Monday, August 30, 2010

Child's play

Sofia came to spend the day with me today. Rain was predicted so I tried to think of something, not TV, that we could do indoors. Maybe something a little creative. I went to the craft store on Sunday to see what they had that a 3 year old might enjoy and not be frustrated by. It has been awhile since I looked at craft supplies for little kids and didn't see the old standbys like potholder looms or popsickle sticks, but I found some little kits for something called "funfusion" which are plastic beads that fit over the little spikes on a plastic pegboard sort of thing. Once the beads are where you want them you take them to the ironing board, lay a sheet of parchment paper (included) over the bead arrangement and an ADULT irons it with a medium iron, which melts the top surface of the beads and fuses them together. Flip it over and do the same to the other side.

Here is Sofia working on her second one. The first is next to her on the table. I was a little surprised at how diligent she was with this project. It was recommended for children 5 and older, but my experience with her stringing beads made me think her little fingers could deal with those little beads just fine and she isn't a kid who puts little things in her mouth or ears or such. The kits came with instructions for creating designs like butterflies and cat faces and other cutesy poo things, but she and I both agreed we had no need for them. We are artists! We don't need no stinkin' patterns. She made two and decided she would take them home to hang in the window in her bedroom. She was immensely proud of her work. Of course after she left I had to try a little one of my own.

I think it may have potential as something to stamp designs on fabric. You just never know...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Summer love

Last night we went to the Oregon Zoo with friends to see the Prairie Home Companion/Garrison Keillor show, dubbed the "Summer Love Tour." It was a beautiful evening and we sat on the grass and had sandwiches and beer and watched the sun set and the stars come out as Garrison and company performed. It was perfect in so many ways. Nostalgic, romantic and beautiful. As Ray noted, with Garrison Keillor you know exactly what you are going to get and he delivers it beautifully with his deep, sonorous voice and his stories, which are really like memories that jog your own memories.

One of the songs he sang was one of my favorites—"Let it be Me". So sweet, so romantic, so old-fashioned. The Everly brothers were the perfect lazy summer companions back in the early '60s. This song reminds me of hanging out at the city swimming pool, and driving the strip with my girlfriends. Stopping for a Coke and fries at The Red Steer Drive-in and hoping our boyfriends, or current crushes would be there too. (They usually were.) Slow dancing at the Cedars club and looking at the stars and talking in the car, right up until the magic curfew hour. Summer love—longing, whatever, usually didn't last for long, but made those summer days so sweet. It  all comes back on a beautiful summer evening under the stars.

PS  I should add that we saw last night's show with our friends Norm and Paula. Paula and I met in fourth grade and she was one of those girlfriends from High School and college days that shared those great Idaho summer nights. We double-dated back then—best friends (us) dating another pair of goofy best friends—Chuck and What's-his-name (I really can't remember). Shared another sweet double-date last night. We have better boyfriends now.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Choosing colors

Yesterday I stopped into the Miller Paint store and picked up some paint color samples to bring home. Aren't they pretty? I love paint swatches. I love choosing colors to paint with, colors for quilts, for artwork. The strips, above, are Millers' regular paints. The individual swatch is from the Devine Color line, a thicker, supposedly superior grade of paint. The regular Miller paint is very good, in my opinion. My favorite brand to use.

The color is for our little entry area. I originally painted it quite a dark teal blue, actually the same color the entry in our old house was. I loved the color, but it is too dark in the new house, where there is no natural light in that area and only a small wall fixture to light it at all. The fact that there is also a big scratch in the paint there is yet another reason to repaint the area.

The color I chose is the darkest one on the top set of three swatches in the photo above. It looks pretty gray in the photo, but there is actually a lot of blue in it. The Devine Color swatch is too blue. My chosen color is in that range of blue/green/turquoise/gray that I love.

I have some friends that are repainting the outside of their house and have been stewing on the colors for more than a month. At one point I was called in as a consultant and I prepared several possible color schemes that I thought would work nicely with the brick part of their house, which is a given. My suggestions didn't speak to them. It is the husband, especially, who is having the hardest time making a decision about the color. Many years ago I had a job in interior design and put together whole house color schemes, inside and out. For me it was great fun and really creatively rewarding. But I see that it is not that enjoyable for a lot of people. I used to teach color classes to quiltmakers and met women who agonized over choosing fabrics for a quilt. I think it is that thing of practice. And confidence. I make color decisions nearly every day . I think when you only choose a house paint color every 20 years or so, it doesn't come easily.

I drove by our friends' house a couple days ago. He had started painting a nice creamy, golden color and seemed quite pleased. Can't wait to see the finished job. I just love that feeling of newness that a change in color around the house gives you. And I am probably weird, but I love the smell of fresh paint.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The object #15 Three Wise Monkeys

When Mrs. Roberts died my mother went to an estate sale where objects from Mrs. Roberts' home were being sold. Mom brought me this little carving, which was probably a souvenir of one of her travels.

Mrs. Roberts was an important figure in our lives. She went to Denver in 1946, when my parents were living there and I was just a baby, in order to talk to my father about coming to work for the business she and her husband owned in Pocatello, Idaho. She must have been persuasive, and she was certainly charming, because my father took the job and that is how I came to grow up in Idaho.

My father and uncle started out working for the Roberts, then gradually bought the business from them. Mr. Roberts was a gruff old guy and I think difficult to deal with. Mrs. Roberts was the opposite. She was a tiny, fast-moving, straight-talking little woman with a little tight, gray bun bobbing on the top of her head. Obviously very intelligent and with an astute head for business. The Roberts never had children and were equal partners and participants in their steel and machine shop businesses. She was as good-hearted a person as I have ever known, taking great pride in my Dad and uncle's business success and a generous and keen interest in the welfare of our families, even long after the business relationship ended. She and her husband hosted a summer picnic for the families of all the people who had ever worked for them for years—a lot of people—until they were quite elderly. It was held at their home on their large rolling lawn that had a pond and a windmill. As a child I looked forward to "the Roberts picnic" as the social event of the year. There were games and prizes for the children and great tubs of iced soda pop and heaping platters of fried chicken, followed by ice cream and watermelon and sparklers when the sun went down. Mrs. Roberts always seemed to be right in the middle of all the children, enjoying every bit of it just as much as we did. Incredibly, she knew every child's name and who they belonged to.

In their old age the Roberts traveled the world on freighters and took cruises and played in bridge tournaments held on cruise ships. She came to our weddings and brought us extravagant gifts. She told me about coming to Denver to meet my Dad and what a lucky day that had been for her, almost every time I saw her in those last years after Mr. Roberts died (on board a ship).

I think of her fondly and the three wise monkeys seem to me to be the perfect way of remembering her. "Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil."

Ever wonder what the origin of the monkeys and the saying is? So did I. Confucius, apparently.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How small things get big

I know this is not a very good photo. It was taken by setting my camera on a ledge, aiming it at Gerrie, setting the timer and quickly plopping myself into the chair. It is not a good picture, but it is documentation. Another step on a journey. What we are doing is sitting at my dining room table and reviewing the final proofs of the Twelve by Twelve book., which, by the way, will be called "Twelve by Twelve, the International Art Quilt Challenge." It is being published by Lark Books and is due to be released in March, 2011.

When I was asked to participate in the Twelve by Twelve challenge group nearly 3 years ago none of us had an inkling of what was to come. A book? That wasn't even on our radar. It was just something fun to do. It was fun. It is fun! Spread around the world, the twelve of us got to know each other through our work, our blogs, the Twelve by Twelve blog and gradually we began to see that this might be more than we thought. Maybe an exhibit. Maybe a magazine article. Maybe...............................................a book? 

I think we all giggled a little bit about the idea, but the idea didn't go away and eventually someone said, "what do we have to lose? Let's see if any publishers are interested." The first one we approached wasn't. The second one was. And here's where I think we were really lucky. The people at Lark love our book. I think they love us! Our editor is as excited and enthusiastic as we are. Heck, what's not to love? I have to say this is the best group! (but it just as easily could have not been) Everyone has done their part. With patience. With humor—especially humor. And with respect. No nagging, no struggles, no divas.

I often wonder if this could have happened any other way, than the way it did. Could someone have said to themselves, "I'm going to assemble just the right group of twelve women for this project and we are going to make 144 quilts over a two-year period, and no one is going to drop out or make crummy work and we are going to post them on a blog and it is going to appeal to a lot of people and then we are going to write a book." Nope. I don't see that happening. I guess some things are that well-planned and actually happen, but I think this happened the only way it could have. Luck and serendipity, and kind of like eating an elephant. One bite at a time.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I see the moon and the moon sees me

 Photo taken from my front porch last evening

To read my blog I suppose you would think my life is stress-free and I have not a worry in the world. But you realize, don't you, that I just don't talk about the crummy stuff? The fact of the matter is we, like everyone, have our share of stinky garbage and crappy days. But, I have to tell you, the past week has been excellent!

Our new grandson is such a joy. His perfect little head, covered in silky, black hair, fits perfectly in my hand and he still fits against my chest like a little frog with his legs pulled up as if ready to leap. Baby smell, baby skin, baby breath—delicious. He responds to his sister's and his Dad's voices, turning toward them.  He blinks at the lights and gazes into his mother's face. It is amazing how hypnotic it is to simply watch him squirm and stretch and sigh into sleep.

Ray's brother, his wife, a friend and their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren made a quick trip to Portland yesterday to go to a concert. We had a barbecue in the afternoon and they were able to meet the baby and visit briefly before they were off to the Rose Garden for the concert. Later the three elder members of the group came back to our house and we all sat outside, under that marvelous moon, around a fire and drank wine and told stories and laughed about our long-ago travels and adventures together 'til past midnight. They were off, back to Montana, after a decadent breakfast out this morning and Ray and I are lazing around here today. I am working on a few small chores. Ray is reading. I am savoring the week we have had. I feel like cutting it out of the calendar and tucking it away somewhere. It has been one to hold onto.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The object #14 carved wood car model

Carved by a prisoner in an Ecuadorean prison. Doesn't it seem strange that a prisoner would be allowed to possess something sharp enough to carve this? It is amazingly intricate with many moving parts, including both doors, front and back hatches and the seat reclines. Clever fellow earns money to buy food and necessities to augment the meager prison provisions by selling these to people visiting other prisoners.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Comfort food

Everyone knows what "comfort food" is, though your comfort food is likely different from mine. I think what most comfort foods have in common is that they are warm, rich, but not highly seasoned and probably involve childhood memories and family recipes. Also they seem to be largely white. (I have a friend whose favorite comfort food is noodles in cream sauce over mashed potatoes!)   Mashed potatoes with lots of butter is comfort food for me. Also tapioca pudding and banana milkshakes. But probably my favorite is chicken with homemade noodles. My mother made this when anyone was sick, injured, blue or was coming home from the hospital. I made it yesterday to take to my daughter's. She brought baby Marco home yesterday.

Why homemade noodles, you ask? Well, because they are so good. Nothing you can buy in a store is remotely the same. As noodles go, they are probably not what gourmet noodle makers strive for. They are big, thick, doughy and chewy. Maybe part dumpling, part noodle. What you see above doesn't look like much, but it is plenty for a large pot of chicken soup. They swell when they cook.

When Ray and I got married we discovered that our mothers did not cook the same at all. My mother was an adventurous, enthusiastic cook. Ray's mother did not enjoy cooking much and had a small and basic repertoire. What they had in common, we discovered, was homemade noodles and chicken. They made it exactly the same way, and for each of us it was one of our favorite comfort meals. Yesterday when I took it to my daughter's her husband said, "my mother used to make this!" So I guess even in South America comfort food is comfort food. Maybe everyone's mother made chicken and homemade noodles—?

In the event that your mother was the exception, here's how you do it:
Mix enough flour into two raw eggs, along with about a tsp of salt, to make a very stiff dough. If you end up with too much flour and the dough doesn't hold together, add a few drops of water. Otherwise, no water. On a floured board or pastry cloth, pat the dough down as flat as you can, then roll with a rolling pin to get it as thin as you can. It will not want to get very thin, but persevere until it is about 1/16th inch thick. Cut it into strips, separate the strips and leave them on the board or cloth for a couple hours to dry. They don't have to be completely dry when you cook them. Ray's mom had a way of rolling the dough, like a cinnamon roll and slicing it to make the noodle strips. My mother just ran the tip of a knife through the dough to make strips. That's what I did until I discovered how slick a pizza cutter works to cut the noodles—not unlike cutting fabric strips with a rotary cutter.

While the noodles are drying boil a whole chicken in a large pan of water, with a bay leaf if you have it, until the legs start to fall off and the meat is tender—probably a couple of hours. Remove the chicken from the broth to cool. Skim most of the fat and debris from the broth—sometimes I strain it if it has a lot of foamy gunk in it. Add carrots, celery and onions. Any or all, as much as you like. Simmer. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove it from the bone and return to the broth. I like large chunks. Add herbs if you like. I like basil in mine. When the vegetables are tender toss the noodles into the pot and cook for about 15 minutes or until they seem cooked and no longer taste like raw flour. That's it. That's the way my mother made chicken and noodles, which is the way her grandmother made them.

P.S. Peach pie is good for dessert.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The waiting has ended

Marco Andres, our grandson, was born yesterday, August 16. He is, in our humble opinion, perfect.

Everyone is doing well. Sofia is embracing her role as a big sister and the adults in the family have fallen into that helpless infatuation that infants inspire. Amazing, isn't it? We always think our baby is the most beautiful we have ever seen. All part of some grand plan, I have no doubt. We love our children so profoundly as they enter the world, pure, innocent and vulnerable.

I had to laugh at the nurse who was taking care of Emily yesterday. She said, as a maternity ward nurse, she has seen thousands of newborns and her own son was the "strangest looking healthy, normal baby I have ever seen!" She said she asked for an assessment from neonatal experts to be sure he was truly OK. She laughed and said, "of course I adored him anyway and he is now quite handsome!" I think her professional experience with newborns was a liability in her own birth experience.

Birth is, at the same time, the most incredible, profound experience and the most everyday. I remember thinking, after my first child was born, "why didn't anyone tell me it was like this?" And, of course, everyone had told me, but you don't really get it until it is your experience. I think adopting must be similar. I can only imagine that being handed a child, with whom you will share a life and a bond from that day forward must be as surreally, stupifying as seeing the child you have just given birth to and having that same realization. You can't really prepare yourself enough for the reality of these things. And, until you are there, you don't fully grasp the grandparent connection either. My friend Priscilla has a great grandchild and she said, "I love that baby so much it scares me." As contradictory as that statement sounds, I understand it.

I have only known you for a day, little Marco, but I already adore you.

PS  He looks a lot like his sister did when she was born. Why was that such a surprise? For some reason I expected him to look different.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Look at these lilies. They are special. Huge. Fragrant. And a little unexpected.

I remember buying a couple bags of lily bulbs at Costco last year, then I put them out of my mind.

The two that Ray cut and put in a vase on the kitchen table are perfuming the whole house. Walking through the yard wraps you in that heavenly fragrance.

I am "on call." My daughter could go into labor at any moment. There are signs it is coming. Who knows when? My job will be to pick up Sofia, whose bag, like her mother's, is also packed. She will stay here until we are called to come and meet her baby brother. She is excited, but I can tell she is a little worried too. It's a lot for a 3-year-old to comprehend. I feel a little anxious myself, and very protective of Sofia. Her world will change. I remember. I was also a first-born. I have a special baby doll to give her when the baby arrives. It is a little boy doll and I have been making baby accessories for it that roughly correspond to things her Mom will be using with the new baby. She has moved from the "baby room" to her new pink, big girl bedroom. I made a little wall decoration to hang over her bed. I photoed this in my studio. Imagine it on a bubblegum pink wall.

Friends are sending messages. "I hope the baby comes soon!"  Soon is not my first wish. Healthy baby, easy birth. That is my mantra right now. He will come when he comes. It really isn't that hard to wait. We will just be here, ready, when he makes his move. Miracles can't be rushed.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The object #13 Doll

I made this doll about 20 years ago, I reckon. She is no one in particular, though a lot of people have thought she is supposed to be my daughter, Emily. She has Emily hair. I think the resemblance stops there. She has been sitting on various shelves in various places for so many years that her clothing has faded places from the sun and her hair is quite full of dust that I don't really know how to remove.

I have made a lot of dolls over the years, but this is the only one I ever made with sculpted parts. Her head, hands and arms and legs and feet were fashioned from polymer clay and attached to a fabric body. It was a whim. I had seen dolls made this way and wondered how it might work. The hands and legs are rather clumsy, but I still rather like her face. I'll probably never make another. This one is my office companion.

People seem to be doll people or not. No inbetweens. I played with my dolls, as a child, but mostly I sewed for them and dressed them in my creations. I learned a lot about sewing by sewing doll clothes.

This doll has no name. There is something a little spooky, a little wistful, a little eery about dolls. Some people seem to hate them on principle. Are they toys, effigies, sculpture, witchcraft?  Cuteness is not a quality I look for in dolls. I wish I had made these dolls.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Boise, part 2

Lisa, who lives in Boise, left a comment on yesterday's post about Boise, and asked, "Did you see any of the public artworks or the painted traffic boxes?" Well, as a matter of fact I did!

Don't you love public art? To me it adds character and personality to a city and  expresses a sense of a citizenry that appreciates art and beauty in their surroundings.

Not far from the hotel, we came to this charming sculpture.

I especially liked this mural, found in an alleyway.

That image of the big potato with the crown on his head used to be printed on burlap potato bags. Potato was "king" of Idaho for sure.

This outdoor sculpture features old photos and historic documents from Boise history.

The typo in this informational plaque was jarring. Proofread, people, proofread!

Even the sidewalks had some artistic touches.

By far my  favorite Boise downtown artworks were the painted traffic utility boxes. These are those big metal boxes that sit on the streets in most cities. They contain the controls and machinery for the traffic lights. What a great idea to paint them!

This one had some graffiti on one side. I suppose that is bound to happen, unfortunately.

This one, above, may have been my very favorite. Reminded me of an illustration from a childrens' book.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010


We traveled to Boise, Idaho for the weekend. We went for my niece's wedding. It was wonderful. The wedding was great—beautiful, romantic, touching, funny and personal. All the right elements, in my humble opinion. Besides that it was an opportunity to connect with family and old friends and share in a happy occasion. As one of my cousins pointed out, it was good to be together for something happy for a change. Seems like it is funerals that have been bringing us together most recently.

Ray grew up in Boise. I moved to Boise after I graduated from college and that is where we met. It was a great place 40 years ago and even better now, it seems. One morning we left our hotel and walked around downtown Boise, which has changed so much, but has kept much of its historic charm. The photo, above, is the view down Capitol Blvd. toward the State Capitol building. It used to dominate the landscape. For many years developers were not allowed to build any buildings in the downtown area that were taller than the Capitol building. No more. There are now many tall, modern buildings, but it is lovely to see that so many of the wonderful old buildings still sit side by side with the new.

Down the street, in the photo above, you can see a little tower on a building that is one of my most favorite Boise buildings. It is a remnant of the old Chinatown and now houses a Starbucks. I did this sketch a couple years ago.

This is the building where I worked in Boise. It was an upscale furniture store at that time. I am sorry to see that they have painted the brick.

When I lived in Boise the downtown was dying. The big stores were moving out to the suburbs and newer areas. Like a lot of cities, Boise has rediscovered its downtown, which is now beautiful and vital. I love seeing cafes and charming shops occupying those wonderful old buildings.

This building was a bank for many years.

The old Idanha Hotel had fallen on hard times when I lived in Boise. Look at it now. Splendid!

At the edge of the downtown there used to be a decrepit warehouse district. Now there is this peaceful, beautiful plaza.

At one time we planned to move to Boise when we retired. We even bought a house there, but our plans changed. I no longer want to live there, but I love Boise and love visiting. I have a lot of happy memories associated with the city.  I am happy to see it looking so good.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The object #12 Daisy vase

There was a time when I would have looked at a vase like this one and thought it a frumpy, ugly little thing. You might even agree, but I have come to an appreciation of pieces like this that is partly sentimental and partly aesthetic. It reminds me of my childhood. Not that we ever had anything like this in the house where I grew up. My parents' tastes ran to Scandinavian and modern design, as well as Asian design. This vase was the sort of piece seen in "old" people's homes. You would see this in homes with dark wood and scratchy, overstuffed furniture, festooned with crocheted doilies. Musty, dingy, old-fashioned, I thought, and thus, for me, undesirable. Our house was decorated with light colors and sleek furniture that floated on slender legs. Not a doily in sight, nor anything patterned with flowers. It was much later in my life that I learned to love a broader spectrum of style and design.

This is a vase made by Weller pottery, part of a style of pottery from the late 19th and early 20th century known as "art pottery." It is now collectible, but I think it was quite affordable in its day. This vase was a gift from someone who did not know me well, had never been in my home, but was a token of appreciation for some work I had done. I would never have bought this for myself. Probably never have really noticed it in an antique store. How, or why did she think it was something I would like? I don't know, but, paradoxically I do like it. Quite a lot. Of course, there is that soft, matte glaze—such a perfectly, perfect color. And the shape and size are just right for a small bunch of flowers. The daisy on the side is sweetly kitschy and maybe putting real daisies in it is just a little redundant, but it pleases me immensely.

Sometimes I don't even know what I want until someone gives it to me.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


My new bird is a newsbird, made from newspaper. This is the second bird in this series of stitched birds. (Here is the first)  I made one small adjustment to my pattern, which was a simple, but I thought, effective change. See if you can spot it. Give up? I turned the wings upside down. I noticed, as I was fussing with the parts that if I turned the wings the other direction I could line up the stitching line with the one on the body and I liked the way that worked.

You may wonder how I stitched newspaper, delicate stuff that it is. I collaged the newspaper onto very heavy non-woven interfacing. I used white glue, thinned with a little water, that I brushed on the interfacing, then laid the paper down and brushed over it with more glue. It was quite nice to hand stitch through and held the form quite well. This, of course, creates the possibility of collaging all sorts of things that could become part of the bird. I considered giving this bird more of a message by judiciously cutting words from headlines to place prominently on the wings and visible portions. In the end I liked the simplicity of just text. The breast of the bird is a photo from the paper of an aircraft carrier with jets lined up on it. Perhaps a reference to flight, or if you like, a comment on the war story that comprises the text part of the bird. People can make of it what they like. I really don't have any kind of message in mind here. Ray thought perhaps the bird was a carrier pigeon (ha! ha!) but, of course it doesn't look at all like a pigeon. My friend Beth suggested, given the military references, it was a bird colonel. Groan.  None of the above. It is really just a reflection of my fondness for printed text. I think I will submit this guy for a small show that Columbia Fiberarts is having at the Museum of Contemporary Craft. The theme is "Text."

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Hydrangea days

It is hard to believe that it is August already. June was a total loss as far as summer weather. July has been pleasantly cool, but enough sun for lovely days and lots of flowers.Now that August is here we will start seeing the flowers begin to wane, except for the roses and the hydrangeas. These hydrangeas are along the back side of our house and they are simply spectacular. We didn't plant them. They were here—one of the very few things the previous owners had planted. The colors range from pale blue to deep, deep purple. An amazing purple. A really unusual hydrangea color, it seems to me.

Even the leaves seem more colorful than ordinary, the way they shade from red to green. I know that the ph of the soil influences the color that hydrangeas will be, but I'm not sure how that works, or what these colors say about the soil. Regardless, they really sing to me.

I once made a hydrangea quilt. I had taken pictures of hydrangeas at the Portland Japanese Garden, which I used for reference. Then it was exhibited at the garden the next summer. My friend, Ginny, bought the quilt and it now hangs in her home. I loved the clear, clean , cool blue color of those hydrangeas. That was before I fell in love with the deep purple ones.

I think hydrangeas may be my favorite flowers.