28 June 2008

More Messy Art Fun

I've spent the last three days in a workshop at OCAC, playing with thickened dyes. We've done some stamping and silk-screening. We've made marks on fabric using found objects like plastic nursery trays, circuit boards, bubble wrap and the highly coveted orange construction fencing. My favorite technique, though, is one I'd heard about but hadn't had an opportunity to try before this week -- painting fabric with potato dextrin, a paste that crackles as it dries. I'll document the process after school is out tomorrow and I have a finished product or eight to show. Gerrie, with whom I'm carpooling, has some good info on her blog, too. We used corn dextrin as well. It's a useful resist, but not nearly as interesting, behaviorally, as its sister in starch, potato.

This is one of those workshops that click in part because of the students. It's a great collection of people. Jeannette Meyer, the instructor, pictured above in surgical garb, is a goddess. We're all middle-aged women with the exception of Tamera, a gorgeous young woman who makes rugs. When she asked about dyes for flesh tones, something clicked in my mind. Sure enough, she was the artist whose "bare skin" rug I'd read about in the Oregonian. It -- I mean she -- was stolen from a gallery show and, three months later, recovered. What a saga!

Gerrie got a photo of me on the first day of class, and here's a shot of her with her signature lime green accent.

My turn to drive tomorrow. I think I'll have to line the car with plastic tarp in anticipation of all the wet dye-laden goodies we'll be packing home.

While I was out messin' around with art stuff, Jer was creating a masterpiece at home. This is polenta layered with heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella, grilled eggplant and pesto. It's supposed to be heated on the grill, but we're affeared that all those layers might topple into the flames, so we'll do it in the oven instead. Fresh snow peas from the farmers' market on the side. It's literally 100 degrees outside, but our little ranch house is relatively cool, and I'm looking forward to dinner.

27 June 2008

It's Done, Yay!

We hadn't been looking forward to the task of staining our new deck, but it was necessary and, given this spell of warm, dry weather, what better time? Let's get it over with, already.

Monday and Tuesday we (mostly Jerry) cleaned and prepped. Amazing what a mess those pink chestnut blossoms make when they fall in wet weather and aren't promptly shoveled off.

Wednesday we spent several hours doing the hard parts -- the vertical surfaces, including the fascia boards all around the perimeter, as well as the privacy screen and lid cradle with their fiddly latticework. My most-fun part was the several square inches of screen behind and below one of the built-in benches (the rightmost one in these photos). To reach it, I had to lie sideways on the deck, head under the bench, brush in my left hand (I am not left-handed), its arc of movement severely constrained in every direction. It might have helped, but only slightly, to be double-jointed.

Thursday I began a four-day art workshop (about which more later) and left Jer to do the easy part -- the horizontal deck surface, plus some incidental work around one of the benches. Someone in the family had suggested that we stain between the boards with a brush before rollering on the surface coat, but somebody else was certain that this was an unnecessary step. Had someone not been at an art workshop today, she would have hunkered down and done this task, since she is better on her knees than he is. However, somebody else forged ahead with the rollering and realized at the end of the day that the between-surfaces had not, in fact, gotten good coverage. So that was today's task for somebody.

Anyway, it's done. Here are the Before, During and After shots. With any luck we won't have to repeat this exercise -- at least not the total, all-visible-surfaces treatment -- for a while.

26 June 2008

The Ice Cream Man (?) Cometh

Now that the weather's finally warming up, we hear the faint tinkly song of the ice cream truck almost every afternoon. But it never comes down our little street. Today, it finally did, and the kid-at-heart in our family eagerly flagged it down. I don't remember the Good Humor Man of my childhood ever wearing a tank top and cutoffs. It took my husband quite a while to decide what he wanted.

20 June 2008

Mt. Tabor, finally

It only took us three years to check out Mount Tabor, an almost-200-acre park smack in the middle of southeast Portland, maybe 12 minutes from our front door. Mount Tabor is the site of an extinct volcano and three active reservoirs, the source of much of Portland's drinking water, each graced with crenellated gatehouses and ornamental iron fences. The total effect is more Versailles than municipal utility project, which is kind of cool.

As you look east from the other side of the Willamette, Mount Tabor is a conspicuous landmark. Not surprisingly, the view toward town from its slopes is spectacular.

We encountered several very happy dogs on the short hike to the summit, and found a canine mis-en-place, complete with excellent throwing stick, along the trail. All that was missing was the Alpo, or whatever brand/formulation enlightened dog owners favor these days.

Speaking of food, on the way home we detoured a few blocks east and had a delightful breakfast at the Arleta Library Bakery & Cafe. Jer had turned up his cute snub nose at the menu I pulled from their website, noting that "the only way they do eggs is scrambled." Oh dear. But what they do with their scrambled eggs is, midway through, change course and turn them into an elegant omelette roulade. Delicious. It's a tiny, friendly neighborhood place, and we will be back.

18 June 2008

They're HERE

But who knew they'd arrive in a U-Haul?

16 June 2008


The Oregon Zoo is a sweet venue for a concert -- a gently sloping lawn bordered by high-quality food and beverage vendors, with excellent outdoor acoustics, a friendly crowd, and a mellow security staff that permits not only dancing in front of the stage but loitering up front long enough to take a photo or twelve. Just keep the fire lanes open, ma'am. They even have sprinklers set up at the back so you can cool off on hot summer afternoons.

Last night we went to an all-N'awlins show at the Zoo. Dr. John opened for the Neville Brothers, whom I adore. My dinner of gumbo and cornbread, which cost all of $7 and change, tasted wonderful as dusk fell and the evening turned chilly. The music, of course, was stellar. Aaron sang Amazing Grace, and life at that moment seemed just about perfect.

15 June 2008

Happy Fathers' Day

Father's Day 1967. Do the math. My dad died at 70, younger than my husband is now. I find that so weird to contemplate.

Dad wasn't much of a drinker; I vaguely recall that this hip flask was intended as a joke. The bottle of Jade East aftershave was the "real" present.

Like my dress? Betcha couldn't tell (ha) I made it myself. The hexagons were kelly green, and the ribbon was green velvet. I still remember the feel of that sleazy polyester.

14 June 2008

Shooting up the 'hood

Our neighborhood is graced -- that word is not an overstatement -- by magnificent old elm trees. Each year, volunteers, with an assist from the city forestry department, innoculate them against Dutch elm disease. About a third of the trees in Eastmoreland are done every year, on a rotating basis.

I pictured a huge hypodermic needle, but this is how it works: With your trusty cordless Makita, drill a few dozen holes, at a 45-degree angle, in the roots at the base of the tree. Insert plastic nozzles. Attach a vial of innoculant to each one. Tap the bottom of the vial with a mallet to start the flow. Sanitize your drill bit before starting on the next tree. A cleanup crew comes by several hours later to pull the empty injectors.

We divided into teams of three or four and fanned out to take care of the 10 or 12 trees assigned to us. A couple of ours proved nonexistent; the old elms had fallen some time ago, but lived on in the forestry department database. We still had plenty to do. Our worksheets specified the number of vials per tree; a big one might take 40 or more. We went through about three hundred vials; that's a lot of drilling and tapping.

This could have been a model corporate team-building exercise. I worked with two guys I'd never met before. One was an experienced volunteer. The other was eager but marginally competent. I kept track of the vials, tapped my mallet, and made efficiency-improving suggestions using my non-judgemental voice. This is my strength, as my husband will attest.

It was an oddly satisfying way to spend a few hours on a beautiful Saturday morning. I feel like I've given something back to the trees that give us so much pleasure.

10 June 2008

A lovely surprise on a gray day

A couple of months ago I entered the Portland Audubon Society's native plant photography contest. The winners were announced on May 18th. I never did get to the exhibit, and I promptly forgot about it.

Guess what today's mail brought? An offishul document, suitable for framing, proclaiming that I'd won first prize in the close-up category, plus a $25 gift certificate for the Audubon nature store. Woo hoo.

I think, though I'm not 100% sure, that this was the winning entry -- birch bark colonized by moss. Compositionally, it's the dullest of the three photos I entered. What it has going for it is texture; it reminds me of an aerial view of a snow-dusted canyon lined with trees. Maybe the judges were on the right drugs.

06 June 2008

Look what I made

I can't recall the last time I baked a loaf of yeast bread, but a friend who's gone off carbs gave me a bag of millet flour, and the good ol' Tassajara Bread Book supplied loose guidelines about how much I could substitute for whole wheat. It sure turned out purty. Nice crumb, acceptable taste; next time, a little more salt, I think. I also made a batch o' buns and froze some to have on hand the next time turkey burgers are on the menu.

I spent some time in the studio, too, working on my art quilt group's current challenge. The theme is "trees," and the challenge comes from deciding which of the 18 gazillion possibilities to play with. (Look at how differently, and beautifully, Terry has interpreted the same oh-so-general idea.) I was struck by the pattern made by the trunks and lower limbs of a line of conifers on the golf course not far from here. I posterized, cropped, resized, merged, stacked, whacked and recombined one of the photos I'd taken, then printed several variations on fabric. I played with various arrangements on my design wall, and finally sewed the images together with strips of both commercial and hand-dyed fabrics. (You can click to enlarge the picture.) The brown fabric with squiggles that runs throughout the piece is the result of overdyeing and then discharging with thickened bleach from a squeeze bottle. I'd thought of it as a unifying design element, but it isn't strong enough to read that way. I think it wants some shadowing along the edges, either with pigment or threadplay, to accentuate the overall pattern. Quilting, once I get to that stage, should give it more definition, too.

05 June 2008

OMG, free orchids!

Despite the cool, wet weather, it's been another exuberantly glorious nonstop flower-show of a springtime in Portland. For whatever reason -- perhaps because they're such drama queens to begin with, but possibly because I'm finally learning to slow down and pay attention -- I've been noticing the irises in particular. Like everything else in the plant kingdom, they've grown taller and lusher than usual, eventually collapsing under their own load of blossoms. I've been going out once or twice a day with the pruning shears, snipping the toppled stalks and sticking them in a vase. For me this is the answer to a recurring dilemma: Do I bring all this gorgeosity inside, or leave it out there, au naturel, for the neighbors to enjoy as well? (This is not a problem with the roses, which are ridiculously prolific.)

Watching irises bloom might be a step or two up from watching grass grow. What an unlikely configuration for a flower. Does it really take all those ruffles and crenelations to attract a little pollinatin' action? After a couple of days the older, full-blown flowers curl in on themselves like little fists, and the tightly-furled buds further down the stem unfold, sometimes overnight. I've been doing iris micromanagement, clipping off the spent blossoms, assessing the stalks to see whether any buds are left, and rescuing new fallen stems when I notice them outside. I am an iris co-dependent.

Speaking of overachievers, there's a climbing yellow rose vining up the downspout on the back wall of the house. Last fall I had to lop off the rose hips because they drummed so furiously, when the wind blew, right below our bedroom window. This year, the topmost blossoms, brazen hussies, are peering right in. We have no secrets from the roses.

Meanwhile, on the east side of the house: orchids! I'd noticed these fuchsia-colored little beauties last year, but apparently I was looking elsewhere when they burst into full bloom. First they were buds and, next I saw, very elegant elongated oval seed pods that looked stunning in a dried arrangement. This year, though, I paid attention; it's so obviously an orchid, isn't it? According to my good ol' Sunset Western Gardening Book, it's Bletilla striata (B. hyacinthina), or Chinese ground orchid. I'm grateful to the former owner who, in planting them, paid joy forward who knows how many seasons. I'm also grateful that they're "Bletilla", with a B, which spared me from having to look through the whole damn alphabetical volume. They're definitely spreading, which makes me very happy.

04 June 2008

Greenery overload

Last Sunday afternoon I took myself on the Sellwood Garden Tour, a benefit for the Sellwood Middle School PTA. Two of the six gardens were within easy walking distance of our house, one was on the east side of Sellwood, south of Tacoma, and the remaining three were in Garthwick. Garthwick? Why, yes; you follow SE 13th Avenue south, across the railroad tracks, and there it is, just a stone's throw from the notorious Goodwill bins. Yes, this is the "other side of the tracks" all right -- the upscale side. Garthwick is like the choicer chunks of Eastmoreland grafted onto Sellwood's funky charm. Who knew? Obviously not I.

One of the Garthwick estates belongs to a gardening writer for The Oregonian. Her columns always make me smile. But I will never again feel the slightest twinge of empathy when I read that she's made yet another impulse nursery buy and now must find room to plant it. Poor dear; this woman has acres. A vegetable garden. Ponds. Fountains. Gazebos. Multiple benches and resting places. Herbaceous borders with plants grown to Findhornian proportions. An expanse of flawless lawn. And two potting sheds, a real one and a larger, charming studio-like space labeled Pouting Shed. I could just move in.

The Sellwood-proper garden butts up against, and has in places colonized, the banks of Johnson Creek. That was my second favorite, on location alone, though I suspect it reaches flood stage with some regularity during winter storms.

I came home from the tour exhausted but inspired, and only a teeny bit envious of what I'd seen. I think I've fallen in love with epimedium, which loves shade and looks glorious. I saw some other beautiful shade-lovers, too, which I can't begin to identify.

Monday turned out to be a garden-tour day as well. It's so much easier to look than to, you know, do. Besides, with rare and precious exceptions, the weather these last few weeks hasn't been that conducive to doing.

I'd been promising Jer a trip to Lake Oswego. Yes, we lead such exciting lives. In the three years we've lived here, he'd never been. So we drove down (it's all of 15 minutes away), walked around town a bit, had lunch at St. Honoré Boulangerie, and stopped, en route home, at the Elk Rock Gardens of the Bishops Close. The Bishops Close is the headquarters of the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon. A Sea Ranch friend, a big Episcopalian, had told me about this place, and I'd tucked the info into my copy of Wild in the City, thinking "I should just bop down there one of these days; it can't be that far." It's not; it's shamefully nearby -- just two miles south of the Sellwood Bridge. The gardens, thirteen acres overlooking the Willamette, are unbelievably lush and peaceful, especially on a Monday afternoon in late spring. Some sections are manicured, English style, while others feel like nature barely tamed. Another incredible spot, tucked away so close to home.

I've put up a few more botanical porn shots, including prurient closeups, on my Flickr page.

03 June 2008

Triumphs Large and Small

I'll not add to the verbiage here in the blogosphere about Obama clinching the nomination, though I share in the general delight. More than anything else, I'm relieved -- guardedly relieved, but that's a whole lot better than the stomach-clenching tension (and occasional stomach-turning disgust) of the last way-too-many months. So: Yay!!!!

In local news, we've been waiting til Home Depot ran another installation special to upgrade our two remaining funky old aluminum doors. Jer dropped in on spec and found out that an unadvertised half-price sale was, in fact, on -- with one day left to run. Deal done!

Elsewhere on the domestic front, about a month ago our macho Rabbit (tm) corkscrew -- expensive, and worth it -- broke. We knew it had a longterm guarantee, but who keeps the paperwork on a corkscrew? Jer boxed it up and shipped it back, and today's mail brought a brand-new replacement, with a 10-year warranty starting now. Yee-haw.

It felt like a winner of a day.