeting and pats and cooing. The other two are Renee and Fritzi. The three ladies look more alike than the dogs do.

I love this part of the path where the trees form a solid arch overhead. That is Beth at the side of the path. The two walkers up ahead are "regulars". They nod pleasantly when they pass, but aren't as friendly as Beth and I are. We have been walking for nearly three years now and we know a few of the people by name and most of the dogs by name.

The walk ends at Starbucks. We usually sit outside, even in chilly weather. Everyone asks us about our earmuffs. They are "Ear Bags". They have no band. They each have a plastic form inside that pops open so you can fit your ear inside, then pops back to fit snugly. They are nice and warm. Mine are black, Beth's are red. I think REI owes us a commission, we have sent so many people out there to buy them.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Getting crafty

I have a new cell phone and it is really small compared to my old one. I carry it in my big old purse and when it rings I can never find it in time to get my call. It would help if I cleaned my purse out and tidied things up in there a bit, but still it is hard to get to it quickly. Yesterday I was looking in the Hearth and Plow catalog and they had these little cell phone holders that attach to the handle of a purse. They looked like just what I needed, except that I didn't particularly like all the cutesy designs they come in. They also have similar things at Target, but they look like they were designed with teenagers in mind.

So I rummaged around my sewing stash for inspiration. I found a ball of cotton rug warp and a crochet hook, so I sat in front of Survivor and The Apprentice last night and crocheted a little sweater for my cell phone.

My husband will be amused, I imagine. We have snickered about those hats people crochet for rolls of toilet paper and refer to them as "toilet paper cozies". I'm seeing a resemblance here.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

World AIDS day

This year marks 25 years since the first person died of AIDS. We have lost so much. In Africa the toll is staggering and getting worse. The video at this web site is very moving.