Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mexico City Anthropology Museum

So, can you stand more vacation pictures?

The Anthropology Museum in Mexico is outstanding. Besides being history and culture and so interesting, I found it very inspiring artistically. Those pre-Columbian artists were pretty great. I especially loved the faces. In fact could not get enough of those faces. These are just a few of the pictures I took.
And I thought I was into crazy hats.

How many times have you seen that Aztec calendar reproduced? (A gagillion, at least) There it was—the real thing. And that round stone with the hand in the middle—? I could not ascertain the significance of it and it was such a different style than all the other very finished and detailed work, but I found the image very compelling.

Look at these patterns! (says the lover of pattern) If I understood the explanation correctly, these were made to impress the patterns in wet clay. I envision using them like rubber stamps to print these patterns on fabric.

And if these monkeys don't make you smile, well you must be having a really bad day.

Monday, February 26, 2007


Sometime in the next few weeks our first grandchild will be born. This is my daughter, Emily and her husband Carlos. They just came from a "birthing" class. Carlos is a little frustrated with trying to understand all of the instructions to expectant fathers, delivered in English which is not his first language, and Emily is energized and a little breathless. "Tell him not to worry," Emily says, and we tell him. All he really has to do is to be there, and we know he can handle that. We are all getting ready. I remember what it was like when I was waiting for this lovely child to be born, and her brother before her. Exciting, terrifying.
I am happy for Emily and Carlos. They don't yet know exactly how completely their lives will change, but they are ready. I try to imagine this baby (a girl—we know that) and the years ahead, but it is all still a sweet mystery. I focus on that and refuse to worry about the impending birth. (but you know I can't help myself—I worry a little)
And so, we wait.

Quilt Swap

Just look what came in Saturday's mail! This small quilt was made by Kristin LaFlamme, who lives in Germany and whose blog I enjoy reading. It all started in January when I posted a photo of a little "winter bird" that I had made. Kristin emailed to ask if it was for sale. Her mother had just moved to Oregon and she thought it would be a good birthday gift for her. The problem was that someone else had already emailed me about buying the little bird and it was on its way. (This has never happened before—I should always be so lucky as to have two people interested in a piece the minute it is posted!) I gave it some thought and emailed Kristin back with a proposal. I have loved seeing the quilts she posts on her blog and I wondered if I were to make another similar bird piece if she would like to trade one of her house pieces. Yes, she said and the trade was on!

I went to Mexico for two weeks, so the piece didn't get to Kristin's Mom on time for her birthday, but I sent it to her last week and she left a very sweet comment on the blog about how much she likes it. Now I have Kristin's piece and I really love it. Here is a closeup of the house section—isn't it just perfect? You can also see that she hand-embroidered a rose—actually a continuation of a rose printed on one of the sections of pieced fabric. So many things to love in this.

I am so impressed with Kristin's work and feel very fortunate to own a piece. If you want to see something really extra special, look at this piece she is working on. I really love what she is doing. Thank you, Kristin!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

"It is for you to judge . . ."

While in Mexico City, we decided to go on a small tour to several areas of interest around the city. Our main interest was in seeing Teotihuacan, the pre-Hispanic, pre-Aztec archeological site just outside Mexico City, but the tour included a couple of other stops along the way. One was the Basilica of Guadalupe. Guadalupe is the name given to the image of the Virgin Mary that is seen throughout Mexico, on everything from little figures stuck to the dashboard of your taxi, to T-shirts, to candles. She is known as "the patroness of the Americas" and is especially beloved in Mexico.

We had an excellent English-speaking guide and he began his story of Guadalupe by saying, "I will tell you the story. It is for you to judge, but all Mexicans believe this." It is essentially the story of an Indian named Juan Diego, who saw a vision of the Virgin Mary who instructed him to go to the local Bishop and tell him that she requested that a church be built on the hillside on which she appeared. When the Bishop required proof of Juan Diego, the Virgin told him to pick the roses from a nearby bush (one that normally does not grow in Mexico), gather them in his poncho and take them to the Bishop. When he opened his poncho to show the roses to the Bishop, the roses tumbled out and miraculously imprinted on his poncho was an image of the Virgin Mary.

The church was built and it effectively served its mission of converting hundreds of thousands of Indians to Catholicism. The story is fascinating because much of the success of Guadalupe lay in the symbols present in the image. While she is a typical Virgin image in most ways, to the Indians the sun, behind her, and the black moon, at her feet, represented the Aztec and Zapotec gods of the sun and moon, and Mary, herself, the mother earth they had always worshipped. It gave them a way to integrate their traditional religion into the new one.

Inside the Basilica we could stand on a conveyer that took us past the framed cloak of Juan Diego. Yes, this is the very poncho, still viable after more than 400 years. You see it from below on the conveyer, then you can go up one level to the church itself and see that it is actually on the wall behind the alter.

The original Basilica became dangerous as it was beginning to sink into the unstable ground on which it was built and the new one was built nearby. It is very beautiful and receives millions of visitors each year.
At the end of our tour we were taken to a gift shop where you could purchase anything and everything Guadalupe!
I have given you the very brief version of the story. There is much more information at this web site for anyone who is interested. (The magnifed images that show human figures in the Virgin's eyes are pretty interesting.) I am not Catholic, but I was glad we had visited the Basilica and heard the story and seen the image. What an insight into Mexican history and culture.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


The Mexican poster really has nothing to do with this post, but I just thought I'd share another of these great vintage posters.

There is a song that haunts me. It was written by Leonard Cohen and has been recorded by many people. I have never heard a bad version. Several months ago I woke up in the middle of the night and the words were playing in my head:

"Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah"

I hear Hallelujah in the shower. It comes into my head at least once a day. It's an old song, but I hear on the radio, it seems at least once a week.

Last week Juju mentioned it on her blog. This week, after I posted Leonard Cohen's Suzanne, two people have mentioned his Hallelujah in comments on my blog.

This song, as I said, is haunting me. I still love it.

Here is the exquisite Jeff Buckley version.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Frida's house and Trotsky's bathroom

I adored the visually gorgeous movie, "Frida" about Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, (what? you haven't seen it? Rent it immediately!) so I wanted to visit the house where they lived in Mexico City. It was actually Frida's childhood home and parts of the movie were filmed there.

I was not allowed to take any photos inside the house, but found a few of Frida and Diego, in the house, to post. The garden, where photos were allowed was beautiful and very, very peaceful with birds chirping and flitting around. It was a beautiful sunny day and the blue of the house was brilliant.
Ray was feeling poorly the morning we chose to visit Frida's house, so he stayed in bed and Muriel and I hired a driver to take us to the quiet, shady suburb where the house is. There were a number of both Frida's and Diego's paintings on display, as well as some of Frida's wonderful, embroidered clothing. Diego's studio has been preserved and the kitchen looks as it did. I loved the colorful tiles and dishes and Diego and Frida's names spelled out in tiny stones high up on the kitchen wall.
Frida's bedroom is upstairs in this stone section of the house. Her bed, which figures quite prominently in the movie, is there. Because of her injuries, suffered in a trolley accident in her youth, she spent a great deal of her life in this bed, where, flat on her back in a body cast, she painted self portrait after self portrait of her reflection on the mirror above the bed. Seeing it was very poignant. It seemed very small and fragile.

When we left Frida's house, our driver asked if we would like to see Leon Trotsky's house, which is mere blocks from Frida's. It was in his Mexico City house that the Russian Revolutionary was assassinated and the house has been turned into a museum. It was there that I was suddenly, and quite viciously, attacked by the same ailment that had kept Ray back at the hotel. Some people call it "Montezuma's Revenge". We call it "The Trotskys"—now.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Little Bird

Here is the little bird piece finished. This was made especially for someone, so I hope she likes it. The snowflakes are embroidered French knots. There is a tiny little piping just inside the edge of the binding in a red-brown color. The finished piece is about 9 inches square.
The Oregon Junko is sitting on a Douglas Fir branch. They are such sweet little birds.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

More of Mexico City

As I said yesterday, there were both good and bad things about Mexico City. Our worst experience was being conned by a taxi driver. We had only been in the city a day and had hailed a taxi on the street as we had been warned against. The driver seemed very friendly, but when we went to pay he somehow, switched the 200 peso bill I had given him for a 500 peso bill and said, "you gave me too much, I don't have change." He handed the bill back and I gave him another 200 peso bill. I was confused, thought I had given him the right bill, but at that moment assumed I had made a mistake. Later we learned the 500 peso bill was one of their old, now worthless, bills and we had been had. Here is my very expensive, and worthless souvenir.

Looks good, doesn't it? It pays to familiarize yourself with the new money before you go to Mexico. Here's a site where you can do just that.

On the flip side, there was so much to see in Mexico City that was simply incomparable. We walked to the National Palace from our hotel to see the Diego Rivera Murals. They depict the history of Mexico and are wonderful and beautiful and almost beyond explanation. Here is some of what we saw:

You can see a bit of how grand the building itself is, but the murals are the real showstopper. The second photo is a detail of the first and you can see where Rivera's wife, Frida Kahlo is depicted in the crowd. She is the one with the red star around her neck. The woman in red with the pale blue eyes is her sister.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Mexico City

Mexico City is one of the biggest cities in the world. You would never know it from this picture taken from our hotel room. It is early morning, before the traffic gets really bad and the police with their whistles start in and the organ grinder guy on the corner gets going and the taxis start honking and honking and honking, and the sirens and car alarms try to outshout each other. Mexico is a very noisy country.
Mexico City is a little scary. It is vast and teeming and smoggy. See that green and white Volkswagon taxi? We were warned to never take one of those. They have been implicated in kidnappings of tourists and other unsavory practices, but you see them all over the city. You hold on tight to things in Mexico City and you watch either other's backs.

But . . .

You go to Mexico City if you want to see lovely bronze ladies carrying candles in glorious churches and Diego Rivera murals, Frida's house and the most charming candy store (dulceria) ever. That's Ray, with his back to us, waiting to purchases his "dulces".

You take the bitter with the sweet in Mexico City.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

OK, here's the straight story

For the past two weeks I have been in Mexico. You probably thought I was shuffling around the house here, while the rain poured down outside, yammering on about my old chair and the stuff hanging on the walls. It was a ruse. Ray pointed out that one never really knows who is reading this blog and it may not be smart to post messages, saying in effect, "we're gone, the house is empty—come on over and help yourself to whatever you want." So I queued up some posts to post from afar whenever I was able to get access to the internet. It felt wierd, I have to tell you.

I am in the process of organizing my many, many photos and I'm sure a lot will make their way onto the blog in the coming weeks. Mexico was warm and sunny and oh, what a treat for the eyes. I have told you I love pattern and color. Mexico is all about pattern and color. But you must wait until I get my act together. Meanwhile, when I was looking on the internet for information about Mexico I found these fabulous vintage Mexico travel posters and snagged a few of the images from various sources. I just love them. Here's another.

Little Bird Update

Today I finished fusing the Douglas Fir needles and then used my pastel pencils to highlight and add dimension to the bird and branch. I sprayed the piece with fixative to keep the pastels from brushing off. The next step will be to trim away the dark gray fabric, leaving a dark outline around the figures. I need to find a suitable background to place the bird and branch on.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


I am just starting on another little piece featuring an Oregon Junco. This one is a male, so the coloring is a little different. I thought I would show you how I start out with the fusing. He will be sitting on a Douglas fir branch and I have a lot more fir needles to fuse. Then I will add color and shading. But this is the bare bones of a new piece.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


We love our tunes. Ray picked up this CD at Starbucks the other day. They really have great music at Starbucks. This one is a collection of love songs, just in time for Valentines Day. I also love the art on the CD cover. Aren't those great shoes?

A week or so ago I was with my friend and her husband at Starbucks and they were playing this CD. The song that was playing was "Suzanne" by Leonard Cohen. I nominate "Suzanne" for the most romantic song ever written. My friends didn't seem to be familiar with it or Leonard Cohen—inconceivable!

"Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she's half crazy
But that's why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China . . . ."

Big sighhhhhh . . .
Maybe you had to have been there, somewhere around 1967. But, that's the magic of music. A song can take you right back to a place and time and you remember how the light looked and who was there and how the room smelled. I think that is why the music of your youth is the music you love all your life.

Besides Leonard, the CD has Frank Sinatra and Smokey Robinson and Sara Vaughan and Nina Simone and a fabulous version of "My Heart Cries for You" by Serena Ryder. I had never heard of Serena Ryder, but this song is dynamite. You can check out the CD on Starbuck's site here. Just listen to a little bit of "My Heart. . ." It's the last one. #16. Bet you'll like it.

Oh, and here's Suzanne

Happy Valentines Day, all you romantics!

Friday, February 09, 2007

On the walls

We are running out of wall space, partially due to my desire to hang everything I come across on a wall. The two framed posters, above, are the latest addition to the wall gallery. They are copies of posters that Ray's grandfather had printed to advertise "closing out" sales, first in 1910 when they left Iowa for Idaho, then later in 1919. The Idaho venture hadn't worked out, they ended up back in Iowa and were now heading for Washington state. The posters advertise the sale of all farm implements, animals and household goods. You may be able to read the name A.A. Flick at the bottom of each poster. That was Ray's grandfather. Next to it is the quilt my brother, sister and I made for my parents' 50th anniversary. All their friends and relatives wrote messages on the muslin pieces. They were so pleased with it. I love having it here at my house now.

The walls going upstairs are covered as well. There's a weaving from Ecuador on the landing, one of my prints, a print Emily brought from Spain, a little batik Emily made in elementary school and one of my quilts. Hanging above it all is a mobile a la Calder, that Andy made.

Up in the bedroom I framed and hung my christening dress, which my mother made entirely by hand. It is too pretty to keep it folded up in a drawer. I need to find a deeper frame, so the glass doesn't squash it like that. The little framed heart has a fortune from a fortune cookie that says, "you have a deep interest in all things artistic."
These are all things that just need to be hung on the wall.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The chair as it looks today

This is the chair I showed you in the last post as it looks today. It is truly an old friend. It was an old chair when I bought it 37 years ago. It was upholstered in an old fashioned print of pink rosebuds with a green stripe. I covered it in the black and white print you saw. Later I covered it with a bright yellow-gold fabric. Down the line it got a new cover that was a Chinese-themed print with fans and plates in rich jewel tones. It has been covered in my favorite toast-y warm red for awhile now. When I bought it I thought it was a funky old chair that I could fix up and use until I could afford "good" furniture. Little did I expect for it to be around this long.

The last time it was covered I didn't feel like upholstering it myself. Upholstery is very hard work, that makes your hands ache. So I found someone else to do it. When I found out how much it would cost I figured I could probably buy a new chair for the same or less, so I went out shopping for a new chair. The new chairs were not nearly as comfortable and seemed kind of flimsy and lightweight compared to this old relic. So we had it reupholstered once again and I haven't regretted it. The red velvet seems to suit it. Shortly after it was done I found a beautiful little piece of old tapestry with irises, at an estate sale, that seemed destined to be a pillow for this chair.

Over the years we have joked that this chair has held our marriage together. If we had ever split up we could probably have come to agreement about custody of children and pets pretty amicably, but neither of us would have been willing to give up this chair.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

What goes around comes around

I really enjoy the blogs that are all about design, like sfgirlbybay, design*sponge and my favorite print & pattern. The new design trends are all about pattern, which I have always loved. Vintage stuff from all the decades seems to be very hot right now. I confess I can't really get too excited about a lot of the '60s and '70s inspired stuff, because I lived through those eras and have been trying to rid myself of that look for years! But something that kind of caught my eye are the crisp, graphic black and white patterns that I have been seeing. Always loved crisp, graphic black and white.

In 1970 I bought a second hand wing chair and recovered it in a black and white print. I was working on it at the time I met Ray. He still talks about how impressed he was that I was actually recovering this old chair. Sometimes I think he married me for my upholstery skills. Here is the chair, and that is me, in 1970. Pretty crazy, huh?

It looked great with my white painted vintage coffee table and red sofa. We wore that fabric out and then I reupholstered it in bright yellow. I still have the chair and it has been through many incarnations over the past 37 years.

Now I am seeing brand new things like these:

And this great tray from Marimekko:

Don't these look like they belong with my old chair? I was either ahead of my time, or it is true that everything old really is new again.