Friday, March 30, 2007

What would you do with these?

I recently discovered the wonderful Monticello Antique Mall in Southeast Portland. It has been there for more than 7 years, but somehow I didn't know about it until I read about it on another blog. It is now one of my favorite places to take out-of-town visitors. It is clean and bright and does not have that funky antique store smell. Things are beautifully displayed. There is a nice little cafe at one end, so it is a good lunchtime adventure. A couple weeks ago my friend Muriel found a monkey hand puppet exactly like one she had as a child. Of course she had to buy it.

We've had cousins from Boise visiting this week and we went out to the Monticello a couple of days ago. I enjoy browsing, but I seldom buy—antiques these days tend to look like the stuff I have had cluttering up my house for years now. I remember how my mother used to exclaim, in antique stores, "I had (or have) one of those!" Now I'm doing the same thing. But the other day I saw this little set of 4 napkin rings and decided, modestly priced as they were, I had to have them. Now, I have no real need for, or interest in, napkin rings. But I just loved the design of these.

Here's a closeup. There is a bird in there—not sure if it's a swan or a goose.

They are big, nearly 2" square. There have to be other uses for these. Maybe to tie back curtains. I wonder if they could be adapted to use as drawer pulls. Hmmmmm. Any ideas?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Details

When I posted the after pictures of the bathroom redo Kristin and Jane Ann wanted details about the countertop. Yes, I did paint the counters. I did some research on the web for instructions and found several, although I also found sites that said "don't do it—it won't work." I decided I had nothing to lose in trying the paint as I definitely do not want the blue countertop, and paint is cheap.

We started by removing the sink and sanding the counters. I used a small foam roller to avoid brush strokes, and painted it all with Kilz primer, then 3 coats of terra cotta colored semi-gloss latex paint. Before I painted a 4th coat, I mixed a little of the paint with a bit of dark green paint in a cup to get a barely darker shade of the color. Then I rolled on the 4th coat, sponging on a little of the darker shade as I went along to give it a very slightly mottled look. After that dried well I put on about 4 coats of clear urethane varnish (satin finish), letting each coat dry well before applying the next. Then we went to Mexico for two weeks and left it to dry hard undisturbed! Here is a closeup.

I don't know how well it will hold up. It seems a little delicate. Only time will tell.

The after pictures didn't really show the rug very well either. It was not in the original plan, but was rather a spontaneous purchase made in Oaxaca. I think it looks great.

Today's cuteness

Sofia got to go home from the hospital yesterday. She is happy to be there and is eating like a little piggy. Her Mom picked out this cardigan sweater, because she herself is never without one. Her Mom also believes that girl babies need not always wear pink and blue is a perfectly good color for babies of either sex. Her Mom is right! Sofia is adorable and snuggly warm in her beautiful blue cardigan.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bathroom redo

You have not seen much fabric or sewing content here for quite awhile. Ray and I are reminding ourselves not to become the kind of grandparents who talk of nothing but their darling grandchild. It is tempting to make this blog "All Sofia, All The Time" but there actually are other things going on in my life. Do you remember the "before" pictures of our main floor bathroom? You can see them here. We finally finished that project.

This was a little plan I put together before to get an idea of color and pattern. I ended up using a little bit darker taupe on the bottom half of the walls.

Here are the "after" pictures. I am pretty happy with the results.

I could not find a shower curtain that I really liked, so I made one. (heads up—this is the sewing and fabric content) It is made from a natural colored cotton and stenciled with a design I adapted from a book of Arts and Crafts motifs. It worked out even better than I expected and may be my favorite thing in the room. We bought the rug in Oaxaca on our recent trip to Mexico.

My flea market find painting of the pretty lady in the hat still looks great with the new color scheme, so she is back up in her accustomed spot.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Grandma Name

Several people have asked me what my grandchild will call me. My sister-in-law said, "Have you chosen your Grandma name yet?" ( I believe her grandchildren call her Momo) This seems to be quite a big thing ("it's very important" one person wrote). I must be out of the loop because I didn't realize that this was part of being a grandmother.

I am pretty boring and traditional about such things. I imagine I will be called Grandma. Or if Sofia comes up with some sweet and charming version of that or her own name for me, then that will be it. I will, however, discourage Granny as it carries too many toothless hag connotations for me. Grammy, on the other hand, has no such baggage and works fine in my book. Don't ask me why there's a difference. There just is.

Both of my grandmothers were called Grandma. My children called both of their grandmothers Grandma. My great grandmother was called Bam which was the short version of Bamma which one of her grandchildren said instead of Grandma. Once we visited her in the tiny Colorado town where she lived and I was amused to find that the mailman and the clerk at the grocery store and friends at the Methodist Church also called her Bam.

I understand that sometimes these names are invented to differentiate between multiple generations of still living grandmothers, as well as the multiples that happen when people divorce and remarry. We have no such complications. In fact I will be the only one called Grandma and Ray the only Grandpa. Sofia's other grandparents live in Ecuador and speak Spanish and will therefore be Abuela and Abuelo. Emily and Cayo intend for Sofia to be bilingual.

So, there you go. Grandma. I guess I have chosen.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Sofia Graciela

Born March 22, 2007

Pictures taken this afternoon. What an improvement over yesterday! She is a sweetheart.

The little bit of quilt you see in the bottom picture is one that was made by a volunteer and donated for babies in the NICU. Parents get to keep these quilts. I may have to make a couple little quilts to donate back to them—I never understood how sweet that is to have a handmade quilt for your sick baby. It really softens the shock of seeing all those tubes and monitors. You can see how her little hand is all taped up to the IV.


The baby was finally born Thursday morning. She is beautiful and doing well, despite aspirating some fluid into her lungs at birth. She is being treated and monitored in the NICU, but news from Emily this morning is that she looks "great" this morning and they've removed most of the tubes and breathing apparatus and will probably move her out of NICU fairly soon. Good news! We are headed up to the hospital soon. I'll post a picture when I can.

Thanks so much for all your comments, emails and good wishes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The baby isn't budging

We got the call in the middle of the night and went to the hospital. They kept Emily all night as contractions continued. But she isn't dilating much yet. Sent her home about noon today. She and Cayo are here at our house and we are all trying to get a little rest before baby decides she is ready to come out and meet us. All is well—just progressing at a leisurely pace.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Baby update

This morning Emily called to tell us she was having mild, but pretty regular contractions. They continued throughout the day and through this evening, but didn't change significantly. Cayo couldn't decide whether to go to work or not, but finally went off to work. Em and I went for a walk at Tryon Creek State Park where the trilliums are starting to bloom and it was crisp and cold, but beautiful and very peaceful. Then she came back to our house and took a nap.
While Emily was napping I went up to the sewing room and made the "Bitty Booties" from the pattern I downloaded months ago from Heather Bailey's blog. I made them from ultrasuede and they are OK, but a little flimsy. I think something a bit thicker like felted wool would work better.
Cayo left work early and we all had a light dinner together, then they went home to try to get some rest. I think I will head off to bed as well. We may get a call in the middle of the night.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Taxco and the silver thing

Taxco is best known for silver. Can you see all the silver in this shop? This is one of many, many such shops in Taxco.

I love silver jewelry, so I was saving my pesos and looking forward to the trip to Taxco. I had a vision in my mind of the kind of bracelet I wanted. It would be hinged and chunky and maybe something Frida Kahlo would have worn. Oh, so Mexican. The reality was that most of the shops in Taxco had nothing even vaguely resembling my dream bracelet. Ninety nine percent of the silver I saw was exactly what can be found in any mall in the US. The prices only slightly better.

I learned a lot about the silver of Taxco, however. Silver has been mined from that area for centuries, but in 1929 an American named William Spratling moved to Taxco and began designing jewelry based on Aztec imagery and Art Deco imagery and he helped to train other artisans and set up workshops for the making of jewelry. Spratling put Taxco on the map as the premier silver design center in the world. (And I wonder if his ghost is apalled to see the mostly junky stuff that is sold there now . . .)

These are some of his designs—I think they are incredible:

I found only one shop selling reproductions of Spratling bracelets—way out of my price range. I saw a bracelet I liked in a tiny little shop and when I went back to get it the shop was closed and it never reopened before we left. I bought this pair of grape leaf motif earrings that I was told was a Spratling design. I was immediately drawn to them because I am almost certain my grandmother had a pair that were nearly identical, purchased many, many years ago in Mexico.

I came home from Mexico without my dream Mexican bracelet and I was disappointed. I began to search eBay for antique Mexican bracelets and to my delight discovered dozens of them—exactly what I had hoped to find in Taxco. I bid on several and very narrowly lost the bid on a beauty. None were Spratling designs—those go on eBay for a minimum of $1200, but I am guessing that many of the more affordable eBay bracelets were designed by the artisans that Spratling taught. Finally I won the bid for this bracelet with matching earrings (screwback—youch) that was made in Taxco in the 1930's.

It's exactly what I wanted.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Our arrival, by bus, to the silver city of Taxco deposited us at a charming bus station at the bottom of a hill, with the city and Cathedral towering visibly above us. The little town climbs up the side of quite a steep hill, accessible by narrrow, winding streets. The only cars that seem to make any sense here at all are Volkswagon bugs. The ones you see in this photo, taken from the hotel balconey, are taxis of the kind we used to arrive at the foot of a steep set of stairs leading to the hotel. Our climb up those stairs, dragging our suitcases, was rewarded by a beautiful, cozy set of rooms opening off balconys with spectacular views.

From the common room, where breakfast was served you could see this view of the kitchen. Who was the woman in the painting? I don't know, but I was glad she was overseeing the kitchen.

Loved the tile in our bathroom.

What a beautiful place. Colorful. Cheerful. Beautiful, friendly people.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, June!

I am almost too late to wish my friend June a happy Saint Patrick's Day birthday! I've been having computer problems today. And now Blogger is not allowing me to upload the really corny photomontage I made of her face superimposed over a shamrock. (You can't imagine what you're missing. Not only is it really hokey, it is not the greatest picture of June, but the only one I seemed to have in my files. I do hope I can show it eventually.)

June was really hoping that Emily's baby would be born today to share her birthday, but unless something dramatic happens in the next two hours, it's not happening today. I think it will be happening soon, though. Tonight was the first time I have gotten the feeling looking at Em that she looks just about "ready."

Anyway, June will probably continue to have her March 17 birthday to herself. She's a wonderful friend and I hope she has had a great day today.
Woo hoo! It finally worked. Now, was that worth waiting for or what?!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

One with blue eyes, one with brown

Muriel is visiting for a few days and we've been looking at our Mexico pictures tonight and bemoaning the reality that the trip was great, but now it's just a memory and real life isn't nearly as colorful and relaxing. We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant tonight. It wasn't the same. Oh well.

It is such an interesting country and really does have many faces. There is the Indigenous culture and the Spanish influences and the ancient ruins and the great art and beautiful crafts, the sprawling city and the tiny, charming villages. When I have told people we just got back from Mexico most assume we were at a coastal resort. Honestly, I don't have much interest in those kinds of places, though it would be nice to see some of the Mexican beaches. Really, when I visit a foreign place I want to see the art and the architecture and the culture . . .

and the goofy wooden faces—these two are from the streets of Taxco.

And for relatives of mine—I think I may have discovered the inspiration for our late, great Uncle Eddy's unique hairstyle. Looks familiar, doesn't it?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Spring Fever

n. A feeling of restlessness, excitement, or laziness brought on by the coming of spring.

I think I have a touch of Spring Fever. I read the definition above and it certainly sounds like the way I have been feeling, although spring itself, seems to come and go around here. When it stopped raining late this morning I wandered around outside taking pictures of some of the flowers that are blooming in the yard.

I'm antsy waiting for the baby to arrive. I'm unfocused and unproductive. I have no new artwork to take to my critique group later this week. I am having a hard time with the change to Daylight Savings Time. It was so hard to get out of bed this morning to go walk with Beth. Yawwwwwn . . .

Change is in the air. We are making decisions about retirement and what we will do and where we will live. It is exciting and anxiety-producing. Do we still have the energy to do all the things we plan to do? I think so. I hope so. I want to do it right.

Last week we went to a dinner given by our financial planner. We sat at a large round table with several other couples, most of whom we had never met before. The subject of retirement came up (it seems to come up a lot lately) and Ray asked an obviously older (than us) fellow across the table if he was retired. "Oh, no. I'd be bored to death if I retired" he replied. "He must have a fascinating job" I thought to myself, but no—turns out he has a very mundane job that can't possibly be very stimulating or challenging. He went on to say that he goes to bed at 8:30 every evening because he is "bored." Nothing to do at night. Doesn't get up in the morning until 8. Nothing to do in the morning. Bored. As the conversation shifted to other topics, we learned that he has never cooked a meal, never run the dishwasher, has no hobbies. He and his wife (poor woman!) left before the speaker—bedtime, don't you know.

If you asked me if I would be bored when I retire I would laugh out loud. I cannot imagine any reason to be bored. I am just hoping my feet and back hold up well enough to do all the things I want to do between now and the end of my life. But right now, I need a nap. Spring Fever has me in its clutches.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mexican weaver

In Oaxaca we saw many beautiful wool rugs for sale. I bought two. We decided to take the bus out to the village of Teotitlan where the weavers of these rugs live. As we were discussing where to get off the bus, a nice gentleman sitting across the aisle of the bus, said, in perfect English "That is where I live. I will show you where to get off." When we followed him off the bus in the center of a sleepy little village he gave us directions to the market and church, then invited us to visit his weaving studio just across the street. Beautiful rugs covered the walls and were stacked on the floors. He took us to the back room where he prepared dyes from cochineal and a variety of plants, which hung from the rafters.

Cochineal is a tiny insect that lives on a particular kind of cactus (the white areas on the cactus pads below are where the cochineal are found) and yields a maroon-y red dye when crushed. When acid, such as lemon juice is added the red becomes a rich, orange-y red. The yarns for the rug behind the loom in the first picture were dyed, primarily with cochineal.

My friend, Muriel, purchased this beautiful rug, right off the wall of his studio.

In Oaxaca, I got this rug for my bathroom. The beautiful variety of natural green dyes were mostly from mosses.

Friday, March 09, 2007

A little break and a story

I'm taking a little break from my Mexico travelogue. There is more to come. I have yet to share my pictures of Taxco, which is another magical place. I have no projects to share. We are waiting for that baby. I am finishing up jobs with deadlines, painting the bathroom, uninspired for the moment. A lull.

Last night as I was falling asleep I remembered something that happened more than 35 years ago.

My career with the Singer sewing company
The spring after Ray and I were married I grew dissatisfied with my job, which was selling furniture and design services at a fancy furniture store. I felt like a fraud, selling expensive furniture to rich people, pretending I knew all about it, when, in fact I knew if they could see our apartment, furnished with my paisley chair and hand-me-downs, they would never take my word on the superior quality of hand-tied springs and down cushions over foam, or anything else I had to say, for that matter. Besides, the men I worked with stole all my customers and I wasn't making enough money on commission to warrant getting up in the morning and going to work. I quit.

I took a job almost immediately at the Nampa mall's Singer Sewing Store as a Sewing Instructor. My training was a week of instruction in Tacoma, along with 5 other women from other Northwest area Singer stores. Our instructor was an older, gray-haired woman, named Dorothy who made it very clear that she was the national training person for Singer, the highest ranking woman in the Singer company. One of the other women asked if there were any women store managers and Dorothy said, oh no, managing was a job for men. I thought about the greasy, weasely little guy who managed the store I worked for and wondered about that. Later Dorothy took me aside privately and asked me if I was pregnant. She said this was very valuable training I was getting and the company certainly didn't want to waste it on someone who was just going to be pregnant and quit right away. What?? I assured her I was not pregnant, but then I felt really self-conscious and insecure. Irrationally, I felt like I had done something wrong.

I shared a motel room with a woman named Carol from Longview. She had taken the job, she told me because her husband had had a mental breakdown and had been hospitalized after he went without sleep for more than a week and began hearing voices from the television set when it was not turned on. They had two small children. She said he was home now, starting back to work—he was a newspaper writer—and doing really well, but they had a lot of bills. She needed to work. She seemed scared and nervous and I felt bad for her. The second night I was awakened in the middle of the night by someone pounding on the motel room door and yelling for Carol. She opened the door to find her husband collapsed against the door frame sobbing that she had to come home. Now. He needed her. Bad. A little boy in pajamas appeared from behind him whimpering, "Mommy, I think Dad's sick again." Carol threw her clothes on and left, asking me to explain to Dorothy the next morning. I lay awake the rest of the night, every nerve in my body buzzing, miserably wishing I was home with my husband, wishing I was anywhere other than in a motel room in Tacoma alone.

Carol showed up the next afternoon, looking frail, pale and frazzled. Her husband was back in the hospital. She gathered her belongings and left and did not return. I remember nothing about the rest of the week.

Three weeks later I had successfully taught a dozen or so women to use their new Singers and I was looking forward to a friend's wedding on the weekend. Late in the day the greasy little weasel manager approached me nervously clearing his throat and tugging at his skinny little tie. Seems business was down and he had a directive to downsize the staff. He apologetically told me that since I was the most recently hired, he would have to let me go. That's what he said, "let you go," like a fish he was throwing back, I thought sadly. Then he looked really sad and sort of wailed, "I have to sell one of the vans too." I walked out the door and never went back.

I cried all the way home in the car about losing that wretched job, but by the time I got home it had started to seem kind of fortuitous and when I remembered Mr. Weasel wailing about selling the van it seemed funny—actually really funny. I decided to go back to school.

I heard the store closed a few months later.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Artisans of Oaxaca

The artists/craftspeople of Oaxaca are known for textiles and wood carving, especially distinctively carved and painted animals. You see them all over Oaxaca and the quality varies considerably. This man and his family made all the pieces on the table. These are pretty small, but in some of the nice shops we saw large, very elaborate pieces.

We bought a couple of the small pieces from this guy for gifts and I bought the frog below for myself at the artisan's market. It is a little bit larger piece. The frog is about the size of my hand.

Embroidered clothing is another specialty. Emily, if you are reading, this is where I bought your blouse. You might be able to spot it there in the center of the picture.

There is an indoor artisan's market with aisles of wonderful goods.

One of our favorite places was the women artisan's cooperative shop.

Some of the embroidered goods there were amazing. This ensemble looked like something from the Frida movie. Every flower and leaf on that outfit is hand-embroidered.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The streets of Oaxaca

After the hustle and bustle of Mexico City, the beautiful Colonial town of Oaxaca (Wah-ha-kah) seemed a kind of colorful and clean paradise. We had chosen our hotel on advice from a guidebook and it was more charming than we could have imagined, with patios and gardens for relaxing. We met nice guests to visit with at breakfast and a lounge where we could play cards or use the internet.

Just strolling the streets of the Colonial center were a treat for the eyes.

This woman was selling plastic bags full of dry cereal and scowled when I took her picture.

The Santo Domingo Cathedral is lavish and beautiful. I was particularly taken with the checkerboard mosaic patterns on the domes.

Oaxaca has been the site of some pretty serious demonstrations against the government in the past year and there was a death linked to the demonstrations. The U.S. State Department had issued a traveler's warning against going to Oaxaca that was in place for months, so we weren't sure we would go there, but after some research decided it would be safe and we would be careful. One afternoon the main square was blocked off by the police in anticipation of something that didn't materialize. Otherwise it was very peaceful and sadly, the tourist trade is way down because of all that. We were so happy that we had gone and did our best to boost the local economy! (More on shopping to come)

The first evening we were there we walked to the Zocalo (main square) for dinner. On our way back we encountered a parade, celebrating the end of winter and the return of the light. The big puppets were awesome.