Saturday, June 29, 2013

Vicarious journey

So much going on here I can't keep up, much less post to this blog! It has been an emotionally exhausting week. Thursday was the day my son Andy had oral surgery—15 teeth removed, bone grafts and 12 titanium screws set in his jaw. He has been very forthcoming on Facebook, so I don't think he will mind this disclosure. Poor guy. He had beautiful teeth. He had no health insurance and developed gum disease that went undetected until his teeth started falling out. Heartbreaking. When he looked into dental implants here in Portland we all nearly had heart attacks when we learned the cost. Then our daughter, Emily, suggested that he go to Ecuador for the work. She could go along to translate and be his support team, along with her wonderful Ecuadorean sister-in-law, Ana. Emily lived in Ecuador for a number of years and has in-laws there willing to do the research and find a good, reliable clinic. The cost is about half what it is here. Sad, no? I could rant about American healthcare for awhile, but I won't and, at least for now, it is what it is. Ecuador was a good option.

They are still there for the next week until the stitches all come out. Meanwhile they are enjoying the opportunity to be there. When Emily was living in Ecuador, Ray and I made at least five trips to see her and the country. We immediately fell in love with Ecuador. Seeing the photos from this trip has made me sad and happy and nostalgic for this beautiful place. Andy said I could share some of his photos.

Ecuador is the inspiration for a lot of the artwork I have been doing. One cannot help but be struck by the layers of history and the enduring influence of the Spanish on the culture. It is a land of huge contrast between rich and poor, grand and humble, strikingly illustrated by the architecture. The Spanish influence, especially of the Catholic Church, dominates every city and village.

The cathedrals are massive. Even the village churches are beautiful and richly appointed. And surrounding them are the humble homes and businesses of the residents.

In the big cities, like Quito, there are very modern areas that feel like cities in the US.

 Some neighborhoods are an interesting mix of traditional and modern—well, semi-modern. How goofy and "mid-century" are these staggered windows? And right next to a lovely colonial building in the Old City in Quito.

And yet, the mixture is endearing in some way. And fascinating. In Cuenca, one of the cities pictured above, there are areas behind the modern buildings where there are ruins of the Incan city that once occupied the same city space.

On our first trip to Ecuador I was humbled by how little I knew of South America in general, much less one little country within the continent. "How," I wondered, "could so many people live here and I could know so little about them?"  Quito is immense, with a population of more than 2 million people. It sprawls along the slopes of the volcano Pichincha and through the valleys of the Andean highlands.

Another view taken from atop Pichincha. There is a cable car that takes you to the top (elevation: 15,413 ft).  Mind you, this is an active volcano. When I took the trip to the top I could see and smell the sulfurous fumes wafting out of the mouth up the path above where we were.

It has been a hard week, wondering and worrying about my children, especially Andy, and wishing I was there with them. We'll be staying close to home this summer, but this week I have been on a vicarious journey. Thanks for all the great pictures, Andy. Be well. Be safe. Give your sister a hug for me.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Rose Garden

Whew, it has been a busy week! Last Thursday my grown son and daughter left for Ecuador where my son is having extensive dental work done. My daughter, who has lived in Ecuador, accompanied him to translate and lend her support through what will probably be a somewhat grueling experience. It's a long story, but this is a family project to get this needed work accomplished, so we are following closely their travels via Skype and Facebook posts and phone. What a change technology has made in our lives. I remember the first time one of my children spent time abroad and we relied on written letters and the occasional, very expensive phone call, to stay connected.  My grandchildren can see their Mom and talk with her daily. Amazing to me.

We made a quick trip to Idaho for the funeral of Ray's aunt Jackie. She was a favorite and the last of that generation of Ray's family. We took Sofia along and short though the trip was, it was a nice time touching bases with both our families.

Exhaustion has set in. I am unable to move it seems. It is physical and emotional. It seems so long ago that Diane was here, but it was only a week. What a treat to encounter these photos on my phone today. I shared our time at the Chinese Garden in my last post. After we left the Chinese Garden we took a walk through the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. The perfect day. The roses are glorious right now. This is but a taste.

Can you smell the roses??

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Welcome to Portland!

This week brought a visit from another "Twelve" friend. Diane Perin Hock is touring the Northwest and stopped for a couple of days here in Portland. She and I spent a lovely day together yesterday. I started the day, as usual, with my walk with Beth and Paula. Diane was a great sport and joined us for our walk and coffee. An added bonus were giant Starbucks oatmeal cookies, which we got for free!

Fortified with coffee and oatmeal cookie, Diane and I headed into downtown Portland. Diane had expressed an interest in seeing the Portland Chinese Garden, which sounded great to me. I haven't been there for several years. We took cameras and sketchbooks.

Beautiful, peaceful, serene.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

All my old "stuff"

After getting the new bathroom put to rights, I turned my attention to my old office, now 18" narrower than it was. The wall on the left is the new one, but it all seems comfortingly unchanged. It really doesn't seem much smaller than it was. I think those 18" have a much greater impact on the bathroom, than on the office, so I'm glad we reallocated them. I rehung the artwork today and got my desk put back together. My Journey to the Big City quilt used to completely hide the electrical panel, but the new one is a bit bigger.

This room is my gallery of old and meaningful stuff. It is really the only place in the house than I hang my own work. The gathering of prints is on the wall behind my old baby-rocking bentwood rocker.

Some of these prints are my work, the pigs (upper left) are by Linda Wolfe, who was my printmaking teacher. One is by an artist I taught with and another from another old Pocatello friend. These were all done in the '70s and '80s. Artwork lasts and I never grow tired of the old stuff.

This is a reduction lino cut print I made in 1996. It is the only one I have ever done using that technique of one block, where you print the lightest color, carve away more of the block, print the next color and finally carve away all but the few lines that are printed with black. It is a brain bender and requires very precise registration to get it all printed in the right order and place.

I like old things that remind me of other times and other people. One of my first jobs after college was in interior design and I could never understand how people could empty a room, entirely, of all its possessions and redecorate it from scratch, buying all new art and accessories in one go. To me, these are things that find you along your journey and come home with you to take their place among the older things.

These guys will go back up on the top shelf, just where they were before. These are friends. How could one replace them?


I got a nice email from a blogger who makes hooked rugs, asking if she could post some of my quilts on her blog. She wrote a really nice post about me. Her name is Mary Jane Peabody and her blog is beautiful. I think there is a real kinship amongst people who work with fabric and fiber. I can see the same love of cloth and texture and color in her work that I see in my own and other art quilters. You can visit her blog here. I have put it on my blog reading list.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The bathroom report

From this:

 To this:

 I hope you didn't expect a luxury spa-like sunken tub and a lot of fancy stuff. This is really just a basic upgrade, but oh, I do love it and it is such an improvement! We have made this bathroom large enough for two of us to use it, replaced the tub with a nice big shower and given it a clean new look. We now have no tub in the house, which could be an issue for resale, but I intend to die in this house and then it will be someone else's problem. We have two sinks, separated by a storage cupboard. The sinks and cabinets are from IKEA and I love them. The medicine cabinets are huge and the doors have mirrors inside and out, which makes it possible to see the back of your head. (!)  We had outlets installed inside the medicine cabinets so we can plug in our toothbrushes out of sight.

My sink:

Ray's sink:

The shower is very basic. It is an acrylic insert. The glass doors are tinted green, similar to the blue-greens used in the floor and wall color. I was not into an expensive tiled shower. This will be perfect for us. It is very roomy.

Photo: The bathroom is finished. The paint is dry. The shower door is finally installed. First shower in the new shower. Ahhhhhhhh......
The fun part was adding the personal touches and artwork. 

I hung my "pretty lady" painting, purchased at a flea market more than 40 years ago. She has been in every home we have lived in. Her story is here.

This pretty lady is a print my grandmother had.

This one is a recent purchase from an antique store near here. I cleverly thought I was buying an original print—perhaps an unknown Gustave Baumann—but when I took it out of the cheap frame it was in I discovered it was from an old calendar. Oh well. I like it a lot anyway.

Ray added his own work of art to his area. This little carved wooden Volkswagon was made by a prisoner in an Ecuadorean prison. It is so cleverly made, with many moving parts, including doors that open and wheels that turn.

I spent much of today putting all the stuff away that I packed up from the old bathroom. I find I have an amazing supply of dental floss and emory boards. As a friend commented, " we all have our insecurity points."

Little by little we are whipping this weird old house into shape.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Sewing, Unsewing, Resewing

I did a lot of that today. My seam ripper was my most used tool today.

I was quilting the sky on the big quilt. I started out quilting lines that echoed the shapes of the clouds. It was the same scheme I used when I quilted the sky in the Red Domes piece.

The sky in that piece bothered me a little, but I haven't been able to put my finger on just what I didn't like about it. Today I realized that all those scallop-y lines seemed a bit chaotic, so having finished one cloud portion, I picked all the stitching out.

I scratched my head for awhile, then decided that curved lines that didn't so much echo the cloud shapes as fill them might work better. So I started filling those shapes with a pattern of curved lines. Can you see it here?

Much better in my opinion. I'm not quite sure why this works so much better (at least to my eye) than the first scheme, but it does. I think I have made a discovery, but I'm unclear about what it is!

In case what I am describing is not clear in the photos, here is what I started doing:

And here is the improved version:

Deciding how to quilt a piece is always an interesting puzzle. I don't mark my quilting lines or draw them out ahead of time. I generally just look at the piece, get a feel for what I think will look best and then free-motion away. When I got to the open sky above the clouds I continued the curved lines, but found I was having a hard time getting them consistent enough in the larger area. I got one section done and it looked so awful I pulled out the seam ripper and spent another hour un-sewing again. Then I remembered having had this problem once before. Cutting a little cardboard template had worked well, and it worked again today.

I cut the curve I needed from some card stock, then I just held it against the quilt and stitched alongside it. Then I could slide it over a bit and stitch the next curved line and so on. When this sky is finished, the quilting on this quilt will be done.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Escaping the mess

The bathroom project is nearly finished and there will be photos in due time. Suffice it to say that I love the result, but the mess was getting to me earlier this week. The chaos and noise of saws whining and workmen hammering and dust flying does wear thin. On Tuesday we were all a little of sick of it and Marco, who stays with us on Tuesdays, was a little freaked out by all the strange people in and out of the house and all the noise. I decided we needed to get out of the house, so Marco and I took off on an adventure to find the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, which I had heard about, but never visited. It is only a few miles from our house and was just what we needed.

We took a short hike on one of the trails that took us past a small pond where we saw a bullfrog and a snake in the water, then along the edge of the wetlands, with ducks, geese and herons flittering about.

The sky was blue. The day was beautiful. And everything was so green. Ah, Oregon. It really does spring green well!

The wildflowers were wonderful. This is lupine, near the visitors' center. Inside the visitors' center was a nice exhibit explaining the area and the flora and fauna. They seem to have a lot of educational programs for both kids and adults. We'll be back.