Friday, July 31, 2009

It's all relative

We slept with the windows open last night and eventually there was a cool breeze. At some point I pulled the sheet up over me. The best sleeping in nearly a week. The morning house was cool and dark and quiet. A little sunshine dappled the carpet in the den and the kitchen tiles felt cool under my bare feet.

The heat has had me feeling crazed and desperate and a little bit snappier than usual, so today has been blessedly pleasant. It was somewhere around 93° this afternoon, which would have been too hot normally, but not when it is a drop of 10° from the day before. It's all relative.

In the morning the 12 x 12 "Passion" pieces will start appearing on the 12 x 12 blog. I can hardly wait to see what this theme inspired. Join me there!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Taking pictures

One of the things that blogging has done for me is to really increase my interest in photography. I think an increased interest in photography also increases my awareness of the world around me. All in all, it's really a good thing and something that I enjoy.

When I got my current camera the quality of my photographs improved dramatically, but the downside was that the larger camera was harder to carry around. Recently I bought myself a very small backpack that I can use instead of a purse and it holds my camera nicely. I would never have gotten the picture of the llama if my camera had not been in my bag next to me the day we drove down to Ashland last week.

When we were in Ashland, just after we stopped to see our old house, we saw a deer walking along the side of the road. I was able to roll down my window and snap this picture of him.

I'm not sure why I wanted a picture of a deer, since they wander through our yard fairly regularly, but he looked so great surrounded by all that ivy.

This morning I noticed how interesting the view through the windows looked through the bamboo shades.

There's Ray out watering before it gets too hot. The thing that is interesting about this view through the blinds is that the smaller the picture, the less you see the blinds and the more you see the view outside. Wierd, huh?

OK, maybe not all my pictures are that great.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Too hot

I know the weather is a pretty boring topic, but I can't think of much else right now. We are in the middle of a heatwave here in Portland. We seldom have really high temperatures and we usually brag about how pleasant Portland summers are, but this week we are sweltering.

I am staying indoors and drinking cold beverages—mostly ice water and iced tea. It really does help. I moved on this afternoon from regular iced tea to iced barley tea. Have you ever tried it? I learned about it when it was served at the opening reception for one of our High Fiber Diet Japanese Garden shows. Not really tea, it is a tisane made from roasted barley. It has a nice nutty flavor that reminds me a bit of toasted sesame seeds and is quite refreshing, non-caffeinated and not as tannic/acidic as black tea. It is common in Japan and supposedly increases the fluidity of the blood (whatever that means) and decreases stress. I drink it because it quenches my thirst and keeps me hydrated. I buy it at Uwajimaya in Beaverton.

We do not have air conditioning, so I close up the house in the early morning, then open up windows later when the outside temperature is cooler. It's pretty hot. My outside thermometer reads 110°, but it is right in the sun. I think it is only about 107° F! A bit cooler inside. I'd love to go find someplace air-conditioned to hang out, but I am trying to finish a project with a deadline. I am making birds and writing instructions and drafting a pattern. The bird pattern will be published in a magazine later this year, which is exciting! I will let you know more details, closer to its publication. Meanwhile I am writing and sewing and moving slowly and drinking cold beverages and hoping today is the peak of the wave. Here's a little bird preview.

Monday, July 27, 2009


When I was a child my grandparents lived in Ashland, Oregon. We visited about once a year and I remember a quiet little town with a college and an outdoor Shakespeare Festival a few weeks every summer. My strongest memories are of picking blackberries and driving to the coast for the day. Many years later, when Ray finished his Master's degree he found a job opportunity in Ashland and we moved. And stayed for 13 years. By then the college had grown and so had the Shakespeare Festival, becoming the largest in the U.S. with three theatres and a near year-round schedule. Ray worked at the college. I worked at the Shakespeare Festival.
These days we go back about once a year. It has changed a lot since we lived there. It is now a haven for rich retirees. Half of the elementary schools have closed, including the one our kids attended. There are so few families with children that live there now that they aren't needed. Mansions dot the hillsides and even in this economy housing prices are astronomical.
Last week when we visited I went first to the Schneider Museum of Art, which was built when we lived in Ashland. I was a volunteer there in its first years and I think of it as a very special gift to the community from wonderful folks—Bill and Florence Schneider. The Schneiders have both died during the years we have been gone, but I always will remember them as philanthropists of the highest order. Besides the museum, they contributed to education and culture in Ashland in so many ways. I went with my friend, Muriel, to pick up her grandson from the Schneider daycare center for the children of students and staff of the university. It is a wonderful, cheerful facility that makes such a difference for young families. I remember Florence saying it was the best thing she had ever done, creating that daycare center.

Here is the Museum. The curved approach and wall with wonderful bas relief seed pods is new since we lived there. It is all a part of the Southern Oregon University Campus and the new buildings of the art department have grown up around the art museum.

As we often do, we also drove by our old house. It looks much the same as when we lived there. Either the paint has held up incredibly well, or the subsequent owners liked my choices and have repainted those same colors.

The biggest difference is the size of the trees. When we moved in there was no lawn, no trees no landscaping of any kind. The large evergreens on the upper bank were tiny potted Christmas trees the first three years we lived in the house. The Mimosa, that fills the front yard was a frail twig that we planted. The big power pole was, and is, an eyesore. We first planted pampas grass around it, but it blew fluff all over the place. Muriel, who lived across the street, hated it. We pulled that out and I planted ivy at its base. When we moved away it was covered with ivy about 10 feet up. I suppose the power company may have objected. It is once again fully exposed. But it is someone else's problem now.
Each time we return we feel less and less connected to Ashland and are really quite happy now not to be living there. But there is no denying that it is a beautiful place and will always be a part of our history.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Did you miss me?

It was a quick trip, so you probably didn't even know I was gone. We went down to S. Oregon to go to the Britt Music Festival. We missed it last year, but we have been going for more than 20 years, missing very few years. The last time we went I wrote about it here. We lived in Ashland, near Jacksonville where the festival is held, for thirteen years. Going back to the area is a chance to see old friends, see what is happening in our old hometown and have a nice break in the routine.

We headed out on Thursday morning, taking our new route through the countryside and the town of Tualatin before hitting the freeway well south of the Portland traffic. Stopped at a stop light in Tualatin, I saw something interesting two cars ahead of us.

It was a llama, riding in a little trailer attached to the back of a car. He seemed very pleased with his vantage point and rode along, calmly checking out the scenery and other cars. Handsome fellow! We followed him onto the freeway, but the llama and his driver exited at the next exit.

We arrived in the Ashland area late in the afternoon and headed to Jacksonville, with our friend Muriel, where we had a great Mexican dinner, then made our way up the hill to the beautiful concert venue on the grounds of the Peter Britt estate. It was the second time we had seen the Indigo Girls at Britt. Their beautiful voices seemed to float across the hillside and up into the starry sky. The beauty of the place, the smell of the pines, the music fills me with such joy.

It truly is one of my favorite things in life. Here is one of their lovely songs. Even more beautiful with the audience singing the chorus along with them. "So we're OK, we're fine . . ."

It occurred to me, sitting on that hillside with people I love, surrounded by beauty and music, that whatever the world takes out of you, these are moments that fill you up again. And we really are OK. We're fine.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I think of summer as a time for reading, though the truth is I always have a book going, regardless of the season. Growing up in Pocatello, Idaho I especially remember summer days, riding my bike to the little old Carnegie Library to fill my bike basket with books. I read and reread every Nancy Drew, every one of the Oz series, every Agatha Christie, biographies—I loved them!— and more.
I have a few books that I reread every ten years or so. The Great Gatsby is one of them. That is my well-worn copy, purchased for $1.25, when I was in college. I was prompted to pull it out this week, by a Facebook post a friend made. It had a long list of supposedly "must read" books that you mark if you have read them and can make a notation as to your opinion. My friend rated The Great Gatsby as "overrated". I was more surprised than outraged. How could anyone not love this book? Romantic, tragic, and so beautifully observed. It is such a visual book. I know, quite certainly, how the Valley of ashes looks and I can close my eyes and see, across the water, the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. I have seen only one of the movie adaptations, the one with Robert Redford as Gatsby, and beautiful as that movie was, it did not begin to replicate the detailed mental picture I have in my mind. I suppose no movie ever could. Robert Redford, handsome devil, was too sparkly and modern. In my mind Gatsby will always be a Leyendecker illustration—the Arrow shirt man—hair slicked back, a little sadness in the eyes. And, of course, a beautiful shirt. (if you've read the book, you know about the shirts—)

Do you have books you reread? Is that a strange thing to do? There are parts I forget, and things I think I notice for the first time, and maybe it reminds me of the first time I read the book and how it made me feel. And maybe it's a kind of pleasant, buzzy deja vu as it all comes back to me.

"Can't repeat the past?... Why of course you can!"
-F. Scott Fitzgerald-
The Great Gatsby

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dial a Stitch

Since we had our big yard sale last month we just haven't had enough useless junk around the place, so I decided to check out some yard sales today as I was out doing errands. I did not see much of any interest and saw a lot of really dismal stuff. Here's my one purchase. (It cost me $1)

Know what it is? It's a rudimentary sewing machine! It came with a decent needle and an old wooden spool of very dusty thread.

This is how you use it. You position the fabric under the guides and under the needle, then squeeze the spring-loaded top and bottom parts together and it forms a chain stitch.

After a little practice I was able to get a pretty even looking stitch going. Here's how it looks on the top.

The back is where you see that it is a chain stitch, not a regular machine stitch.

It really is a pretty useless little item. The way it is made only allows you to stitch about a half inch from an edge and it's rather awkward to use. The name "Dial A Stitch" implies options that don't exist. What looks a bit like a dial, where the name is printed, is really just the screw device that holds the thread on and turning it one way or the other doesn't affect the stitch in any way!

The first sewing machine I owned was a toy that also made a chain stitch. I wish I still had it because it was such a cute little machine, but it was very frustrating to use. I didn't really learn to sew on a machine until a friend of my mother gave me her mother's old treadle machine. I still have it and have been in love with sewing machines since. I have recently gotten rid of several machines, but I still own a few. This is the silliest. But I think it was worth the $1 just for entertainment value.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pierced ears

I got my ears pierced when I was in college. My roommate did it. She was a nursing student and felt very confident about poking needles through human flesh. We made an event of it. Invited our friends to come and watch, made popcorn. My ears were numbed with a piece of ice, then pierced with a sewing needle that went into a piece of styrofoam that came out of the top of a bottle of Alka-Seltzer. I wore my little gold studs for several weeks and cleaned the pierces fastidiously. Both ears got infected. My face swelled up. I developed an allergy to nickel that I have to this day. But the important thing was that I had holes in my earlobes from which to hang pretty little baubles.

My friend Carla claims that she was so traumatized by my ear piercing experience that she could not bring herself to have hers pierced for another 40 years!

My mother was opposed to the idea and felt that pierced ears were an outward symbol of an inner moral decrepitude. I won't tell you what kind of women she told me had pierced ears. She was, understandably, not very sympathetic to the infections and allergy, though I think she finally accepted the idea and didn't put up too much of an argument when my sister followed suit a few years later.

Earring acquisition became a fundamental goal in my life. Sterling silver became my drug metal of choice. About 11 years ago we went to Ecuador for the first time and a trip to the open air market in Otavalo opened up new silver earring opportunities. The photo above shows some of my favorite Ecuadorean earrings in my collection.

These are my newest pair, brought to me from Ecuador by my daughter. The red that you see are Amazonian jungle seeds that are brilliant red with black spots on them. They are suspended in a clear resin and set like stones in the earrings. I think they are beautiful and so unusual. The name of the seeds is "wairura" according to the person who sold them to Emily. I have googled the word and don't find anything. Whatever they are called, I love them.

Update-the rest of the story! My sister emailed me. She was so intrigued that she did a little research about my earrings and the seeds inside. She also corrected my recollection and said that, due to being grossed out by my ear piercing experience, she waited until she was 37 years old before getting her ears pierced. I had forgotten that. I guess I had a big influence on ear piercing in my immediate circle! Anyway, she also sent along this cool photo of the seeds on the Amazonian jungle tree, listed under an alternative spelling "huayruho". Thanks Beck!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


The current theme for the 12 x 12 group is "Passion" This has been a very hard theme, I think, for most of us. I finally settled on a concept this week. I can't show you what it is until all are revealed on August 1, but I can't resist showing some little peeks of parts. It is making me happy to work on it. Whether it says "passion" to the viewer is yet to be determined. It feels passionate to me.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Have a seat

When we moved to this house the plan was to build a studio for me, out in the trees, near the creek. That was before the economy did its freefall and before our old house refused to sell. The studio idea is still alive, but not happening right away. So this little bedroom, farthest outpost in the house, is my studio space. It has been a really big mess for nearly a year now, though I've carved out a little space in which to work, surrounded by boxes and bags of all my stuff. Little by little I am getting organized and making it workable.

It is still painted the icky baby blue that every single room in this house was originally painted. It still has the wallpaper border of ocean life circling the ceiling. It still has the pink carpet with the blue ink stain in the dead center of it. I have learned to block all those things out and work here. I have added shelves and storage and located my work table under the wall lamp that was here when we moved in. I have spent hours and hours standing at this table, cutting, painting, printing, drawing. At the end of the day my feet hurt and my back is stiff. After all these months it finally occurred to me that if I could find a stool the right height I wouldn't have to stand. I'm a little slow I guess.

Yesterday I went out to IKEA and sat on all the stools they have. My table is counter height and just right for me to work at standing, so I figured the right height stool would have to put me at pretty close to my standing height. I found a wall at IKEA with a shelf that was right at the height of my shoulder and I dragged each stool over next to the shelf to sit and see if, sitting, my shoulder still came to the level of the shelf. No one seemed to notice, or if they did, they acted like my behavior was perfectly reasonable. I found the one that seemed perfect and you can see it in the photo above. (I got the 29" one, in white) Now I need to remember to actually sit on it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Not all of the fabric that we made at our play day last week turned out great, but if I have learned anything from Rayna it is that you just keep working at it and trying something new.

My plan for this piece was to make a piece of fabric that I could make a bird from. I centered some leaves on the wings that I had marked on the fabric, but the print was smudgy and not clear, so they look like light blobs instead of leaves. So I carved a little leaf stamp to use over those blobs.

Better. I may add something more to this.

I decided to use the leaf stamp on another piece that was a total sunprint failure.

I wanted to make a group of overlapping leaves, so I started by stamping the first group of three leaves. I stamped one image on a piece of freezer paper and cut out several leaves from the freezer paper, which I ironed over the first stamped leaves. Then I stamped two more leaves that overlapped the original three. The freezer paper blocked the second set of leaves from the fabric where the first leaves were.

Then I moved the freezer paper leaves and stamped more, until I had this little collection of overlapping leaves.

This is a pretty slick trick. I think this piece of fabric will definitely get some more paint before it is ready to be used for anything.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Play day

Today our small art quilt group STASH (Second Thursday At Somebody's House) met. We decided to have several play/learn days this year and this was our first. We made sun prints on fabric.

Ray helped me set up our big canopy in the backyard so we could work out there and have some shade to work in. As it turned out the morning was pretty overcast. The process, in a nutshell, is to use fabric paint or acrylic paint, quite wet, on fabric, to lay down a background color. Then we put the wet fabric on a sheet of newspaper on the grass, and placed objects with interesting shapes on the wet, painted fabric. As the fabric dries, the uncovered part dries faster and wicks the paint out from under the covered areas, creating silhouettes on the fabric.

We spent the morning painting and "decorating" our fabric, then broke for lunch while the fabrics dried. I put together ingredients for a big salad and the rest of the group brought goodies to add to the salad. It tasted great and we enjoyed catching up on everyone's summer activities.

After lunch we cleared the stuff off our dried fabrics and admired the prints. Not everything turned out great, of course. If we had had more sun they would have dried faster and probably made crisper prints. We learned that very flat objects make the best prints and everything dries lighter than you think it will be. We got some great results, though. Reva's prints made using a bunch of stuff from her husband's stash of metal hardware were very interesting. I was especially happy with some of my fern prints and one I made using little metal stars and a piece of plastic needlepoint canvas. We admired and analyzed, and had a great time. The challenge, now, is to use the fabric we painted today.

Monday, July 06, 2009

So you think you can doodle

My guilty summer pleasure is the TV show, "So You Think You Can Dance". It really is about the only thing worth watching on TV this summer, though I am catching "True Blood" on HBO and saw the first episode of "Hung" which looks promising, if a bit risque! I like the dance show because these kids really can dance! It is always entertaining and sometimes quite thrilling. The judges are good, say intelligent things, don't bicker among themselves; the choreography is interesting and creative and the choreographers talk about what they are doing, which I find fascinating.

While I watch, I doodle. I put my pen down during the actual dancing, but doodle while I listen to the talky part. I am continuing the doodle style I showed awhile back. Here are the latest.

I find I am now seeing patterns to doodle everywhere I go. Even peapods in the garden.

This one (above) is not a favorite. I think the center turned out looking like a little quilt with a ruffle around it—or molars around it.

Ray dubbed this one a "Martian fruit".

There is something really quite satisfying about working in black and white. I saw the Escher exhibit at the Portland Art Museum this month, and Escher's prints are really wonderful and graphic. A lot of the detail really reminded me of my doodles. And the rediscovery of my old prints has gotten me thinking a lot about the simple and not so simple process of working with only one color. I think the universe might be trying to tell me something.

Saturday, July 04, 2009


One of the things we have learned about our new house is that the deck is all but unusable in the late afternoon and early evening because of the sun, which beats in on it. The umbrella over the table does not provide shade in the right place as the sun is sinking in the west. We have discussed this and believe that a cover over the far end is probably the answer, but with a long list of projects and limited funds, it doesn't look like that will happen very soon. It occurred to me this week that if we planted bamboo just off the far end of the deck, we would eventually have shade, plus a little more privacy and the softness and rustly movement that I love about bamboo. I have had bamboo on my mind ever since and easily recruited Ray to my idea. He looked at bamboo at the garden center and came home to tell me that the pickin's were slim and what they had was really expensive. So I got on the internet and discovered this place not too far from us. Bamboo Garden Nursery sells bamboo all around the country. So we set out to find it.

It is located waaaaaay out in the boondocks. We followed the map through farm country for miles and into the forest. I began to get a little nervous when the pavement ended and the road became a gravel road, but it was just a bit farther and we were there, in an amazing bamboo forest. They grow all kinds of bamboo. There was the requisite crusty old guy who knows everything you would ever want to know about bamboo and he helped us determine that this was the bamboo for us.

A clumping bamboo called Fargesia robusta. Those scale-like things on the trunks fall off later in the season. Very pretty and hardy enough for our climate. We bought three little ones. I hope they grow fast!

This bunch of large bamboo, next to the parking lot was amazing. The trunks (stems?) are about 2" in diameter and very tall. The dense foliage creates a solid canopy

Inside one of the covered parts of the nursery there were all kinds of bamboos and mixed in among them a variety of flowers, including the bird of paradise—something you don't see in Oregon very often!

Hanging from the rafters was this huge ball woven from strips of bamboo. Near the parking lot was another structure woven from bamboo strips. You can see a car antenna in the lower left corner of the photo. This will give you an idea of its size.

Before we left with our bamboo babies, we drove through the grounds. Beautiful, amazing bamboo of all kinds. I have never seen bamboo as tall as these long-legged specimins, growing in a clearing. They rival the Douglas Firs.

Great discovery. If you have even the slightest interest in bamboo, go to their web site. It is fascinating, with a wealth of information and photos of some very impressive projects they have been involved with.

On our way home we stopped at the Cornelius Pass Road House for lunch out on the lawn. I was ready for a nap when we got home. It has been a nice day. Ray is about to put some steaks on the grill. Happy Independence Day, everyone!