Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resolved: Give just a little and help a lot

Today's email brought a story from about a website that helps people with small needs. Modest Needs Foundation, at, gives small grants (usually a few hundred dollars) to the working poor with the intent of helping the recipient make it through an unexpected emergency. Donors can give as little as $5, and the donors pick which applicant to help. What I found encouraging is that 68% of the recipients end up donating back later on. Paying it forward, indeed...

See the full story here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Backup battery for your house or how to go off-grid for up to a week

Panasonic announces a battery for your home, able to store enough energy for a week. I think this is exciting news since having an easy energy storage system will make intermittent energy production more useful. If I have a battery that stores enough power to run my house for a week, then wind or solar is much more useful. Panasonic has announced delivery is planned for 2011. Read the full article here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Electric Bike news

My son is in love with his electric bikes. And now that we've added the bike rack to the back of the Prius, I'm ready to order the conversion kit for my bike and give it a try myself. So I was encouraged by this article from EV World, about the surge in electric bikes worldwide. We're lagging way behind China and the EU in this area but that's not surprising, I guess. If you've ever loved riding a bike, but didn't like hills, or getting too sweaty, check out an electric bike.

Friday, December 11, 2009

December baking and (gluten-free) buckwheat

Between Thanksgiving travel, and my fiber arts program, I have had little time to blog lately. As I gear up to do my seasonal baking, now that my class has finished, I thought I'd share a link to a grist article about buckwheat, an old grain being rediscovered as lots of people go gluten free.

Here's the buckwheat article.

I have hopes of posting photos from the fiber arts program this weekend. Picture me crossing my fingers....

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Giving green - alternative gift registry

Today's featured an article about having a green baby, or actually, how to shop for a new baby using the reuse, recycle, reduce approach. (Read the full article here.) In the article, mention is made of an alternative gift registry from The New American Dream. As my daughter reaches the age where marriages & babies are becoming common among her age group, this seems more relevant than ever. So I share. Gift registry here, New American Dream here. I'll note New American Dream has an article about gift giving in general and simplifying the holidays. I hope your holidays are full of joy!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

lacy maple leaves

Inspired by fall, I decided to try some things out with the burgundy lacy maple leaves in my yard. I planted the tree about 3 years ago, when the winter storms took out 2 apple trees and left a big hole in the sunny back part. This year, the tree is big enough, and has enough branches and leaves, that I didn't feel guilty cutting some off before they fell.

I clipped a small branch so that I got several leaves because I wanted to try and get some depth and layering of the leaves. Some went into glycerin, and in a few days, I'll see how well that works for saving them for me to play with throughout the winter. Here's a black&white scan done on my epson cx3810. I liked the shading I got. I had to play with the settings to get it to show at all. This was annoying since the b&w copy came out great. Not sure why the difference. I suspect I have a lot to learn about how my scanner works and how to manipulate it.

Here's the same layout on the scanner in color. It looked much better on the screen when I was scanning it because the horizontal lines didn't show there.

And here's a photo I took, using macro lens, sidelit by the table light I use while sewing. I taped the leaves to the top of the lid on the printer because of the white background in the lid. I'll be manipulating this in photoshop, and seeing how many different things I can do with it. I particularly like the shadow behind the leaves from the side lighting.

I love these leaves, and I'm still trying to figure out exactly how to capture the contrast between them and the gray rainy fall days when the burgundy pops out at us even with the other fall colors. There's been a piece, or more than one actually, brewing for years. I think this might be the year they happen. More pictures later, as things mature.

Sunday, October 25, 2009 performance art

I'm on the mailing list for, and in fact, James was planning for us to do something, but the flu intervened. However, I urge anyone who likes pictures of everyday people acting from their heart to check it out. Whether you view it as necessary political activism or performance art, it's an amazing collection of pictures. Go to and be amazed! (Note for those who've missed a story about it - organized a day of doing things, art, actions that could be photographed to get the number 350 into public awareness, as it's the number climate scientists say we need to cap carbon at. )

I particularly like the one about the kayakers in the Williamette River, but then that's local as far as I'm concerned, and I canoe so I know how hard it is to hold them in place on a river. To see this photo, and the story about it, go here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fiber Arts Certificate Program, Exercise #1

I've started in the Fiber Arts Certificate Program at the University of WashingtonExtension, and we've had a couple of interesting exercises assigned. My daughter wants to see what I'm doing, and posting here to the blog is an easy way to share.

The first quarter focuses on examining materials to develop a visual vocabulary, and establishing a studio practice. She's having us work with materials other than fiber, so that's an interesting departure that's causing me to examine why I prefer fiber. And the connotations of the materials themselves. All food for thought.

The first exercise was based on small group discussions about fiber and our goals, and what stereotypes we have run into. We were supposed to pick a material from around the house that would refute a particular stereotype and do a material study with it. I picked steel wool as not being warm & cuddly, and also not something you would wear on your head. I went past a study with it, because the idea of Barbie in her outfit just tickled me, and I wanted to work small as the steel wool (0000, Super Fine) is not fun to handle. I think she turned out pretty cute.

This one above is the closer in shot, with her posed on the fabric I used for lining & stabilizing the stole and hat. The next one shows the hat from above, so the roll of steel wool is obvious.

It was an interesting exercise, and a lot of fun to see what the other 20some people in the class did.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Buying solar for your house, CA plan goes national

While I struggle my way back to posting pretty pictures of what art I'm doing, I post this for your edification and amusement. I think I posted last year while on vacation about the California plan to allow people to buy solar panels by borrowing from the government and pay it back as part of the property taxes. Looks like there's a good chance that will be happening at a national level, presumably via encouraging states to do the same programs as California. Since we can sell excess power back to the power company, this seems like a fabulous idea to me. Read about it here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Interesting economic thoughts, resiliency & tough times

Here's a link to an article about being resilient in hard economic times where there are big changes happening. The author writes articles & a book on global terrorism, and his views tend toward the dark, but this is a list of what to do to protect yourself and your community via entrepreneurship. I think it crosses lots of political boundaries and might appeal to many. Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Surprise! Big Oil has pro-CO2 website

I'm sure we're all surprised as all get out at this news. A "citizen" informational website about the benefits of CO2 is actually owned by an oil & gas exploration services company. Astroturf, can you say that?

Details here at

Friday, August 28, 2009

Nintendo gets a green roof

I'm still dealing with medical issues this summer and while I'm trying to get back to blogging regularly, I'll be filling in with interesting links when I don't have an art related post. In that spirit, here's a story about green roofs (and a company called Xero Flor) and the many benefits. I really wish I'd read it before we got our new roof last year. Full story here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Nissan & Tesla, electric cars real soon now...

Today's email has 2 stories about electric cars. One is the announcement of the Nissan Leaf, a purely electric car that will go up to 100 miles on a charge, and use the swap batteries/recharger strategy outlined by Shai Agassi. Read the full article here.

The second was an announcement of the retail stores opening for the Tesla company. Appointment only, la-di-dah, so big bucks for this car (about $100K). But the article has lots of pretty pictures which can be seen here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bixi program, or pedal your own bike taxi...

Wow, where did July go? I was lost in emotional limbo waiting for some liver testing for my husband and I didn't do much more than the minimum required for daily life. Well, okay, I read a lot of books. Anita Blake, Meredith Gentry and other summer fun reading. But, he doesn't have liver cancer, and we're still doing the tests and I just can't hide anymore.

So, here's a link to an interesting story about bike rentals in Montreal. The comment from lowerh8r gives some first hand info about using them. It's too sad that the process of doing this in San Francisco is being held hostage by bogus claims about bicycles hurting the environment. Check out the story here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Oil & food, or where does your fresh fruit come from?

I haven't been posting much as we're in the middle of a series of medical tests. That limbo state where nothing definite is known yet but there's lots of bad possibilities is unsettling. However, as I start shopping for summer produce at the farmer's market, this came through my email today, and I thought I'd share.

Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to save Civilization is by Lester R Brown, and has lots of good thoughts about sustainability. Today's excerpt, read the full thing here, is about oil use in food production, from tractors & fertilizer to processing such as canning, freezing or dehydrating. I'll just add there's a link at the end to the next chapter about urban farming, a subject I'm very interested in. Shortcut to it here.

Here's a teaser quote that I hope will encourage others to buy things with less packaging:

The 14 percent of energy used in the food system to move goods from farmer to consumer is equal to two thirds of the energy used to produce the food. And an estimated 16 percent of food system energy use is devoted to canning, freezing, and drying food—everything from frozen orange juice concentrate to canned peas.

Food staples such as wheat have traditionally moved over long distances by ship, traveling from the United States to Europe, for example. What is new is the shipment of fresh fruits and vegetables over vast distances by air. Few economic activities are more energy-intensive.

Food miles—the distance that food travels from producer to consumer—have risen with cheap oil. At my local supermarket in downtown Washington, D.C., the fresh grapes in winter typically come by plane from Chile, traveling almost 5,000 miles. One of the most routine long-distance movements of fresh produce is from California to the heavily populated U.S. East Coast. Most of this produce moves by refrigerated trucks. In assessing the future of long-distance produce transport, one writer observed that the days of the 3,000-mile Caesar salad may be numbered.

Packaging is also surprisingly energy-intensive, accounting for 7 percent of food system energy use. It is not uncommon for the energy invested in packaging to exceed that in the food it contains. Packaging and marketing also can account for much of the cost of processed foods. The U.S. farmer gets about 20 percent of the consumer food dollar, and for some products, the figure is much lower. As one analyst has observed, “An empty cereal box delivered to the grocery store would cost about the same as a full one.”

Monday, June 15, 2009

Village Building & bike/sail food transport

Today's email brought a report (see full text here) about the Village Building Convergence in Portland, and how their food was transported mostly by sail and/or bicycle. I love hearing how people are making these changes now, before it's all $8/gallon gas, and fights in lines at the gas stations. (Anybody else old enough to remember the embargo in the 70's?) Some great pictures of bikes hauling cargo and some good pointers to others doing good work. An interesting tie in with Langley in that Robert Gilman was a featured speaker. He's now a councilman in Langley where I spent a great time last weekend.

Teaser quote from the article:

The essence of the Village Building Convergence (VBC) can be glimpsed in the project-sharing. After our bike-cart/sailboat delivery of produce on Friday, when everyone had sat down to a splendid vegan dinner (on real plates and steel utensils), three urban ecovillage/co-housing projects in Portland shared their progress. The amount of energy saving, depaving, recycling, composting, gardening, natural building, tool-sharing, car-sharing, consensus decision-making, renewable energy, common meals, etc., were impressive and thus cheered.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Net-zero (almost) energy house being built now!

I spent last weekend on Whidbey Island again, this time for a birthday weekend getaway with the hubster, Jeff. There will be fabulous pictures of the garden and the rufous hummingbirds soon. But today's email brought news I just had to share - there's a green house being built here in Bellevue that will have almost net-zero energy costs. They're combining new insulation materials with a vegetated roof and solar water heating to reduce the energy costs below $500 a year. I'm excited to see this happening so I'm sharing their webpage here. I think people need an example of what can be done now and this is a good first step.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Nature makes you healthier, who knew? (hint: ecopsychologists)

Today's email brought a link to an interesting article about studies done showing that patients in a hospital with a view of trees got out a day faster, used less pain medication, and complained less than patients recovering from the same surgery who had a view of a brick wall. My initial reaction is, well, duh! but a lot of psychology consists of these types of studies verifying scientifically what seems obvious about people. Even better, it's now a branch of psychology with its own journal.

Teaser quote: But if exposure to nature is beneficial, what happens when we withdraw from it? That's one of the defining questions for ecopsychology -- an emerging branch of psychology rooted in the idea that mental health requires, in addition to strong bonds with fellow humans, a connection with nature and an understanding of our place in the ecosystem we are a part of.

Read the whole article here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wine, women and quilting; Part II

Here are the promised pictures of some of the work I did while at the quilting retreat in Langley. I missed getting them up yesterday due to spending the day taking the cat to the vet. (Small digression: Cat seems better even though the vet can't figure out which mild stomach problem is causing his vomiting without several hundred dollars more in tests. I figure since he stops vomiting when we give him soft food, that's what we'll do. ) Mostly I got part way on several pieces. The only finished thing I did was a copy of my favorite shirt, and sorry, no photo of it for now.

The first piece (about 18 x 24") started as a class exercise in a class taught by Esterita Austin. I learned a lot about highlights and shadows, and using paint to make the appliqued pieces look more 3D. That would be the rocks and the tree. On retreat, I added the heron, and did some texturing using rubbing plates & stamps with the fabric dye crayons I like. I wanted to get more a visual difference between the water and sky parts of the piece. I'm going to add some more emphasis on the heron (not to mention legs), so the level of detail on the rocks isn't so different, and some further elements in the sky. Then, I'll decide on the quilting. I like how it's shaping up.

Next, I decided that I liked Gaia's Dancer so much that I wanted to work further with that fabric and theme. This piece is the result - I have more to do in adding foreground creatures. In one of my online groups, we're going to be doing an exhibit with a theme of The Spirit of Nature and I'm going to try out some ideas I have for that on this piece. This is also about 16 x 24 in size. For an idea of relative sizes, the earth globe is about 3.5 inches in diameter.

Then I did some smaller pieces - these are 6 x 9, or about that.

A couple of darker background Tiny Dancers, where I experimented with using stencils as rubbing plates. I think the dragon in the one pn the left worked well.

And 2 with a lighter background. I like the way the dancers are almost transparent, letting the pattern of the background fabric show through somewhat. I like the composition on the right more.

And then last, a piece using some leftover fused fabric from a purse that I made. I grew to love armadillos when I was living in Austin, so I had to buy the armadillo fabric when I saw it. I didn't want to let any of them languish in the dark, so here a few are in a small piece.

I'm heading off for a reunion weekend and the Indy 500 race, leaving tomorrow. I'll be working further with all of these after I get back. I hope you also have a good holiday weekend!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wine, women, and quilting; Part I

I went on a quilt retreat with 7 women from the Northlake Unitarian Church Seamsters Union (and yes, we have a shop steward...) at the Quilting by the Sea shop/retreat the first weekend in May. I got a lot done, had a great time talking, and sipping some delicious wine with our potluck dinner on Saturday with lots of laughter. I also got in some fabulous walks along the beach before everyone else got up. Yes, I'm the one who wakes at 5:30 no matter what. Since I really like having the time for a bird walk while on Whidbey Island, it all works out fine. (Except for the latte places not opening until 7:30 so not even Langley is perfect.) Here's some pictures I took Sunday morning.

The morning started overcast, but it was obvious the sun was trying to break through the clouds. The first shot is this wonderful heron on the beach, backlit by the clouded sun.

I kept walking toward him, snapping as I went, trying to get the right composition and distance. When I got too close, he took off, flew over the water to a spot behind me on the beach. I am completely satisfied with the picture I got of him in flight - it is uncropped, just the way I shot it. Since my camera has a noticeably lag time between my pushing the button and the picture being taken, this was a big accomplishment for me in using my camera well.

And lastly, I got more pictures of him on an area of the beach where other birds were getting their breakfast.

Lots of inspiration in these shots, and the rest I took. I look forward to using the flying one in particular.

Tomorrow, or Tuesday, I'll have shots of the things I worked on at the retreat.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Infrastructure for relocalizing food supply

I went out of town the first weekend of the month for a quilt retreat in Langley on Whidbey island, then had to catch up on everything that piled up around the house during the 3 days I was gone, then I spent a few days catching up on a book series I love (Okay, I'll admit it; I adore the Troubleshooters series by Suzanne Brockmann) and then I got the flu. I promise pictures from the quilt retreat Real Soon Now.

However, today's email from Sightline brought this newstory about Montana food production, and how localization supporters and the state are working together to make locally grown food available year round. Before the advent of agribiz, this was the norm. I'm glad to see it's returning, but geez, Montana being the leader? Who woulda thought...

Read the full story here.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ferns: weekly photo at cougar mtn, 4/21

Those of you with calendars will probably note that I'm late posting these photos too. My last couple of walks at Cougar mtn got me lots of pictures of the ferns growing out of the moss that grows on the trees. I have a couple of pieces percolating right now, and I'm printing photos on fabric today so that I can work on them this weekend while I'm on Whidbey Island with the Seamsters Union. I don't think I'll be using the first photo because there's too much going on in it. But the second one, the closer one with the little fern, it will definitely be used in some way.

This one is here so people can possibly understand why I'm so obsessed with these ferns. I think it's just amazing, the layering of green that happens in the woods here.

And this one was the first of the close ups of a very small fern growing next to a tiny streamlet. I can't help but wonder if it will survive the summer when the stream will dry up.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

microcredit comes to NYC

In my email this morning was this news from I pass it along because I think going small (and relocalizing) is the best way out of the current economic problems for most of us.

My greatest challenge has been to change the mindset of people. Mindsets play strange tricks on us. We see things the way our minds have instructed our eyes to see. /--Muhammad Yunus/

*Good News of the Day:*
Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, known as the "banker to the poor" for making small loans in impoverished countries, is now doing business in the center of capitalism -- New York City. In the past year the first U.S. branch of his Grameen Bank has lent $1.5 million, ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, to nearly 600 women with small business plans in the city's borough of Queens. People around the country are struggling to repay mortgages and credit card debts, but Grameen America says its loan repayment rate is more than 99 percent. [ full story here ]

Monday, April 20, 2009

Backyard Bushtits series finished! Finally!

So here are the completed 4 pieces that were all done starting with the backyard bushtit photo I blogged about earlier, when I finished the first piece. It's taken me over a week to get the photos taken so I could blog about them, and I'm not completely happy with the first photo, but it's "Ship It!" time so here they are.

The first 2 pieces are both about 8 x 8 finished size. And all four are put on stretcher bars so they are ready to hang. I haven't done any pieces this way before and that was a learning experience. (This shot came out a bit darker than I'd like so I'll probably redo it, but not today. I'm itching to go work on my new pieces.)

Backyard Bushtits #3 is approximately 10" x 20" and was my first attempt to explore the theme of birds living in the nooks and crannies that we leave them.

This turned out to be the one I liked the best after it was finished. I didn't completely like the batik fabric that I intercut through the picture as I thought it made it too jangly and disrupted. So I added the silkscreening after I'd already pieced it. (And after #4 was halfway done...) And that didn't quite do it, so I added some more stenciling and watercolor highlights on top of it all.
I think this is the one that gets across my idea, and has the most coherent design.

After being unhappy with #3, I thought about just doing intercut fabric in one direction. Thus, I came up with #4. It's okay, but not as appealing to me as #3. It's also not as big as #3 being only
9" x 17". I did like the effect of silkscreening on the fabric I used to slice up the bird photo and I'll probably be doing this some more in future work.

Frankly, this was an exercise in doing a series, to stretch my own process, and experiment with working multiple interpretations of an idea at a time. I learned a lot about how I work, and got some ideas tried out that had been bubbling in my head for a while. It was worth the effort and I hope, in addition, some of you like some of the pieces that resulted.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Earth Jurisprudence: Legal rights for Gaia

I blogged about Ecuador adding legal rights for nature in their rewritten constitution. And here's a link to an article about where else the idea is catching on, including Vermont (no surprise there) and Maine, where local communities are using the idea to fight corporations (such as Nestle) who want to use their aquifers for bottled water without regard to the local communities' desires or the aquifer recharge rate.

Read the full article here.

I am particularly excited to hear about the folks at the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), based in Pennsylvania. They're providing legal assistance to communities both locally and internationally. I'm intending to look at what I can do to support them. See their webpage at If the rules aren't working, and I believe they're not, then we need to change them rather than wait for disaster.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Weekly photo: Larsen lake greenbelt, 4/11

Having successfully recovered after surgery and the almost neverending flu, I have resumed my weekly photo taking. I took the camera along to Larsen Lake, and was fascinated by the pussy willows budding out. I don't know what the yellow things I photographed are called, but I really liked their shape and contrast against the grey stones on the greenbelt trail. This one was taken using the macro lens on my camera.

And here's a more distant shot of the same things still on the bare branches of one of the many willows along the lake.

I'm mulling over how to use the macro one in a fiber art piece. I'm thinking I'll work smaller, probably 8 x 11 and see what happens if I focus on the textures and contrast of the colors.

Here's hoping you're finding your own inspiration this spring!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tidal power test in BC

Today's email brought a story about British Columbia testing tidal power generation in the islands off Vancouver Island. Since I live in the Pacific Northwest area, I follow water power ideas. I think each region will have to find alternate power sources that suit their strengths. Solar in Arizona, hydro in the PNW. Apparently, some of the folks in BC think the same.

First few paragraphs:

North Vancouver Island will soon be home to the first commercial-scale tidal current electrical turbine in North America.

The B.C. government announced last week that it is giving $2 million in funding to Canoe Pass Tidal Energy Corporation for the project.

Company officials said the turbine will be running before the end of 2010 in the tidal channel between Quadra and Maude Island, north of Campbell River.

To read the full article, go here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I'm Back! with electric vehicle updates...

I seem to finally be over the dreadful flu and post-surgery lassitude that has overwhelmed me for the last couple of months. So, I'm starting off my return to blogging with a couple of links about electric vehicles. One is Segway's 2 seater version of their personal transportation. Since it has 2 wheels, and no motor, is it legally a bicycle? I'm looking forward to trying one out. Check it out here.

The next bit of news is about a trial run of a fully electric car in Vancouver BC. The vehicle is freeway capable, and is from Mitsubishi. It's being tested in several cities. Read the full article here.

Wow, this is sure happening fast. And a good thing too, if the recent articles about Antarctic ice melting are any indication.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Gratitude is good for you...

Today's email brought a link from DailyGood on gratitude and its effect on the parasympathetic nerve system. Turns out it's good for you physically to think about things that you feel grateful for, that enrich your life. Good thoughts, good health. What a concept.

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Artists reinvent the world, sustainably...

I'm not doing much art myself right now, as I suffer through what is apparently the longest case of flu on record, but I wanted to share this article about artists in Detroit buying up abandoned houses and turning them into off-grid homes. I was talking about this sort of idea to my husband when I heard about houses in Cleveland going for $2000 on ebay. It's an interesting idea, and I think we'll see it spread. Housing is a huge part of normal living costs. If you can slice that down to nothing, and you make your living through galleries or the net, well, it makes a lot of sense.

Here's a teaser paragraph:
"Although it is small consolation in the face of overwhelming economic strife in Detroit and elsewhere as the foreclosure crisis continues, this story gave me a real feeling of hope and renewal. To me, this example and other corresponding cases – like the artist-driven re-imaginings of shopping malls and big box stores seems symbolic of an even larger cultural shift. The arts community isn't just moving into one downtrodden urban neighborhood; rather, they're taking on the ruins of the unsustainable. They're taking on big box stores, shopping malls, and grid-connected homes in the car capitol of North America. And they're not just creating new art. They're seizing the opportunity to turn old shells of buildings into independent, renewable energy-powered, 21st century-ready spaces."

Talk about recycle, reuse or make do! For the full story, go here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Friedman on moving to a sustainable culture

Today's email from Culture Change brought a column from Thomas L. Friedman, the nationally syndicated columnist. I guess if even the East Coast intellectuals are catching on, it must be true, eh? I liked the commentary that Culture Change had to make so I'm passing on the link for their reprint rather than the direct link to the column.

I particularly liked this paragraph:

Let’s today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”

Read the whole column here.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Junk Cars morph into green manufactured homes

Okay, that headline caught my eye in my morning email. An interesting lead, especially for someone married to an engineer type, made me go read the whole article. Super energy efficient affordable homes made from scrap cars. I can only applaud...

Read the article here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Herbal chai, tasty and fights colds

As my winter cold is dragging on and on and on, I'm realizing that I haven't been drinking my cold weather daily cup of herbal chai. Could be part of the problem. And since I'm hearing from friends that they too are having cold/flu problems, I thought I'd share the recipe. I got this recipe from an acupuncturist when I was living in Boulder. I found it did indeed help me feel warmer and fight sinus congestion. And it's very tasty.

1.5 inches fresh ginger root (peeled or unpeeled, doesn't seem to matter) sliced thinly
8-10 cinnamon sticks (I split mine in half to get more exposure to the water)
10 cardamon pods (or about 50 cardamon seeds if you can't get pods) Split the pods open slightly
10 whole cloves
5 peppercorns

Put everything in 5 cups water, Boil for 30 minutes total. I bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and put a lid on the pot with a slight gap at the edge of the lid. Add honey, lemon, milk or rice milk to taste. I have also used heated herbal chai as water to make tea with when I want the kind of chai you get at a latte stand.

Yields about a quart of chai.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Recycling pillows and green living tips

One of my regular emails is a green living tips newsletter. This time, I did let myself get distracted by the sidebar link to one about recycling/repurposing foam pillows. With my allergies, we do this regularly because of accumulated allergens and dust mites and it always gives me a twinge to toss them so frequently. I especially like the post from Sheila in Texas about repurposing multiple things. Lots and lots of tips from all sorts of people make this a very useful place.

Check it out here: green living tips. They plant a tree via Trees for the Future for each new subscriber so just subscribing will help the planet. How cool is that?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Backyard Bushtits #1 finally finished

I've obviously been trying to go faster than my body wants, as I'm struggling with a cold in addition to the surgery recovery so it's taken me quite some time to finish up Backyard Bushtits #1. BUT, it's done, finished, even ready to hang and it will be put on my etsy store sometime next week.

I learned a lot from doing this work in a series and I'll post later about the rest of the pieces as they finish up. Right now there are 4 of them. I've put the word "LESSON" in caps throughout my post for the things I've learned.

Here's the photo I started with. The bushtits travel in large flocks, up to a couple of dozen little birds, and they tumble across backyards here in western washington. (Probably elsewhere, but I'm not motivated enough right now to go look up their range map. I leave it as an exercise for the reader.) I really liked the way the four of them looked like a puppy pile so I snapped the photo through the greenhouse window in my kitchen and played with it in adobe until I had it cropped to a pleasing composition. LESSON #1: my technique of cutting up photos and doing a textile collage with them works better when I don't start with a good composition. It's much harder to create one that's different from the photo when I like the photo just fine to start with.

Here's the top without much done to it. I was not happy with it, and did a little in the way of paintstiks and stamps to try and rescue it with varying the colors and tones a bit. LESSON #2: remember the one rule (vary all intervals) from the beginning. The photo has more contrast and variation than the fabric printed version of the photo and I ended up having to add that back in. When it prints on the fabric and loses all the variation in color/tone that it had to start with, maybe it's time to switch to another photo or idea. It's not like I have a shortage of them, anyway....

Then I did more surface design work on it, and quilted it lightly, then put it on stretcher bars. I'm okay with how it looks, altho the composition is still more static than I like. LESSON #3: Get the composition right to begin with, improv work can go on top of a good composition but can't correct one I don't like to start with. LESSON #4: don't put the batting all the way out to the edge of the fabric for stretcher bars. I don't like the bulk on the sides and corners when I wrap the fabric around with the batting going all the way to the edges. We'll see if I can get this one better on #2 which is now in the quilting phase and should be finished before Monday.

I'll just point out that the yellow added to the birds shows up much stronger in the photo than it does in person. I'll have to play with the photography before I list this piece on my etsy store. I'm not entirely sure it's fixable as part of the problem is the reflective quality of the silk I printed the photo on. The other possibility is that the watercolor pencils I used reflect differently enough that they will always pop out visually in a photo. We'll have to see...

Monday, February 9, 2009

weekly photo: Larsen lake 1/31

I'm late posting last weekend's photo, which is just as well, as I didn't get photos this weekend because I'm having a delayed reaction to having surgery. I'm spending a few days curled up in my pj's and reading rather than doing much of anything. But, last weekend, I took some photos at Larsen Lake. The first one is another interesting one of the great blue heron. It's official, I am obsessed with him.

The second is a possible starting point for a piece based on "urban decay". It's not really the typical urban shot, but Larsen Lake is within sight of a major street, and in the middle of a city, so that sounds pretty urban to me. I like the reflections on the water and may end up using it for something else if I find something more appropriate for the urban decay piece.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Going green: high speed rail

While we're looking at spending money on national infrastructure and building the future green economy, here's some thoughts about how we can try to catch up with others who already have high speed rail. The source of this excerpt, Plan B 3.0 by Lester Brown, is one of the books being used by the folks in Washington and other places to push for a comprehensive restructuring of the US economy. I think they're aiming in the right direction so it's worth checking out.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Weekly photo: Larsen lake greenbelt, 1/25

There's been a great blue heron at Larson Lake around the time I normally walk about half the time over the past 2 weeks. He likes a stump that juts out of the lake fairly close to the pier I go out on when I walk. But he doesn't like people being too close. So when I go on the pier, he flies across the lake to the quieter part on the other side. I've been using my photos of herons a lot lately - I seem to have a thing for them right now. I'm already planning how to turn this photo into a piece. I like the lines and colors of the bare branches and the reflection of the light on the lake.

Since the heron shot was at a distance, I decided to do a closeup shot of something. I'm in a facebook art group that's talking about texture right now so I tried to find something that showed the texture of the woods in winter. Here are 3 shots of the same spot with the log shifted in the view. I'm trying to decide which I like best as a composition. Comments on your choice are welcome.

First, I spotted the log, liked the texture of the cut end, and the moss growing on the side. So, like any snapshot, I put it in the center.

Then I decided to focus on the moss, so I shot it with the cut end to the right side of the view.

And last, I decided I liked the parallel line of the snag in the background so I shot it with the mossy log on the left.

It was definitely an interesting exercise in looking closely and thinking about composing with the camera. I think I'll learn a lot this year from doing these weekly shots. And it should be a fascinating look at how my local spots change over time. My opinion: I think #2 is the most effective composition, but I'm not entirely able to say exactly why.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Art: Working smaller, adding texture

I sent off a piece to the SAQA 20th anniversary traveling exhibit yesterday after facing an interesting couple of challenges in creating something for it. I had 2 new constraints: an 8" limit on the size of the final image, and a square format. I usually work in a much larger rectangle. But, this is an important exhibition to participate in, so I dug in and went to work.

First of all, here's the piece that went off, Tiny Dancers #1. It was my second try at a subject after I was so unhappy with the first one. I feel that I managed to work smaller with this piece and still have my love of color and sense of design show well. I've also combined motifs from two earlier works so in addition to working smaller, I'm doing a series. That's a realization from hindsight.

The idea came to me in that foggy pre-sleep time in bed on Friday night. It was fused, stamped, stitched and photographed by Sunday noon. This working smaller could become addictive...

Also, this finished at 9.5" square and will be matted so that only 8" shows. I'm hoping they realize they should cut off the bottom of the globe, not the outstretched hand of the dancer. At least, that's what I'd do. I'm looking forward to seeing it in the exhibit of work by all us studio art quilters.

My first try at a piece was completely unsatisfactory. I didn't take a picture of it and now wish I had so I could show the before and after. I started with a photo of bushtits in my backyard. I loved the texture of the lichen on the tree branches and the way it echoed the color of the tiny bushtits. And I loved the way the 4 little birds were almost doing a puppy pile. But, when I cut the photo printed on fabric up and fused it to the background hand dyed fabric, it was all a monochromatic blur. I wasn't happy. And running it by my husband, the red green colorblind family member who aids me as a tonal viewer, verified that it was impossible to see anything but a dappled green square. So I set it aside, and fretted about what to do, and then had my aha! moment which resulted in the Tiny Dancers #1 piece above.

As part of Tiny Dancers, I pulled out some fabric dye crayons and stamps and texture plates to pull things together a bit. The spirals I added to TD this way aren't as noticeable because of the richness of the background fabric. But, I liked the effect enough to start wondering if this wasn't a way to rescue the poor bushtits. So, I went to town, experimenting with everything that seemed likely and using lots of different colors. I really like the result. The visual texture I added between the photo pieces highlights the lichen texture on the branches that I absolutely love. And the orange and navy bits make the green and grey less bland. It's still a calmer piece than is usual for me, but I no longer want to burn it so I'm calling it good.

It's 11" square right now, so there's quite a bit on the edges that I was considering excess. I'm thinking I'll put it on stretcher bars so it finishes to the 8" square size that is intended. And then move on to the next experiment using this photo and see what else I can discover about how I work.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Going from greed to green

Today's email brought an article "7 Fixes from the Green Economy" which I thought worth sharing. There's a discussion of what to do as individuals, how it fits into a bigger plan, and how to pay for the changes without furthering damaging the economy. Since one of my goals for this year is maximizing energy efficiency in our house, I'm interested in sources that relate to that. This looks like a good one.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

2009 Goals

In the course of a wide-ranging discussion of New Year's resolutions, one of my fellow quiltart members recommended a book entitled Your Best Year Yet. I checked it out of the library and found I already knew most of the material, but realized I hadn't been applying it as well as I'd like so I decided to come up with a goal list for this year. And stick to just those goals. My problem being that I tend to overcommit my time and energy.

Here's my list for this coming year, focusing on the major 3 areas I want to work in:


Redo webpage using plone or other cms
  • Add galleries with thumbnails
  • Create separate blog for sales or add shopping cart to webpage
Increase productivity/skills
  • Work in studio daily
  • Take classes (digital camera, painting)
Produce income
  • Teach classes
  • Add shirts for sales
  • List small pieces for sale online

Take Reiki Level 3 training

Chakra owner's manual work

Lose 20 pounds
  • Return exercise to base level
  • Cut back on extras in diet (less wine and chocolate)
Declutter life
  • Focus on main roles/goals
  • Get rid of stuff that's not being used or creating beauty in my life

Increase food production in garden
  • Plant perennial veggies
  • Increase food preservation skills
Maximize energy efficiency
  • Garage insulation
  • Energy audit
Paint exterior
  • Get quotes
  • Estimate labor/costs to do ourselves
Investigate IRA land possibilities

The book recommends 10 goals and I've exceeded that limit slightly. How typical. However, all progress is made one step at a time so this is my first step.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Weekly photo: Cougar Mtn Park

This year, I'm focusing on doing more fiber art using photos printed on fabric. Mostly I'll be using ones I take of birds and local landscapes, with a few bird shots from a couple of bird photographers I'm hoping to work with. In order to do this, I have to take pictures. So, one of the things to do to accomplish my goal is to take weekly pictures on my walks at either the greenbelt (Blueberry Lake) or Cougar Mountain Park. This week's photos are from Cougar Mountain. Some of the spring plants are budding out, but mostly there's the winter sparseness. And the winter water so that the streams are still running. I looked for things that might inspire me to interpret them or incorporate them into a fiber piece. This is one of the possibles from this week. I liked the way the water glimmered between the dead leaves and the stark tree trunks.

The second photo is from Coal Creek which runs along the meadow restoration site. I'm fascinated by the creek and the very narrow footbridge crossing it. Today, a fern next to the bridge caught my eye.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Going green, national level plan

I get a lot of email from a lot of different sites about what they're doing, and today brought news of The Real Deal, from the Post Carbon Institute. I've skimmed it this morning, and it looks like it's written at a reasonable level, both in covering why we need to act and what there is to do. I'm glad to see a coherent plan laid out, and equally glad to see they're getting name endorsements so it stands a chance of getting publicity. It's only 24 pages long which is also a big plus.

Check it out:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Reinstalling my computer - or what I did with my weekend

My computer crashed. I was forced to realize how much I rely on this technology to stay connected to the people in my life. I'd been thinking of reinstalling because something went wrong with the computer writing to CDs so this just sort of moved everything up. I first tried to avoid it by cleaning up the drive and defragging which took all day Saturday, and I'll just note that the defragging shows a really pretty colored display showing before and after. I'd just recommend that people do this for their machines a little more frequently than every 5 years. Today was spent admitting defeat, and reinstalling. The problem with reinstalling is that you also have to reinstall all the software you want to continue to use. I'm about halfway through that, and have a couple of things to recommend, just in case you want to avoid the pain I'm suffering. First, keep all the installation disks in one place, including any drivers you've downloaded, especially if you keep hardware until it dies and the drivers might no longer be on the websites of the manufacturer. Second, do regular backups and keep those with the installation stuff. Third, a list of software you've installed from downloads would also be a good idea. We had to create the lists for all of these items and I'll just say how happy I am that my darling husband is a professional in the computer field and very knowledgeable about Microsoft. Otherwise, I have no idea how long I'd still be doing all of this. I'm still not done, there's a bunch of stuff to reinstall, plus restoring the backed up data. But I'm past the worst of it, especially the frustration of not being able to respond to comments, or even read my email.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gaia's Dance - first art of 2009

I finished a piece that's been in the works for over a year. Finally. And I'm really happy with the results. I'm submitting it to the Sacred Threads show but won't hear if it's been accepted or not until the end of March. Here's the full size photo of the piece.

And here's a detail shot of the quilting. I did a post earlier of the trial piece for the quilting so some of this should look familiar to anyone who saw that post.

For those who are interested in the technical details, the piece is 38" wide and 47" high. The little dancing people are cut from several different fabrics and were individually hand cut (hence the long elapsed time as after cutting them all out, I needed to take a break). The globe and the lotus blossoms were printed on silk using my epson cx3810 printer.

I'm really pretty happy with it and I'm looking forward to applying some of the things I learned to future pieces.