Sunday, May 29, 2016

It's been one of those weeks...

...when you feel like the universe is just messing with you for its own amusement. Nothing tragic, just one dumb thing after another. It started with the microwave, which decided to run the fan and light continuously whenever the door was closed. Ray fiddled and researched it to no avail and finally called about a repair person. Fixing would cost as much as a new one. In the course of unplugging it he knocked a bottle of olive oil onto the tile floor, sending oil and broken glass everywhere. A speeding ticket (Ray) arrived in the mail—the kind they send you with a picture of you in your car, exceeding the speed limit. Not even a flattering photo. The next morning I lost an earring down the bathroom sink drain. Ray recovered it from the trap after pulling all the stuff out from under the sink and taking the pipe apart. We shopped for a new microwave. Of course the model we had was discontinued and the new one will require new mounting hardware and new holes drilled through cupboard walls. I sewed through my finger with my sewing machine. Lots of blood and cursing. It is healing. The wifi quit working in the studio and Ray, who never throws out a manual, can't find the one for the range extender router thingie. Of course tech support isn't available on the weekend, which is always when you need them.

The week ended well with beautiful weather and my grandchildren who spent the night last night. Things were looking up. I planned a craft project for the kids that turned out so well I thought I'd share it. We made a string of little fabric flags for the garden. I traced the triangular shapes on fabric and painted over the cutting lines with diluted acrylic medium to seal the edges, then cut out a pile of then. Some were bright prints and some solids, which the kids decorated with fabric markers.

We folded over the top edge and hand-sewed with perle cotton, leaving space to run a cord through later.

I found a package of what is called parachute cord—nice sturdy nylon—at the fabric store. 16 feet turned out to be just right. We threaded the cord through the flags to make a long string of them. I found that running the end of the cord into a plastic straw made stringing the flags quite easy. I sewed one stitch through the cord and straw, with a piece of the perle cotton, to keep the straw in place.

I laid it out on the ground and sprayed the flags with clear acrylic to make them at least somewhat water-resistant.

This morning Ray cut a couple long bamboo sticks for the flags. Done!


The kids went home with their string of flags and poles and Andy and Ray just fitted the new microwave into the re-jiggered space. Now we are almost ready for a new week. I wonder what is in store for us this week...


Monday, May 23, 2016

Papier Mache

I've been thinking about Papier Mache— you know, that crafty thing you did as a kid, to make masks or the bust of Abraham Lincoln or a lopsided little bowl to give your mother for Mothers' Day to keep her rings in. A very messy, get-your-hands-gooshy activity that I loved. I had a yen to do it again. The last time I was at Powells, this used book, priced at $3.95 sort leapt off a shelf at me.

It was a sign.

I decided I needed (needed!) to make one of those cool yarn bowls with the side yarn guide to hold my knitting. A trip to the dollar store yielded a plastic flower pot that could work as a form and I found, online, a good recipe for the paste needed to make it happen. Gooshiness!

I tore up strips and bits of newsprint and started covering the outside of my pot with paper, well-gooped with paste, until I had a couple layers, then left it to dry overnight.

I thought the plastic pot form would slip right out when the paper dried, but it didn't. (Maybe I should have greased the pot...) So I cut through it with an exacto knife and pulled it off. After trimming the top and bottom edges evenly, I patched the cut side.

I drew my yarn guide on the side and cut it, and glued a circle of foam board in the the bottom of the bowl.

Then I covered it all, inside and out with a couple more layers of pasted paper, smoothing it out and really saturating it all with the paste, and set it outside in the sun to dry well.

I left it for several days to dry and harden. I sanded it lightly, then painted it inside and out with gesso. When that was dry I drew my design for painting it with acrylic paints.

I painted about 3 coats of acrylic to get good, solid coverage, then sealed it all with acrylic medium.

Here's my finished yarn bowl. It was about a weeklong project with all the layers and drying between. Pretty labor-intensive for what it was, but fun and satisfying.

Now, back to my "real" work!


Friday, May 20, 2016

May is speeding by...

Always a busy month with family birthdays, and all that getting-ready-for-summer stuff, like finding the sandals I stored under the bed last fall and getting a new shade for the west-facing kitchen window where the summer sun beats in and cleaning off the porch, which also included removing the crispy Christmas wreath (I can't be the only one...?)

"Desert Nights" was sold and sent off this week to join the Thomas Contemporary Quilt Collection, which is a happy thing. Del Thomas is a wonderful supporter of and promoter of art quilts and she shares her Collection and her knowledge so generously with the world. Selling a piece is pretty special to me—so affirming and such a good feeling to know others enjoy it beyond the pleasure I had in creating. When I sell a big piece, like this one I like to use some part of my proceeds to buy something a little indulgent—a piece of art, a special book or, this time, a subscription to a beautiful magazine. I have a real fondness for good magazines and they are so rare. Uppercase comes close to being the perfect magazine for me! My first issue arrived within days of placing my order.

I am savoring it. Each page is a beautiful composition.

See what I mean?

I have been working on a large quilt I can't really show until it is either accepted for or rejected from an exhibit, but it has been fairly arduous, and I am close to finishing and thoroughly sick of looking at it, as happens, so I took a short break to make a couple tiny (6" square) pieces based on what's blooming in the garden.

And I am thinking ahead to what's next. I have always loved and used stripes and wondered how many good ones are in my stash, so the other day I started sorting them out and found this big, unruly pile pretty inspiring!

I used a man's striped shirt in a fun way on the big quilt I am finishing up and it has pushed me back to the idea of stripes, so I started doodling on my iPad.

Hmmmm—branches, pine needles, bark, grass—variations on stripes?



Sunday, May 15, 2016

Lake Nicaragua

You probably thought I was finished with my Nicaragua posts when I ended my last one bidding "adios" from the steps of the hotel, but I saved these photos for a separate post, which really will be the last!

On our final evening in Granada we took a little cruise before dinner, on Lake Nicaragua, to watch the sun set.

It was cooler, and very peaceful on the water and we drifted slowly along the shoreline, through the water lilies and watched the birds swooping and gathered on the rocky shore. Hundreds of them.

"The egrets come down from North America in the winter," our guide told us. "Many will be heading back soon." I thought about how thrilled Beth and I are to see even one on our wetland walks here in Oregon. That evening we saw at least a hundred, I am guessing.

They call this water-walking bird the "Jesus bird". The length of his toes was incredible.

Theses are nests of the Oropendola bird hanging like burlap bags from the massive trees.

This old bird was enjoying the ride as well. (Sorry. I couldn't resist a dumb joke...)

As the sun began to set, we headed back toward Granada.

Lake Nicaragua is the largest lake in Central America and drains into the Caribbean sea by way of the San Juan River. There is a plan for a Chinese company to connect the lake to the Pacific Ocean with a huge canal, creating a new shipping waterway between the Atlantic and the Pacific, much larger than the Panama Canal. The environmental impact could be devastating and it is very controversial. The lake is beautiful right now, and teeming with wildlife. This could all be destroyed. Our guide brushed it off as something that will never happen. I hope he is right.

So, on that not-so-cheerful note, and a beautiful view of Granada, I conclude this travelogue.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Granada, Nicaragua

Oh my. I have neglected my blogging duties, sadly, with an unfinished travelogue, at that. Life happens. I have been busy and distracted, but no more excuses. This morning I am free to let my mind wander back to the last destination of our great Central American adventure—Granada. Founded in 1524, it is one of the oldest (some believe the oldest) European city in the mainland Americas. It was named after Granada, in Spain, so I was somewhat predetermined to love it! Like León, another well maintained Spanish colonial city, with its own special identity.

We stayed in, by far, the grandest hotel of our travels, located facing the city plaza and the cathedral. It could not have been more beautiful.

The view from our balcony

Always parked across the street from the hotel, were a long line of horse-drawn carriages offering tours of the city. Our group did this very touristy thing one morning. It was a great way to get a feel for the city out from the main square. The brightly painted houses set along the old streets, mixed in with the grand old colonial edifices had a wonderful energy and charm.

One of my favorite photos!

I remembered the ubiquitous pomegranate images of Granada, Spain, and wondered if this Granada had also adopted the symbol. ("Granada" is the Spanish word for pomegranate). This was the only one I saw.

One of the stops on our carriage tour was a beautiful old Cemetary, where many of Nicaragua's past leaders and luminaries are buried.

One of the women in our group was deeply offended by the grandiosity of this Cemetary, sputtering over the "expense of all this, in such a poor country!—for dead people who can't even enjoy it!" I suppose there is much in this world that offends her if this does. Sigh... Who are we to judge what has meaning or value? Bringing peace, beauty, remembrance even in the most humble of settings.... couldn't that be a good thing? Travel—it does make you think about these things.

Granada is beautiful and colorful at night.

We went out one evening to discover the nightlife in the streets behind the cathedral. Music, dancing, good food! Even the sidewalks are beautiful!

The morning we left Granada at dawn, I stepped out onto the front steps of the hotel and looked across to the plaza where a million grackles were cawing and the sky was beginning to show the slightest bit of pink along the horizon. "Remember this" I told myself. With paper cups of good coffee from the hotel in hand, we boarded the bus. We were headed home.