29 December 2006

Another thing I'm not going to do again ever

We're having the Three Cs on new year's eve -- crab, champagne, and crusty bread. This is the first time I've cooked the crabs myself. (If I've ever done it before, I've repressed the memory.) The process couldn't be easier, but I hated doing it. I was hoping to be able to buy the crabs already, um, red and folded, but live was all they had.

I think of myself as a fishi (a? e?) tarian, but then, I don't generally buy my seafood while it's still wiggling and waving around. A couple of hours ago, one of these guys was skittering on the floor of Om Seafood, trying to get away from us.

Don't give me the argument about pea-sized brains and primitive nervous systems, please. Maybe I'm cursed with an overactive imagination, but these critters displayed more personality, albeit rudimentary, than some humans I've met. If I were a truly moral person, I'd be one more giant step down the road toward vegetarianism this afternoon.

26 December 2006

How I spent Christmas eve

For Christmas, Jerry gave me three envelopes, each one tied with a ribbon. One was marked "Open at 10 AM Sunday," the others "Open at 3 PM" and "Open at 5 PM," respectively. On Christmas Eve morning, I obediently opened the first one. It was a long, accordian-folded missive from Jerubic Tours, Ltd., with a made-up -- I assume, though I suppose I could try Googling it -- London address. Subject line: Portland Highlights - Phase I. It went on to say, "Dear Ms. Basch: We are delighted to inform you that you will be treated to our Portland Highlights adventure on December 24, 2006. Your escort, J, will provide transportation and take care of all financial details. Your role is simply to sit back and enjoy the ride."

The document revealed that the first event on my itinerary would be a matinee of Susannah Mars' "Mars on Life: The Holiday Edition." Cool; I'd actually considered getting tickets earlier in the season but decided there'd probably be too much else going on around now (ha), so we passed. The letter from, ahem, Jerubic Tours went on to say "Subsequent events will be revealed in due course. However, for pragmatic reasons, certain facts must be made known to you at the outset. Since you will not be returning to your home until mid-morning on Monday, you should make the needed preparations - toiletries, robe, etc. The evening will include an opportunity to dress in your best. For your guidance, be aware that your escort is required, by our house rules, to wear a tuxedo. And oh yes, bring a bathing suit. And your computer. Ta ta!"

So my escort and I packed as instructed, took care of the kitties, and set out for the theater. It was a delightful show. Susannah had invited a rotating lineup of guest performers to join her onstage during the run; for this performance, it was Rebecca Kilgore, a jazz vocalist, also a local, who was terrific, too. Interesting, we learned that Susannah is Jewish, and during the 8 days of Chanukah had actually brought a menorah onstage and, during the show, lit the appropriate number of candles. Along with the traditional carols and funny Christmas / seasonal songs, she did a surprising number of Chanukah tunes; more than I knew existed, actually.

During the intermission, I opened my "3 PM" envelope. It was another long, festive-looking document from Jerubic Tours, Ltd., heralding Portland Highlights - Phase II, and informing "My dear Ms. Basch, From the theater you will be going on to your accomodations for the evening." Then followed several color pictures and a description of the historic Multnomah Hotel, now the Embassy Suites at 4th and Pine.

The communique concluded "Relax and enjoy the amenities. And keep in mind that J, your escort, is always at your call and is thoroughly trained to be able to take care of all your personal needs. Your pleasure is our reward. Jerubic Tours, Ltd." Heh heh. Every time "Jerubic Tours, Ltd." appears throughout this adventure, it's in Olde English type, which makes me chuckle, too.

After the show, we drove to the hotel, checked in, soaked in the jacuzzi for a while, did the hot hot dry sauna for about 30 seconds, which was as long as I could stand it, and then had a couple of cocktails in the Arcadian Garden Room, which must've been quite a swanky venue in its day. According to a coffee-table history of the hotel that we found in the room (quite an impressive hardbound book), luminaries like Charles Lindberg, Elvis, Queen Marie of Romania, and John and Bobby Kennedy either stayed or were feted there, or both.

Before going downstairs for drinks, I opened my "5 PM" envelope, which was all about dinner, of course. Portland Highlights - Phase III was addressed to "My dearest Ms. Basch" (Notice how the greetings have become progressively more familiar?) "You and your escort will be dining this evening at The Portland City Grill." A veritable cornucopia of folded paper spilled forth (basically a printout of the entire menu), and the missive concluded "And this will bring to an end your Portland Highlights Adventure. On behalf of all of us here at Jerubic Tours, Ltd , and your escort J, we wish you a Very Merry Christmas. It has been a pleasure to serve you. Portland Highlights Adventure is a production of Jerubic Tours, Ltd. " So we duded up, Jer in his tux, and me in a lovely burnout-velvet-and-sparkles tunic affair that was a gift from him on a previous occasion, and walked a block and a half, in a major downpour, to the restaurant.

The main attraction of Portland City Grill is its altitude and the view that that implies. It's on the 30th floor of the US Bancorp Tower, a.k.a. Big Pink, which I'd guess is the tallest building downtown. Of course the view from our windowside table was spectacular. The service was efficient, though totally scripted; it's the kind of place where anything you might order is "an excellent choice." Like, would they tell you if it wasn't? Not if our meal was any indication. Jer had a Caesar salad and blackened ahi; I had a few pieces of sushi followed by pasta with seafood. This isn't a restaurant review so I'll spare you the details, but it was one more data point in the theory that the elevation of the restaurant is in inverse proportion to the quality of the food. I'd go back for drinks, though, especially with out-of-town guests.

After dinner, it was back to the hotel, and at that point discretion dictates that we draw the curtain on our happy couple. The next morning, after a very decent complementary breakfast at what I'd much rather think of the Multnomah Hotel than the Embassy Suites, we packed, retrieved the car from the lot across the street, and were home in less than 15 minutes. The cats seemed happy to see us, or at least our opposable thumbs.

I just have to say I love my romantic guy for orchestrating all this and making it happen.

P.S. The note cards in which he enclosed the three installments of our adventure were very cool as well -- all familiar Portland views (the Powell's corner at 10th and W Burnside, the Bagdad Theater on Hawthorne, and the stretch of Milwaukie Ave that includes the Moreland Theater and Fat Albert's) by a local painter named Tom Rettig. Not the guy who played the kid in Lassie; I did Google that.

25 December 2006


Mossy brick in the herb garden
Originally uploaded by revalani.
Portland has many nicknames -- City of Roses, Stumptown, River City, Bridgeville. I've never lived in a place before where the moss grew moss. It's so incredibly plushy, lush and luxurious.

Living here, how can you not like green?

I took a bunch of pictures on my walk this morning, and discovered later that I'd photographed a couple of the identical mossy outcrops around this time last year. Evergreens, in a manner of speaking. Much more mossiness at www.flickr.com/photos/revalani/sets/72157594438359372/

23 December 2006

Timber Ridge

When we lived on the coast, we had a huge window seat -- it would sleep four adults comfortably, we always said -- facing west. The view was meadow, then trees, and beyond, the blue of the Pacific. No crashing surf, nothing truly dramatic, but the ocean was palpably there, in the distance.

In 2002, after I'd been quilting for about a year, I was moved to depict that view. I was still working fulltime, and the hours I got to spend on the window seat, reading for pleasure or just spacing out, were a measure of the degree to which my life was in balance, or not. Most of the time it was not.

I drew the landscape, simplified my drawing, figured out how to piece it, made a pattern and, using the commercial fabrics in my stash, went for it. I knew at the time it would be one in a series -- a series of two, perhaps, but a series nevertheless. The light outside that window was so remarkable, so changeable, that one "Timber Ridge" couldn't possibly define the view.

Three years later, I took a class from Ruth McDowell, and realized "I've already done this." My job in the workshop, I figured, was to complexify what I'd done. Hence, Timber Ridge 2. This one sat, unfinished, for more than a year while we got ready to move and, eventually, made the transition from the window seat house up to Portland. A week or so ago, after finishing the Flatirons commission (see below) -- another landscape quilt, but one that reflects what I've learned in the interim about value and curved piecing, among other things -- I exhumed TR2 and, in a two-day frenzy, quilted every blessed centimeter of it. This evening I sewed on the sleeve and, ta da, the label. So it's finished.

I actually think the earlier version is more successful, though this one is more of a tour de force, I suppose. TR1 feels more dynamic, somehow, and the double border, traditional as it is, adds balance and a sense of completion. Maybe I can still add some yellow... nah. Whatever. It's like Grandma Moses (i.e. naive primitive-ism) versus Over-Complexification, and guess who won? Well, that's a lesson, too.

20 December 2006

Living in Mayberry

I often marvel at how sweet and small-townish our neighborhood feels to me. Kids have a lot to do with it. There were very few children at Sea Ranch; we had no -- zee- ro -- trick-or-treaters the entire time we lived there, and Christmas was a whirl of cocktail parties and potlucks, plus a fast hour of caroling in the old barn. Pleasant, but definitely an adult holiday in its observance. Before that, in Berkeley -- much as I love the place -- there was (and, I assume, still is) an element of cool and political correctness that encouraged solstice celebrations and the recognition of Chanukah, Kwanzaa and other alternative observations, but not the whole Santa Claus, reindeer, snowman, red-and-green, go-for-it aesthetic that Jer and I see on our morning walks about the 'hood.

I answered the door three times today. First, Maddy and Hannah (I think I have the names right), who live up the street. Hannah's in the middle single digits; let's say 6 -- I'm bad (but getting better) at guessing kids' ages. Maddy's a gangly pre- or early adolescent (12? 13?) whom we met at the block party last summer. It was her idea, that day, to get all the kids to lie down in the street in creative poses and have someone else trace them in colored chalk. We admired their work the next morning; it was like CSI Eastmoreland.

Anyway, today the two of them were collecting for the Oregon Humane Society. They had a homemade donation box. Maddy did the spiel -- it didn't take much to convince me to contribute (again) to that particular cause -- while Hannah sang Christmas carols, consulting a lyric sheet but singing con brio. Maddy's braces were red and green. How do they do that? Will she do yellow and purple for Easter?

An hour or so later, another knock. It was Joseph, the older of the two boys from up the street. I hope I have that right; Lewis is the younger, if I remember correctly (always a dubious assumption), but it's hard for me to tell the brothers apart when they're not together. I'm sure old people all look alike to them. He was bearing a cookie tin -- "Bearing" is the word; he held it out, on flat palms, an offering. I oohed and thanked him but he stayed at the doorway, expecting something. "Um, do you know what it is?" he asked. "I'm guessing cookies. Did your Mom bake 'em?" "Yep, and my brother and me." I realized afterwards, dang, I should've opened the box while he was there. It was quite an array. Among other things, lemon bars, chocolate chips, those confectioners' sugar-covered balls that're either pecan puffs or Mexican wedding cookies or maybe pfeffernuse; we'll find out soon... Thanks, Lanell, Hans, Lewis and Joseph!

The third knock was from the UPS guy. I'd ordered a new iron after reading about it on the QuiltArt list. Happy holidays, Reva. I'm not going to mention the brand name here; you can discern it if you click on the photo. It does the coolest thing (okay, we're talking about an iron here, but still); it senses your touch on the handle and lowers into business mode; otherwise, it rises up onto retractable feet (with a cute little R2D2-ish sound that one might find annoying before getting used to it) to keep from scorching. Bottom line, it's happy resting horizontally, so much more stable on the ironing board, don'tcha know, which is important to someone who's sent an iron toppling to the floor on more than one occasion. Plus, it steams in 3 or 4 different modes, and it's just so cute. It looks like a cross between a first-generation iMac (the Bondi blue one, before they offered a choice of strawberry, blueberry and other fruit flavors) and a high-tech running shoe. It ships with an adorable little watering can, skinny and elegant, that's one of the most satisfying utilitarian shapes I've ever encountered (Excuse me while I drift off into one of my fantasy lives as an industrial designer...).

Ahem. I'm back. And I can't believe I'm rhapsodizing about a f*#@ing iron. Maybe I really am living in Mayberry.

18 December 2006

Children of the Martyr Race

This afternoon, we walked up to Reed for the Portland Gay Men's Chorus holiday show. They did several Chanukah songs, including Rock of Ages -- not the "cleft for me" version that my husband the goy grew up with, but a translation of the Hebrew one called (well, transliterated as) Ma'oz Tsur. We sang it every year at this time when I was a kid growing up in a marginally-observant Reform Jewish family.

I was surprised, and intrigued, when the Chorus sang "children of the Maccabees," where I clearly remembered the line as "children of the martyr race." Surely this wasn't a 50-year-old Mondegreen? "Maccabees" works, and I thought it a masterful re-edit, if that's what it was. If you're unfamiliar with "Maccabee," Google "story of Chanukah" for the basics.

I did some Googling when we got home from the concert, enough to convince me that I hadn't hallucinated the memory. "Martyr race" is obviously un-PC, not because of "race," although that gives one pause also, but because of Zionism and the bloody intractable mess of Middle East politics since 1948. Interesting. I think I'd better leave it at that. But don't get me started on the spelling of Chanukah.

15 December 2006

Wind Throw

When I lived on the coast, I became familiar with the term "wind throw." A particular combination of topography, wind, soil, and vegetation made for predictably hazardous winter storm conditions in certain areas. These neighborhoods were identified as "wind throw zones." "Wind throw" strikes me as a euphemism for "trees waiting to fall." In that region, Grand Firs, which can be surprisingly shallow-rooted, were the most vulnerable species.

I have no idea whether the concept of wind throw applies here in the city. But in our heavily-wooded neighborhood, the wind really howled last night. Our lights dimmed and flickered much of the evening, though we never lost power. Jerry moved the car down the street, out of the reach of falling tree limbs, just in case.

As we left the house this morning, we heard a symphony of chainsaws and chippers. Three blocks away, a giant tree (one of the 'hood's original elms, I'm guessing) had pulled out of the pavement and crashed to the street. We spoke to the owner of the adjacent home, who told us they'd heard a whooshing sound last night and run to the other end of the house. Fortunately the tree fell in the other direction.

12 December 2006

Occasional Sunbreaks

As we settle in for another gray, wet Northwest winter, I'm amused by the variety of phrases the daily paper trots out for the 5-day forecast: Rain. Light rain. Showers. Possibly damp. Wet in the AM. It may rain. And my favorite, occasional sunbreaks. "Sunbreaks" wasn't a word I'd encountered before moving to Portland.

In quilting, a so-called "challenge" usually involves making a quilt on a given theme or incorporating a particular, often problematic, fabric. It's supposed to be fun, to help you stretch as an artist, get you outside your comfort zone, and think beyond your usual aesthetic. So. The current challenge for a group of art quilters I belong to involves a beautiful coppery metallic fabric. It's showy, intense, and heavy. I hung it on my design wall and meditated on the possibilities for a couple of weeks. Finally I realized what my subconscious was trying to tell me: Sunbreaks.

I worked quickly and improvisationally on this one. It came together in three or four days. It still needs to be layered and quilted, but I'm pleased with it so far. Guess I was just ready for a sunbreak.

07 December 2006

Flatirons, Finally

This was a commission that I began this summer for a friend and colleague who has a view of the Flatiron Mountains from her home in Colorado. I finished it last week, entrusted it to FedEx, and waved it good-bye. I'm happy with how it turned out and, more importantly, so is she.

It measures about 50 by 42 inches, and is entirely machine-pieced and quilted from my design, using both commercially-printed and hand-dyed fabrics. Read all about it -- probably Too Much Information unless you're a quilter -- including many more photos than I wanted to upload here, at my Flickr site.

04 December 2006

Slow Food, Fast Movie

Another of those contrasty urban experiences that I love so much about living here. Last night, we attended Slow Food Portland's annual potluck, ate an amazing variety (and quantity) of delicious, imaginative, healthy, impeccably prepared food, and schmoozed with interesting, like-minded folks.

This afternoon, we went to a matinee of Casino Royale. The older Bond movies had a gadgety, glam-techno aspect that seemed way out there, futuristic and faintly ridiculous. Casino Royale relies on nothing that doesn't exist today -- cell phones, laptops, PDAs, GPS, microchip implants and, oh yeah, auto-defibrillators. Ho hum. Plus a few steak knives.

I loved it, okay? It works perfectly as a prequel, as long as you overlook the fact that it's set in modern times and not back in the early '60s, or whenever the Bond movie franchise got started. Plus: the title sequence rocked. If I were a true movie geek, I'd need to watch it again to see if it paralleled the plot. But I'm not, so I can just admire the graphics.

29 November 2006

Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Redux

Jerry and I have spent every Thanksgiving for decades -- in his case, 30-some years, predating our getting together -- with good friends in Arcata, in Humboldt county in Northern California. He met these folks when they were back-fence neighbors in Berkeley; their daughter Heidi was three at the time. She's now 40-something, married, with teenagers. Victor died, tragically, off the coast of Kauai, a couple of years ago. He drowned while trying to rescue his grandchildren from a rip current; they rode it safely back to shore, but Victor never made it. His wife, Sondra, is now matriarch of the clan.

Last year, the entire Arcata contingent -- Sondra, Heidi and her husband Jon, and their kids Sadie Rose and Elliot -- drove to Portland to spend the holiday with us. My brother Larry and nephew Josh, plus my mother and sister Karen, were here as well. This year it was our turn to make the trip south. We invested in a set of traction tires in case we encountered snow in the mountain passes. We lucked out on that score, but man, did it rain! With the exception of the half-hour we stopped for lunch, it poured nonstop, and torrentially, the entire way. At one point, on 199 beyond Grant's Pass, it was like going through a carwash. I've never seen it rain so relentlessly.

But it was wonderful to see our old friends again, and to spend some time with Larry, Josh (who just turned 12 and is a total computer geek), and Larry's girlfriend Kate. We stayed in a very nice suite, furnished in Ikea, overlooking the incredibly entertaining goings-on in Arcata Plaza. Larry & Co. had a two-bedroom unit next door, with an artsy Oriental vibe to it, and an even better view of the Plaza circus. The five of us got in a couple of good long walks through Arcata Marsh, a combined municipal wastewater treatment site and bird sanctuary that our friend Victor had helped make happen when he was mayor.

Heidi prepared soup and salad for the multitudes on Wednesday night. Friends of Sondra's had offered to host Thanksgiving dinner itself, since they had room to spare. Friday evening was leftovers, of course, which Sondra orchestrated and we visitors hosted in our palatial digs at the Plaza. By 6:15 Saturday morning, Jer and I were on the road again, fortified with turkey sandwiches for en route. The weather gods smiled on us this time; it was dry the whole way, and the drive was as glorious as an 8-hour car trip can be.

The only trouble with "away" years is that we get hardly any leftovers. So, after we got home, I decided to brine a turkey -- which I've wanted to try, but last year was just too intense, what with family and other distractions -- and invite a couple of friends for Thanksgiving Redux on Monday night. I made mushroom-leek dressing to go with it, Jer cooked sweet potatoes and green beans, and we had leftover cranberry relish (the horseradish and sour cream variation that Susan Stamberg used to give out on NPR). I also made an apple cake, which we served a la mode. The gravy turned out perfectly, and the brining really did make a difference in the moistness and flavor of the turkey. It's not that big a deal; you just have to think of it the day before.

So now we have about three gallons of turkey stock in the freezer, and enough light and dark meat for a couple of the stew/ragout/soup recipes I've been looking forward to cooking, or having Chef Jerub cook. Now it feels like we've well and truly done Thanksgiving.

15 November 2006

Ashes, ashes...

When was the last time you attended a funeral? Now it's all about "celebrations of life." Years ago I predicted -- I was not alone in this -- that the boomer generation would redefine a lot of the rituals around death. One of my particular fantasies was a locket containing some of your loved one's ashes that you'd wear around your neck, or a vial that you'd carry in your pocket along with your keys and loose change. This has not yet, to my knowledge, caught on.

Before you read any further, be warned that I get kind of giddy around grief. My remarks at my mom's memorial -- she died at the end of June -- consisted mostly of funny family stories. I'm also inclined to attach not much importance to physical remains. Treat them with respect, of course; other than that, do with them what you will. Cremation, the default among my people, is appealing in part because it gives you options. You can enshrine your loved one's ashes in a tasteful urn on your mantelpiece, or scatter them in the dear departed's favorite spot, or dig them in around your roses, which my mother would have loved. You can do all those things and more. Ashes are fungible.

My father died in 1984. He, too, had been cremated. Mom kept his ashes, all these years, in a box on a closet shelf. After she died, my brother and I agreed that their ashes should be mingled; they loved each other so much, and she missed him terribly until the end of her own life. The urns in which the respective funeral parlors (now there's an obsolescent term) had returned their remains were hardly a matched pair.

This morning I found some time and a quiet place in my mind, and decided to do the mingling. Another warning would probably be appropriate at this point: When the circumstances get strange, I tend to get analytical.

So. On the bottom of Dad's urn -- a heavy, marble-esque rectangle -- was a small brass hatch that unscrewed easily by hand. Voila -- Dad's remains, in sudden, rather startling, proximity. I put a stainless steel bowl on the kitchen scale and turned it on to get a zero reading. Then I carefully shook the contents of the urn into the bowl. A small cloud of fine dust wafted over the proceedings. I then did the same for Mom. Her urn was a cherrywood box with a sliding panel held in place by a Phillips-head screw. Inside was a plastic bag sealed with a cable tie. Dad weighed 5 pounds, 6-1/4 ounces, Mom 4 pounds, 4-3/4 ounces. That seemed about right, I thought, for no particular reason. Mom's ashes were several shades darker than Dad's; I can think of a couple of possible explanations for that, but I wonder whether either of them is right.

Then to the mingling, which I did by hand. The color differential made it easy to tell when the two were thoroughly combined. It did feel like kitchen prep, I must say; "mix until well-blended" ran through my mind like a mantra, though I didn't invite it to stay.

I'd participated in a couple of ceremonial scatterings over the years, and knew better than to expect containers full of homogeneous, fine ash. Still, the amount of identifiable bone matter was a little startling. I looked at some of the larger bits as they passed through my fingers -- a fragment of a rib or a finger bone, a flat piece of what surely must have been skull. I also found two pieces of wire, each twisted into a ring, and two tags, each with an identifying number. The proverbial toe tags, or wherever they put them, I assume.

When I finally washed my hands, they felt oily. It felt odd to stand at my kitchen sink, washing traces of my parents off my fingers.

I'd initially weighed the contents of both urns because I was curious: What would an adult human body weighing, say, 120 to 180 pounds, be reduced to after... you know. But I realized when it came to dividing up the ashes -- half for Larry, half for me, to do with as we choose -- that weighing was the way to go. Doing it by volume, with measuring cups, struck me as just too bizarre. So I weighed 4 lbs. 14 oz. back into one urn, and the same into the other. I looked for a zip-lock bag to go into the box that had been Mom's, since it was less impermeable than the other container. I made sure to pick one that didn't still have a label for its previous contents. Mom would have approved of my recycling.

This was a small private ritual that, from the time my mother died, I knew I wanted to do and felt hugely compelled to carry out. Despite the mundane surroundings and unconsecrated utensils, I was mindful every step of the way, and did what I've described with as much respect for my parents' ashes as I had for them when they were alive. Which was, needless to say, a lot.

Rest in peace, Vic and Hertha.

11 November 2006

A Champagne Kind of Week

It's been a week for cozying in. Abbie has the right idea.

Last Saturday, though, began with a backstage tour of Portland's magnificent Central Library. After that, I hooked up with Jer at the Art Museum for a preview of the new Egyptian antiquities exhibit, the Quest for Immortality. Sounds cheesy, but it's very well done, with some exquisite pieces and, at the end, a full-size replica of a pharoah's tomb.

Sunday, our friends Jen and Drew -- in town for parents' weekend at Reed, where Jen's daughter Laura is a freshperson -- came for brunch and stayed through the afternoon, poaching our wi-fi, even unto dinner and beyond.

***Too Much Information alert*** Monday I had an invasively productive (productively invasive? That works, too) doctor's appointment involving a steroid injection in my wrist (yes, it hurt) to relieve the carpal tunnel-related pain in my thumb. Preliminarily, I'd say that the localized, motion-related pain is mostly gone, but the seemingly-random macro pain (like, up my arm when I tilt my hand a certain way) has increased. That might be a function of the injection itself, who knows. But that's not all! I also had the doc look at the three big moles on my back (thank you, teenage sunbathing), reassure me that they weren't cancerous, and freeze 'em with nitrogen. I expected them to shrivel up and fall off, just like that, but it hasn't happened yet, though they do look a little...disturbed. I'll be sure to keep you posted.

So. Tuesday the Democrats took back the House. And apparently the Senate.

Wednesday we made sure about the Senate.

Thursday evening we drank champagne with our good friends Libbi and David, who came for dinner (chicken-mushroom ragout and nearly-incinerated-on-purpose brussels sprouts, the latter recipe from Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires).

Friday, I finally got back into working on my commission piece, a landscape quilt, layering it in preparation for actual quilting. No pix til it's finished and delivered to the client, which will be weeks from now. I'm happy with how it's gone so far.

Friday was moving day for Carol, whom we know from The WELL. She recently bought a house on 31st just north of Powell. We brought champagne (again; it's been that kind of week) and snacks, did the house tour, toasted close of escrow and the Democratic victory, and then went in search of dinner. Lauro Kitchen forecast an hour's wait, so we ended up a few blocks away at the Savoy, a friendly place with a reasonably-priced and tasty menu. That stretch of Clinton, where the road takes a little jog, felt so much like a provincial square someplace in Europe. Dinner was okay, but the neighborhood atmosphere was delightful.

That brings us to this afternoon. After a modest bout of quilting and another Sisyphusian struggle in the backyard, armed only with leafblower and rake, I headed out with Jer to a Move-On victory party in Carol's general 'hood. As we left our house, a brilliant rainbow arc-ed over Rural Street to the east; a propitious omen. At our destination, we opened another bottle of champagne, our third this week, and toasted the return of the light in the USA. Here's hopin', anyway.

06 November 2006

Working in Series

At a friend's house in San Francisco two or three years ago, I was taken with a calligraphic brush print called Midori, by the Japanese artist Toko Shinoda. I couldn't get the central image out of my mind. Inspired by Shinoda's work, I made one wall quilt, then another. For the background, I used linen bias tape from a stash my friend Giselle Shepatin, an incredible fashion designer, gave me several years ago. I wove the tape and stitched it down so the background resembled a field of puffy mini-ravioli. Then, using mostly hand-dyed fabrics, I cut, fused and appliqued the main figure and the smaller leafy shapes. For the central motif on the second piece, I used teal silk from a jacket lining my friend Francine gave me several years ago. (She doesn't sew, but she knew I'd be able to use it someday.) Here and there I added interest with overlays of organza or netting that I'd tinted with acrylic paint. I think of the two as negative images, kinda sorta; clearly they're a pair.

But I still hadn't gotten Shinoda's composition out of my system; I could picture, vividly, several more variations that I wanted to try. The third, to my mind, turned out to be the least successful of the series. In fact, I've just taken it down from our front door, where it served as a Hallowe'en decoration (note pumpkin-esque shapes on the background fabric). Oh well.

Finally, I used Japanese and Japanese-style fabrics, including some that I'd overdyed with indigo, plus my own hand-dyes. I developed this piece during an art quilt independent study with Jeannette Meyer at the Oregon College of Arts of Crafts. In my humble opinion, it's the best of the lot.

I have one more variation in mind. For whatever reason -- I do not have weddings-on-the-brain -- I'm picturing it as a "bridal" piece, in white/cream with touches of gold, some lace, and lots more embellishment than any of the others. I'm also thinking of it as a much smaller work; the others are all roughly 18" by 24", give or take. This concept, though, might just represent the artistic impulse playing its way out into rococo decadence, decay, and the death of civilization. Maybe I should quit while I'm ahead.

Meanwhile, the initial (dark woven background) piece in the series sold during the first week of the Pacific Piecemakers Quilt Guild 2oo5 Challenge show. Its close companion won a 3rd place ribbon in the Innovative division of the Northwest Quilters 2006 show. The pumpkin hanging, as I mentioned, graces my front door in October. And the last in the series (so far?) was juried in to OCAC's spring '06 student show and exhibited at the Hoffman Gallery on campus. That was a pretty big thrill.

29 October 2006


Jer and I spent three days last week on the Washington coast, just north of Astoria. Friends own a house about halfway up Long Beach peninsula, a couple of blocks from the beach, and when they offered we couldn't resist. Getting to the coast hadn't been a big priority since we moved to Oregon, since we lived at the coast for almost ten years. But we really missed the ocean -- the sight and the sound of it, and the proximity -- simply knowing that it was there.

Off-season, mid-week, Long Beach is a sleepy place. This sign about sums it up.

But we checked out pretty much everything that was open, from the sublime -- that would be Leadbetter Point, where a flock of shorebirds, literally hundreds of them, wheeled over our heads -- to the ridiculous, e.g. Jake the Alligator Man at Marsh's deeply weird and mildly depressing Free Museum. Found quite a few interesting objets rusting in the marsh grass along Willapa Bay, some v. cool driftwood and an astounding abundance and variety of mushrooms in the woods. Oh yes, and some of us (i.e. moi) ate oysters. Advice to oyster-philes: Counter-intuitive as it might seem, when it comes to Willapa Bay oysters, "extra-small" is what you want. These puppies tend toward the, ah, big-boned end of the spectrum, oyster-wise. To use a cat metaphor, they are the ragdolls of the mollusc world.

On the way home, we stopped at Cape Disappointment (that, along with Dismal Nitch (sic), has to be one of the best place names in the Northwest) and the excellent Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. L&C bicentennial-mania was just peaking when we moved here last summer; at the time, unpacking and settling in was a much higher priority than satisfying any incipient curiosity I might've felt about those guys and what, exactly, they'd accomplished. Now I'd like to learn more. Good job, Interpretive Center!

Jer and I aren't lighthouse freaks, but we do make a point of climbing every legally-accessible iconic tower-like structure a new place might offer. I took a bunch of arty closeups at Cape D's North Head Lighthouse, on view in my Washington Coast set on Flickr.

22 October 2006

Desperate Housecats


L to R, Stella Luna, Abbie, China Rose.

Here's a better shot of Abbie:

Oh, what the hell, here's another:

He's 17 going on 18, and the sweetest guy I've ever lived with. I've heard him hiss maybe twice in his entire life.

Hallowe'en in the 'hood

Portlandians take their holiday decorations seriously. This house is still under construction, but they're ready for Hallowe'en, you betcha. They've got the full spooky graveyard thing going on, complete with a pair of 1/4-scale vulture replicas and a fake crow with glowing red eyes. Here, in Eastmore-corvus-land, ersatz crows; what is the neighborhood coming to?

Speaking of fake, gigantic siding-climbing spiders are apparently this season's must-have decorative note. I prefer their over-the-top creepiness (no double-pun intended) to those humungous inflated pumpkins; so 2005.

The best decoration we've spotted so far, though, was on yesterday morning's walk. Here, on an "unimproved" block of 37th Ave. was a skull-like apparation projected through sun-dappled leaves onto a conveniently-placed rock. How did they do that?

19 October 2006

Introducing Chef Jerub

I used to document Jerry's culinary accomplishments, especially the more photogenic ones, here, as Chef Jerub's Company-Grade Dinners, but I fell woefully behind. Maybe blogging will make it easier to keep up. Here are a few for starters.

Of course, I can't remember what they all were, other than delicious. I really have to get back into the habit of wiping the plate rims. What has happened to our standards, people?!

Oh yeah, he does desserts, too.

18 October 2006

Amenities of Civilization

Last night we went to see West Side Story at the new Gerding Theater downtown. (According to the program notes, it was originally going to be about Catholics vs. Jews. I wonder what that would've done to the fight scenes?) This morning, we checked out Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination, at OMSI, and had a late breakfast afterwards at Cup and Saucer on Hawthorne. Stopped at the Dollar Scholar, where spending five bucks feels like a major shopping spree, and bought several plastic animals to deploy in the furtherance of the Horse Project.

Urban life, still a novelty after a decade living on the coast. It's nice to be back.

15 October 2006

The Leo in Autumn

Even though the leaves are turning, temps have been in the 70s, even the 80s, the last few weeks. It still felt like summer in Portland. As of this morning, I've got to admit: It's undeniably fall. The rain's here. The backyard plum harvest is over.

The Brandywine tomato monster is still going strong, but I see fried green tomatoes in our future. I have a fabulous recipe for same, thanks to Winter Green Farm:

4 green tomatoes
2 C buttermilk
1 T Tabasco sauce
1 C yellow cornmeal
1 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 C peanut oil
4 T unsalted butter

Core the top of each tomato. Slice into 1/2” slices. Mix buttermilk &
Tabasco. Place tomato slices in mix & marinate 1 hour, turning
occasionally. In a shallow bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking soda,
salt & pepper. Drain tomato slices & dredge carefully in breading mix.
Place slices on baking sheet & refrigerate 30 min. to allow breading to
dry. Heat oil in heavy 12” skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter & oil.
When hot, carefully place as many slices in the skillet as will loosely fit in
a single layer. Don’t crowd or the fat temp will drop & the tomatoes will
be greasy. Panfry 45 sec. to 1 min. on each side until a nice, golden
brown. Remove to plate w/paper towels. Hold in oven @200 degrees
until all tomatoes are cooked.

Sigh. Goodbye August. 'bye September...

14 October 2006

The Mom Quilt

Earlier this year I started a quilt that used a dozen cotton damask napkins from my mother's hope chest, dyed indigo using various shibori techniques. (I knew Mom wouldn't mind, because she'd dyed her own wedding gown dark blue so she could wear it again! Always practical, my mother...) The branching structure (family tree? river of life?) I cut from an old suede jacket of Mom's that I appropriated when I was in my teens and wore until it was literally falling apart. The back of the quilt is made from the tablecloth that went with the napkins.

I thought of it as the "Mom Quilt," and figured I'd show it to her eventually. It hung on my design wall for several months. It still needed something; Jerry said "bling," and I agreed, but I didn't know what.

Mom died at the end of June, and never did see "her" quilt. After her death, I embellished it with some of her many volunteer pins, and covered each of them with tulle or organza, so each pin is in its own see-through pocket. Voila: Bling. Instead of a conventional label, I made two pockets, one embroidered with my mother's name and dates, the other with my name and the year, and put some of Mom's laminated ID badges (more of her volunteer swag) in them.

in medias revalations

Let's just pretend I've been blogging for the last two years, okay?