Friday, October 20, 2017

Totally treehugger life is now possible


I've been furiously working on the unpacking and simplifying going on after our move in my attempt to get it all done by Halloween so you might have noticed I haven't been blogging about my art, or my reading or even sharing some very green post I've spotted.  Treehugger.com made that come to an end today.

I have to admit the lede alone made me LOL.  I have such a weakness for Greens with a sense of humor....

"What more can we say; here is a single post on TreeHugger that has  a tiny house that is powered by solar panels and a big Powerwall battery, and it is clad in wood, and it is towed by a Tesla. We will just say that there is a folding e-bike in the trunk of the car to make it TreeHugger perfect. Dress up the vegan driver in ethical clothes and we have nothing more to write."



Here's the link to Tesla's tiny home, totally solar powered.  You have to go to Australia to see it now but I look forward to the caravan making it here someday soon.




Sunday, September 24, 2017

Gluten free apple fritters, oh yea...

My plans for this weekend got derailed by a major allergy attack (and those new GF crackers went in the trash, pronto) so after using up 3 boxes of tissues and taking double doses of anti-histamines, I fell back on cooking to let me feel productive.

Last of 10 fritters only 3 hours old


Someone posted a link to a recipe on line for Amish Apple Fritters.  I love apple fritters more than any other fried pastry thing so I printed it out and put it on the make list.  First, we bought some apples.  The organic Gala's were on sale at the co+op so I grabbed a bag of them even though the recipe calls for Granny Smith or Gravenstein. Jeff reports they're meh as hand fruit but they worked just fine in the fritters.  

And I subbed some things out:  the Namaste brand of GF all-purpose baking flour from Costco, and 2 duck eggs from my daughter's flock of ducks instead of the chicken eggs I am allergic to.  More notes about how it all went below with my current version of the recipe (the original can be found at 1krecipes.com/amish-apple-fritter-recipe.)

Ingredients:

For fritters:  

3-4 cored, peeled and chopped apples to give a heaping 2 C of apples in my pyrex measuring cup
2 tsp lemon juice, drizzed over apple pieces after chopping (I used the bottled frozen lemon juice)

Vegetable oil for deep frying, enough to come halfway up the pan ( I used a cast iron skillet with about a pint of  organic sunflower and canola which was strained and stored after frying to be used for the next time).  Put on high on the stove top to reach at least 375F by the time you mix up the batter.  If you have an electric skillet or deep fryer, of course use that.


Cream in stand mixer for 1-2 minutes: 

2 eggs
2 TB sugar (organic granulated from TJ's)

In a small bowl, combine:
1 C all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon (I buy organic cinnamon sticks and grind them myself.)
1/2 tsp salt

Add dry ingredients to the mixer along with 1/4 C milk.

Mix well.    Take the paddle off the mixer and watch the rock, paper, scissors match for who gets to lick the beater.  Add the apple chunks and stir them into the batter with a spoon.

Set up a paper towel lined tray (I used 3 layers) to put them on as they come out.  Set up a good way to sprinkle powdered sugar on them when they're hot.

Now you are ready to fry.  Check the oil temp.  Once it hits 375F, scoop out a full spoonful of batter, flatten it slightly with a small scraper and scrape it into the oil gently.  My skillet took 3 or 4 at a time but I did them a little too big to start.  When they get to a true golden brown color, flip using 2 spoons and brown well on the other side.  You might need to flip them again to be sure they cook all the way through.  The whole process should take about 5-6 minutes.  (I should have done a test one to be sure my size wasn't so large that they wouldn't cook thoroughly.  I'll do this next time and maybe increase the oil level.  This is why I say to flatten them slightly so they aren't a big mound.)  Remove from oil to paper towels and sprinkle with powdered sugar unless you plan to glaze them later (see original recipe.)  Repeat until all the batter is fried.  Share and enjoy!






Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Scudder Pond: appreciating the common birds

I did my approximately weekly trip to Scudder Pond yesterday, early in the damp & chilly morning.  Unfortunately for me, the birds aren't used to fall yet, so they took the chill and cloudy skies to mean it wasn't daytime yet so they slept in.  Fortunately for me, one of the birds there was a female mallard who was taking her time doing her morning bath and breakfast quite close to the trail.  She was so close that I had trouble not cropping off her beak or tail when I zoomed in to get lots of detail.



That much zoom made the patterns in her feathers very clear.  At a distance, through the binocs, she would normally look like a brown duck with some shading.  Here, her patterning is clear and now I understand why the female gadwall is described as looking like a female mallard only smaller and with white secondaries instead of blue.

Next up was a loud red-wing blackbird perched most of the way across the pond.  I'm  still figuring out the camera and I'm not sure why the back of the blackbird is purple but the camera was very consistent about this as I saw later with other shots of the mallard.  He's black, like a crow not purple.  



On the way back out,  I got to focus on practicing with my camera and appreciating the textural beauty of the mallard's feathers especially against the log and leaves in the water.



Other local birders are reporting warblers and shorebirds migrating through so I'm hoping next week's trip will give me some more camera practice with more birds.  For now, it was nice to have the artistic exercise of seeing all the textures in play in an ordinary scene.



Monday, September 4, 2017

Scudder Pond birding delights me!

Since it's been sunny and warm here in Bellingham, I decided to try out some other birding spots for my morning walk.  And last week, I went to Scudder Pond (connected to Whatcom Falls park by a lovely trail) not once but twice with fabulous birding experiences both time.  And I added 3 birds to my 2017 list bringing me to a total of 85.  New birds for the year:  Wood Duck, Pileated Woodpecker, and Black-throated Grey Warbler.

Scudder Pond is a wonderful birding experience.  The trail starts with the pond to the right and a wooded area to the left that sits between the trail and the water flow from Lake Whatcom to the falls.  So there's lots of habitat for birds and lots of water.  It's also a great place to see wildlife other than birds as I know from previous encounters with a beaver and a couple of deer this time.

The Wood Duck was my first bird of the trip as he was at the end of the pond hanging out on a log and doing his morning bath routine.  His breeding plumage is not grown in yet so I had to identify him mostly by the partial white outlining of the non-breeding plumage plus I got a really good look at his lovely red eye.  Checking my field guide just now, I am happy to realize that the breeding plumage comes back in September so the fabulous wood duck markings will be seen soon.


Least blurry shot of preening wood duck

Next up was the wonderful time spent watching the Pileated Woodpecker work his way up a snag.  The photos I took of him on the trunk of the snag are too blurry to show the bird because I'm still learning how to work with my new camera.  It insisted on focusing on the branches in front of the bird.  Once he got up to the top, I got some great shots but the sun was so bright that much of the brilliant red crest was washed out.

Pileated on his way up to the top of the snag

Here's one with some of his crest.  



I had Pileateds as regular visitors to our backyard in Bellevue and this is one of the birds I've missed seeing regularly so it was nice to watch him for a while.

Other birds seen at Scudder Pond last week (2 trips total):
  • 3 hummingbirds
  • goldfinches
  • Stellar's Jay
  • American Crow
  • Black-capped Chickadee, many
  • Cedar Waxwings
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Black-headed Grosbeak
  • Red-winged Blackbird, many
  • Bushtit
  • Robin
  • Orange-crowned warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Black-throated Gray Warbler
  • Junco
  • Song Sparrow
Unsurprisingly, I got no photos of the warblers.  I was lucky to id them all and to have a 3 warbler day on my second day at the pond.  All in all, it was a great week of birding and I look forward to more as we head into the fall migration.








Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Making orcas happy by going green

I'm struggling with some health issues so no new art stuff this time.  Instead, I'm spreading the word about changing some of the ferries in Washington to hybrid or electric.  Norway has already done this successfully and here's a couple of articles about current plans to go that direction here.

In Skagit, there's this about an all electric ferry.  http://crosscut.com/2017/08/washingtons-ferry-future-orca-friendly-low-emission-electric-vessels/  Again, we see the initially higher upfront cost to convert to electric and the compelling significantly lower maintenance & fuel costs.  The big bonus is lowering the noise level for the orcas.

Norwegian electric ferry, photo from Nor-Shipping



Even closer to home for me, our local shipyard has landed a contract to build a hybrid ferry for Red and White Fleet of San Francisco.  Read about the details here.  Lots of progress going on and I am glad to see it.



Thursday, August 10, 2017

Robinson Crusoe Island, or where the firecrown lives

I've decided to pursue the endangered hummingbirds as my first art work for my new studio.  I'm going to start with a classic hummingbird at a flower design.  Obviously, first step is to research the flowers found on the Juan Fernandez islands.  Since I have never been to the Juan Fernandez islands and have no photos of my own, I am forced to rely on using photos from the web as references.

A little research told me that Robinson Crusoe Island is one of the islands in the cluster and that led me to a wonderful webpage,  https://www.cascada.travel/en/News/Robinson-Crusoe-Island-Wildlife-Guide.

This page has all kinds of info about the islands such as it being a National Park since 1935.  Here is where I found the name of 2 of the flowers that the Firecrown uses for food.  The Cabbage Tree (dendroseris litoralis) has large yellow flowers which will go perfectly with the teal & cobalt colors of the female Firecrown.  The first photo shows the foliage well and the drape of the flowers.

From http://www.strangewonderfulthings.com/

And here's a closeup of the flower from the same webpage.



This will be a fun flower to do because of the long skinny petals which will fit perfectly with some traditional methods of piecing.

The other flowering bush that feeds the Firecrown is the Juan Bueno (rhaphithamnus venustus) tree.  It is at a much higher altitude, and has much smaller leaves than the cabbage tree which will give me some variety in the textures of the foliage which I plan to use for the background.


I've picked these 2 flowers because the colors set off the 2 colors of the Firecrown hummingbirds.  Complementary colors cause the feel of the piece to be more energetic rather than soothing and this is exactly what I want for the feisty hummingbirds.  Next step, doing the design sketches so I know what poses I like for the hummers and what the overall composition will be.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

August goals made explicit

I am a list maker.  I have a nice big white board in my studio where I list the projects I have in progress and ones I want to do next.  As I come into the final stretch on unpacking and setting up the studio, I decided to make my next month's goals public.  Because external deadlines are easier for me to meet.  So, here's what I want to accomplish in August.

First, of course, finish the unpacking & setup.  This was my goal for July and got delayed due to a nasty summer cold made worse by the last few days of smoke hanging over Bellingham like winter clouds.

Next, in no particular order, finish the Green Eco-chicken.  This is the fourth or fifth chicken I've done and while doing this one, I'm taking notes so I can publish a pattern for it.  It's also the only goal for August that I have a picture to share which is why it's being mentioned early on.



When I was doing research for the first chicken, I realized chickens came in an amazing array of colors but not green.  And since I'm in the PNW, green can also mean Green so I started thinking about what an Eco chicken would look like.  So far, I've picked the fabric for the chicken from sea to mountain (right to left in the photo).  What's left to do?  The stitching on the edges between colors, some stamping or painting added on to most of the stripes to make the sea to mountain more explicit, and creating the background.  I'm of 2 minds about the background:  a single piece of patterned fabric or a background with realistic photos collaged onto fabric to suggest the whole Seattle/Green idea.

My other major project for this month is to do some silkscreening with the new soy wax pastes I bought for myself in January.  Due to the whole packing/moving thing, I haven't had a chance to play with them yet.  I have a large plastic bin of thrift store shirts to upcycle in some way so my goal for this area is to do a dozen shirts this month.  I'm going to use the screens I have already made so that probably means leaves or dragonflies.

Along with making the shirts, I'm going to reactivate my etsy store and update my webpage.  I'm still deciding what goes in which place but I definitely need to redo my webpage to reflect all the sales I did at my moving sale in March and the changes I'm making to what I'm working on.

Longer term, I have my endangered species piece to start.  My goal for August is to do the paper sketch which will include picking a flower for the hummingbirds to hover near and what pose I want them to be in.

And in the personal life area, we are putting a storage shed in the backyard.  My motivation is that moving storage stuff from the garage into the shed will give me room in the studio to do demos and consultations.

I have a tendency to try to do too much when doing my goal setting so I tried this month to rein that in a bit.  We'll see how I did in 4 weeks.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Inspirations for developing new series

I was out most of the last week with a multi-day migraine so I had lots of time to think.  And since I'm really, really close to having the whole studio unpacked and set up, I started thinking about what kind of bird series I want to do this year.

My initial thought was to use my photos but since I just got a new camera there are some issues with setting up the process of sorting, moving and keywording the new pics so that they fit in with the old pics.  And I'm only partway moving all my photos into the cloud so big gnarly issue there.

I went back through my ideas & inspiration notebook and checked my wishlist on Amazon.  On my wishlist was a very expensive book about extinct birds which is now 2/3rds of the price it was originally. Excellent!  Put that into my cart.


Next, I thought about researching endangered species of birds so the googling began.  There are at least 1200 (out of the 10,000 species of birds) that are endangered and most of the top 100 were not very colorful.  With the notable exception of the Juan Fernandez Firecrown.  The males are orange with a fiery crown but the females are teal which originally led people to believe they were 2 different species.   Isn't she a beauty?

 Photo by Fabrice Schmitt, from abcbirds.org

Further googling led to this list of endangered hummingbirds.  There are 30some endangered hummingbirds which could be a series all by itself.  I also found the Washington State list here.  That is also possibly a whole series of its own.  So I'm narrowing it down and I'm excited by the idea.  I just need to wait for my book order to arrive and make a decision.  I like all of these ideas so I think I might end up listing 6 ideas so I can just roll a die to pick one.  Or I could do a poll.  Which idea do you like best?


Friday, July 7, 2017

Birthday toys: new camera & bubbling bird fountain

Yesterday was my birthday and I've been getting presents from friends for over a week.  One of them was a camera that I was scheming to get sometime soon;  the Nikon Coolpix.  And my present to myself, bought with some of the money now freed up by not having to buy the camera, was a hanging bird bath with a floating solar fountain.  But back to the camera.

Mischa gave me the camera just before we off on one of our mid-week birding trips.  We went to Squalicum Beach  because the new camera has a much better zoom option and I wanted to try it out on the nest I spotted out on the pier.  And it worked a treat.  These are ospreys not eagles which I know because while I taking the pictures, the one not on the nest opened his wings and showed me his mostly white underside.  And the nest is on a pier not in a tree which is much more likely to be an osprey.  I saw a smaller osprey earlier this year in the trees near the beach so I will now have to investigate how many broods osprey do per year.


It's still hard to see the details on the birds but it's way better than I was doing with my binoculars or old camera.  So my goal of being sure there were ospreys on the nest is accomplished.

I also tried some closer shots of the birds who were out and about that day.  I got a good one of a crow taking a branch somewhere despite his being at the top of a tree that was about 100 feet away from me.


And then I got a couple of much closer shots of a sparrow singing at the top of a young conifer.  He likes this tree which is next to the path and is fairly comfortable with people getting close to him.

My first shot was a singing side view.



And then he apparently decided he didn't like the picture taking and gave me a direct look before taking off.



Given that I haven't read the manual yet to understand what functions the camera has, I'm pretty pleased with the shots I got.

Today's mail brought the Audubon bird bath and the solar powered floating fountain I ordered.  I had the hook it is hanging from already on hand having tried to use it outside the kitchen window.  (It was too short for that window.) The hook is about 84" tall and with the chains, the bird bath hangs just about eye height for me so I can easily check the water level and do any other maitenance needed.

 It bubbles quite nicely with the fountain cap removed.  With the cap, it empties the bird bath in about 5 minutes since the water jets so high it goes outside the bird bath.



 I foresee some nice times sitting on the porch, reading or writing, and watching to see the birds visiting the fountain.  I'll almost certainly be adding some bird feeders to the yard in the near future.  But I want to give the fountain some time to draw the birds by itself first.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Planning where to put what roses in our new yard

My cold/flu bug is hanging on so I'm spending time planning things as I run out of steam too fast if I try to actually do them.  Today, I went for a short walk to the Cornwall Rose Garden where all the roses are blooming quite nicely.  I have had roses in our gardens since we lived in a house in Pasadena that was a test garden and had 75 rose bushes in the front yard, ten along the side of the house and another 5 in the back yard.  Each place we've lived has had a different climate so I've had to investigate which roses were better suited.  And I figured the Rose Garden here would be a good place to start.



Our front yard faces west and has nothing blocking the sun to the south so it will be a fabulous full sun area for roses and herbs.  Right now, there's a lilac bush, another flowering bush with purple blossoms, a yellow leafed bush and some flowering invasive viny things.  So we already have some colors going on.


I'm currently thinking about a yellow/orange multicolor rose and a lavender one to start.  Those are my favorites and Jeff likes the traditional very lush red rose.   Unfortunately, of the 3 roses I picked as possibles at the rose garden, only one had a label with the name.    That one was one of the two multicolors to think about. The other multicolor might be a  hybrid tea...



And the labeled one is a floribunda.  I have mixed feelings about the floribundas because I always end up cutting a whole cluster which means buds that don't always open get cut too.


And the only one that came close to my desire for a lavender rose, was this one which was not doing well yet and was in the heirloom section.


It photographs as more pink than it looked in person.  Clearly, I have more research to do.  Since I have lots of raised beds to put in before I can even think of buying the plants, it's just as well.  But shopping for new plants is almost as much fun as planting them and watching them grow so good times ahead either way.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Birding photo backlog: bushtit vs Bewick's wren

I'm down with some nasty bug that's going around so when I'm not sleeping, coughing, sneezing or staring into space, I'm doing small things on my computer.  Today's small thing is processing some of my bird photo backlog.

These are from March 28.  Mischa and I were at Squalicum Beach Park and when we spotted this little grey-brown bird,  our first thought was a bushtit.  Breeding season is pretty much the only time you get to see bushtits by themselves as they're usually tumbling through the air in groups of a dozen or more.  So I got my camera up to see if he'd sit still for a pic.  And I got this shot.



Then he decided to really make his presence known, tilted his head back and started singing.  That's when I saw the distinctive big white eyebrow and realized this was a Bewick's Wren.


I've never before considered these 2 birds to look much alike so this was a learning experience.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Cedar Waxwings at Tennant Lake Park

On May 31, Mischa and I went birding at Tennant Lake Park in Ferndale.  Unfortunately for us, her gps had the same address for Tennant Lake Park and the wildlife refuge area at the other end of the lake  so we ended up at the wrong place initially.   After driving around to the other end of the lake, we set out to see what birds were still around as we were less than an hour from dusk.

Mischa always gets distracted by the fragrance garden so there was some lingering there before we went out on the boardwalk.  When we came to the fork in the boardwalk, we took the right hand path that was not wheelchair accessible.  And we found a plethora of waxwings.



Since it was getting dark, it was hard to see details and this is the first photo that had enough light to show the yellow tail tip and the black eye band.  I was focusing on the one in the lower left when the second one flew in.  Since waxwings are fairly social and interact frequently, I was looking forward to seeing some fun bird behavior.


The new one decided to edge closer to the original bird.


And then there was an exchange of some tidbit which looks a lot like a kiss.  Waxwings are known to sit in a line on a branch and pass berries up and down the line so I guess this is what they do when there's not so many of them in one spot.


And then a third one flew in to join in.  They decided to relocate after this, so I didn't get more photos but the group followed us as we headed back on the boardwalk so it was definitely a waxwing trip.  I'm looking forward to going back when there's more light.  I'm getting lots of quality photos and great birding moments at this park.  I recommend it as a birding destination for forest and water edge birds.


Monday, May 29, 2017

More studio progress

My studio setup is taking forever or so it seems to my impatient inner creative.  This last week brought some significant progress, however.  Jeff & James set up the upright elfa shelves that I will be using to store finished pieces and my framing supplies last weekend.  And this week, they went to the hardware store and got the exterior plywood for the work table surface.  I also took down the wire shelf on the back wall which clears space to put up even more elfa shelves on that wall.  So now all the hardscape is in place, except for the last bit of walls.  (It's a 9 ft wall so we need to borrow a ladder to install the shelf unit.)  I hope that the next time I talk about it everything will be in place and I'll be working away.

new shelf unit
The picture above shows the forward end of my workspace with the upright shelf unit (right under the garage door opener) acting as a divider from the bicycles.  The 2 sheets of plywood, sized 48" x 78", which have been glued together and are now drying, will be covered with batting and vinyl to give me a good work surface for screenprinting.  And in the back, I've got my white board up above the sewing cabinet so I can keep track of what I want to do next.


At the other end of my work area, the wall is now bare so I can install new shelving and the spot for the sink (lower right corner of the photo) is cleared of the stuff that needed to be moved into the house but was waiting on unpacking to clear its space.

It's starting to look like a functional workspace!  I'm hoping to have it all set up before the next weekend but we'll see how it turns out.  Neither developers or artists are known for being good at meeting deadlines.  I expect it's because we forget to estimate the time for solving the inevitable problems.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Unexpected going away gift

Often we don't know what impact we've had on others.  During my studio sale days before the move, I found out some of it.  One particular person really touched me by making the effort to come and chat.  She'd been in a class with me and we worked together well and enjoyed each other but once I opened the Georgetown studio, and then started having medical problems that just disrupted everything, we drifted apart.  So I was really happy to see her and enjoyed catching up.  Then, she gave me one of her small watercolor pieces as she was leaving.  I just found it during some unpacking in my studio so I'm sharing it here.  




I think it was intended as a bookmark,   so I can either laminate it and use it for that or frame it and add it to my wall of art gifts from other artists.  I'm leaning toward the latter but since I don't yet have my framing supplies or tools unpacked I have some time to think about it.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Studio beginning to emerge


Between running off to do some excellent birding and unpacking and organizing in my studio, I have not been very chatty lately.  But today I began to see the studio layout emerging and so I took some pics to share.

You may remember I posted my plan for the studio layout about a month ago.  Today, I finished putting the elfa drawers in their appropriate location and separating the boxes of supplies so they were close to where their drawers are so unpacking should be much easier.  And my sewing table is now where I can actually sit down and sew, assuming I get the power source set up.  The shot of the same space in April had the bicycles in the front.  The bikes are still there, I just cropped them out.  Because the studio is the star, right?



From front to back on the left:  sewing machine table (machine has red cover), elevated ironing and fusing table along the wall, corner cutting table with boxes stacked on top.  The boxes on the right are hiding the main work table from view.  It will be 4 ft wide and 7 feet long once I get the padded & waterproof work surface made.  (Plywood & batting with fusible vinyl).

And below is the view from the door leading to the house.  The cutting table is in the back on the right, the work surface elfa drawers are center/left and that table on the right is the dye table.




Tomorrow, I work on unpacking those boxes, putting the already full drawers in the right stack and setting up the sewing machine.  And if I have the time and energy, putting together a stopgap work table top that will let me work on printing some fabric before I go to the hardware store and make the final work surface top.  I'm at that point where I can see the light at the end of the tunnel so I'm getting set to dash for the finish.  How quickly I'll finish totally depends on the weather because if it's sunny, the call of the birding will be very strong.  It feels really wrong to hope for a rainy weekend but there it is, my no lose situation.  Birding or fiber art?  What a choice!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

First Bellingham birding day was fabulous

Last Sunday I finally got out and did some birding.  I had looked at a map to see which nearby parks looked best and I decided to check the closest one first.  This was Cornwall Park which turned out to to be not at all birdy so I left after a short walk down one trail and a quick drive through the rest of the park.  It's a very urban park with big open spaces for people to do stuff, no water, mostly one type of trees and lots of dogs playing.  Great for other stuff that people do at parks but not so good for the birding.

Next I went to Squalicum Creek Park which looks like more of an urban park on the map.  While it is true it has a fenced off-leash dog park and a baseball field in the middle, it also has a creek running next to the road.  And it abuts the Bay to Baker Trail which is very birdy indeed.  The water helps bring the birds in and the trail has a variety of trees along it which gives all those birds someplace to go for food and shelter.


Golden-crowned sparrow and fearless Towhee


At first, I was dubious about seeing much so I took some shots of a gull posing on top of a phone pole.  Within a quarter mile, however, I found the spot where a woman drops bird seed every day when she walks her tiny dachshund.  I know these details because while I was standing there admiring the variety of sparrows and the absolutely fearless towhee who decided he wanted to feature in my photos, the lady & dachshund wandered by.  We had a nice chat which was interrupted by a couple of Stellar's Jays wanting to get in on the photos.

I then wandered down a side trail following a small grayish bird (that I never did identify) flitting about and spotted a hummingbird perched up on a branch.  I was expecting an Anna's because that's what I'm familiar with in my yard so I was quite pleasantly surprised when I got the bins on him and saw the wonderful orange glowing in the sun.  This was the second best moment of a very good birding trip. And my first rufous of the year.  Go me!  


King of all he surveys


I thoroughly enjoyed the almost 10 minutes I got to watch him swiveling and preening on his perch.  I really like watching the feisty little hummers and this was a beautiful one.

The best moment of the trip, however, was watching 3 small birds chase each other around.  Two of them were obviously chickadees but the third was flying differently and seemed more warbler like.  This was in part because he kept flitting about and avoiding sitting still long enough for me to get bins on him.  When I finally did get a good view of him, I was gratified to see a clearly identifiable Audubon's Yellow-rumped warbler.  Black and white streaks, yellow throat.  Check off another first of the year.

Overall, it was a wonderful morning spent among the trees, watching the birds and starting to feel connected to our new neighborhood.  I'm really looking forward to going further along the trail next time and seeing what else I can see.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I hate moving or why is my studio all still in boxes?


Okay, I'll just admit it right upfront.  I'm in a cranky mood today so I'm gonna whine a little bit.

The moving trucks came the last week of March and over 3 days the movers finished the packing, loaded all our stuff, drove it from Bellevue to Bellingham, unloaded it all without breaking anything, (altho they lost some bookcase pegs, more about that later) and mostly put it where I told them it should go.  We've spent the 2 weeks since unpacking and moving boxes around so we could get to the ones we wanted to unpack next.  I didn't get the taxes finished before we had to pack my office so that's hanging over my head along with 4 kitchen boxes still to unpack ( and all the cabinets are already full), 8 boxes to unpack in the bedroom so I can have space for the rowing machine and get some cardio in,  all of the bedroom boxes except for the wardrobe ones and this, this picture below is the current state of my studio in the garage.  So I have done no art making or even fabric fondling for over a month now.  Grrrrr.




I hate moving.  I sincerely hope this is the last time.

On the plus side, we are doing lots of short walks because all kinds of places are within a mile of our house.  We've met several of the neighbors.  James is being a big help with things around the house.  I will call out that his 6 years of experience in the Air Force meant he knew how to find the US version of an Ikea assembly instruction so he could find the correct part number (European ones have a different number, or so he tells me) to order the (lost by the movers) pegs that hold the shelves up on our bookcases.  The last time we moved, the movers commented on the large number of white bookcases.  Then when they were loading all the boxes of books & other stuff, the same guy asked where all this stuff was going to go.  "On the white bookcases" was my reply.  Those pegs are absolutely essential.  I had gone to the Ikea webpage and couldn't find it so I sent them some email.  I still haven't heard back from them and it's been at least a week.  James found the part number and a link to them on Amazon in less than half an hour.  My Hero!

And we really like the neighborhood.  My morning walks are giving me a great opportunity to admire all the interesting paint choices on the houses on our street and look at what people are successfully growing in their yards.  It was too windy this morning for me to go the extra 4 blocks to the most eye popping paint job so here's one of the milder ones that also has a very interesting garden.



All in all, we are settling in nicely.  Once the taxes are done and we have a day with enough clear weather to move stuff out of the garage onto the driveway long enough for my studio placement to get done, I will be a very happy artist.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Planning the new studio space

There's lots of packing that goes on while getting ready to move.  And for fun, during those breaks from packing, I go old school and make graph paper layouts of furniture and where it will go in the new space.  I did this for my studio space which is actually a little over half of the garage.  And yes, that means no car in our garage.  But as we just sold the second car today and we have a car canopy for the driveway, that's all good.  And I digress....

Back to the studio space.  It's a 2 car garage which has the water heater and furnace tucked into the corner closest to the interior of the house.  The freezer, scooter, ebike and lawnmower also have to fit in there somewhere altho we are adding a storage shed in the backyard for all the stuff that's normally stored in the garage, like christmas stuff.  Once all that space is allocated, I get the rest.  And we have aspirations to put in a sauna which I added to my graph paper layout in photoshop.




You'll probably have to click on the picture to read my tiny handwriting.  The scale is one square of graph paper is 8" so that I get stuff spread out enough to be sure there's adequate walking space in the work area.  I've decided to make a big screenprinting/dyeing/painting work table and that's the large rectangle floating in the middle of the garage.  Just above that is the freestanding elfa shelving that will act as a divider between the bike/lawnmower area and my workspace.  It's about 7" tall so it will also give me a visual barrier and right now I'm planning on using that area for framing work and storing framing supples.   To the right, up against the outer wall, is my sewing table.  It has 9 drawers which hold all my threads, bobbins, trims, etc and we're planning to install a pegboard between it and the bike area so I will have 2 wall areas to put up inspiring pictures and hang tools that I need handy.

Down the outer rightmost wall, the next table is the ironing surface.  For this I have a Big Board that I put on top of more elfa stacks of baskets.  This gives me a 24x60 surface for ironing and fusing.  (I also have a press for fusing but I'm not exactly sure where it's going yet.)  There's a small rolling cart that is tucked in there and will likely live next to the big work table as I cut the size of the work table from a 4x8ft full sheet of plywood to 4x6ft so I would have enough walking space around the table.  And then we come to the wall closest to the viewer.  In the house, the kitchen is on the other side of this wall so I'm planning to install a really big sink there.  I'm currently looking at the Utilitub which is 24x40 in size and is 16" deep. The top of it is 33" tall and it has a pullout faucet so I'm pretty sure it will be a big improvement over my short little bathroom sink in the current studio. The tub goes next to the water heater on the left, with my dye work table next to it.  And in the corner, a short swivel from the ironing surface, is the fabric cutting table with elfa drawers full of fabric sorted by type and color.

I'm now going to inventory how many elfa stacks I have currently, and how many I think will fit in here.  Then I get to do more downsizing so everything fits.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Gluten free, egg free cheesecake trials

I grew up in Indiana, mostly in Sheridan and Indianapolis, and every potluck and family get together had cheesecake for dessert.  It was my mom's favorite and I really like it too.  Fast forward 40some years and I'm now allergic to wheat and egg yolks.  This makes that traditional cheesecake with a graham cracker crust something that makes me feel crappy for several days.  So I had given up eating cheesecake except for once or twice a year and only at a restaurant.  Which I did when we went to Canada in January.

The restaurant on site at the condo had a Bailey's cheesecake and I tried it the first day we were there. It was delicious but I could taste just a bit of gelatin in it.  And I woke up feeling fine the next day. This started me on a quest for a recipe that I could do at home.

First try, the Knox recipe on the box.  We have a big box of Knox gelatin because I use it to make panna cotta in the summertime when the berries are sweet and plentiful to go on top.  It needs the fruit because it's fairly bland without them.  Since this works so well, I was hoping that the cheesecake recipe on the box would also.  Not so much.  Tastes a lot of gelatin, came out fairly flat, and was easily overwhelmed by the gingersnap cookie crust.  It was so much a failure, I threw away the photos.

The winner on a 6" plate


Second try was a recipe I found online at SimplyRecipes under no-bake-cheesecake.  It uses whipping cream in addition to gelatin and is very fast and easy to put together.  I was declaring it the winner before the cheesecake went into the fridge to chill.  It has the right mouth texture, no taste of gelatin and makes a medium height cheesecake quite nicely.   Setting for a couple of hours was not quite long enough to get the filling to bond to the crust adequately but that was okay, it was still delicious.  The next day, the bonding issue was gone and the only comments I got from Jeff was that the slices should be just a bit smaller because it's so rich.  I mean, who wants to throw away the last few bites of cheesecake because there's no more room, right?  I cut it into 8 pieces like a pie but will make the slices smaller next time.

Third one will be a chocolate one that uses sweetened condensed milk and I'll do that over the weekend or early next week.  But I can absolutely declare my cheesecake yearnings to be satisfied.




Saturday, February 25, 2017

Spring pops on the Greenbelt

Last week, I got back on the greenbelt after a couple weeks of being laid up due to banging up my knee.  It was a sunny day, and the birds were very active so I really enjoyed myself.  Then it got all rainy and snowy again but I digress...

The one that got away was the shot of the 2 red-winged blackbirds engaging in an aerial territorial dispute.  Most of the resident birds have started their spring singing, letting everyone within range know who lives here and is looking for some company.  I tried to get a shot of the blackbirds but they were too far away and too active so I never got a good framing.

However, the blueberry bushes and several other birds were very happy to be more stationary so here's some of the shots from that walk.  The branches on the blueberry bushes turn reddish while they're budding out so it's easy to see which bushes are going to be really loaded with berries later this year.


And there were lots of robins scattered around the grass between the bushes and in the trees nearby.   They haven't yet gotten their new spring feathers yet so they look drabber than they will in a few weeks.


But the way I really know that spring is here is this one:  a towhee up on a high branch, singing to let the world know that he's there and available.  Towhees normally skulk in the bushes and stay pretty close to the ground so the only time I get really good views of them is in the spring when they're being very social.  I'm going to be trying for a shot that shows the red eye if I see one out and close enough to get those details.




Our weather forecast for the next week includes more chilly nights and maybe even some snow so I'll be looking at these photos to remind me that spring is really on the way.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Chasing the Yellow-billed Loon or why Rosario Head is so wonderful


On January 25th, my crazy birder friend Tina and I sallied forth in pursuit of a rare Yellow-billed Loon visiting from the Arctic.  Reports had been coming in for days so we changed our birding plans and Tina drove us to Rosario Head (near Deception Pass) via some fields in Skagit so we could also look for the wintering swans.  It was a fabulous day of birding despite the park facilities being closed for the winter.  The parking lot was chained off, the restrooms were closed but there were portapotties at the turnoff so we were able to act on Birding Rule #1 - use any restroom you can, because you don't know when you'll find another one.

Rosario Head is part of Deception Pass State Park and the hiking trails are well advertised.  We were looking to go up on top of the Head itself and look down on Northwest Island and Rosario Beach.  From this vantage point, we had excellent views as long as we were using a scope.  The visiting rare loon was frolicking behind Northwest Island and coming out on either end every so often to parade in front of all the visiting birders.  We saw at least a dozen other people and it was a weekday.  Clearly, this was a popular bird.

I was not able to get a photo of the loon, but here's one borrowed from the Audubon.org webpage.


This looks an awful lot like the Common Loon, except the bill is yellow instead of black.  So, once the bird pops out, it's pretty easy to make that id.

Once we'd identified the rare loon, we waited for an opportunity to photograph it while we looked for other birds and watched some dolphins frolicking in the water.  There was also a sea lion, probably, since it was much bigger than a seal would have been.   I was not able to get a photo of the loon but I did get some quality views of some other birds hanging out on the rocks just north of the head.  We were a fair distance up in the air and I don't have one of those honking big lenses for my camera, so I was only able to get a distant shot of the Harlequin Duck posing on the rocks.  I like the strong patterning on this duck and enjoy watching them play in the water.



All in all, it was an excellent day birding.  Like fishing, even a bad day birding is a good day so an excellent day birding is, well, truly excellent.  Here's hoping for many more days like this.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Gulls and more gulls in Canada

I've been back from vacation for a week now, and didn't blog right away because of the chores waiting for me.  Then, the flu struck.  *sigh*  I can't even gather enough brain cells to upload my art shots from the camera, photoshop them, and then talk about them.  So instead, you get bird photos.

Part of the reason for going to Parksville on Vancouver Island is the wonderful bay that the condo property sits on.  There are always birds there and depending on the tide, I can see a variety of sea birds that are normally much further out from shore or the kind of birds that like the exposed shoreline when the tide is out.   The additional attraction is if the weather is rainy and windy, the bay is so close that I can grab a quick outing when the weather clears slightly so even the worst weather day can still have some good birds.

And I got to refresh my birding ID skills.  Especially with gulls.  It's not hard to tell that a bird is a gull rather than an eagle or a hawk or a duck.  That part is pretty simple.  But which species of gull?  That part is much, much harder.  Fortunately for me, I remembered what part of the gull to look at to distinguish the species.  And the gulls really like hanging on the rock formations off the point where the hot tub is.  Yes, that too is part of why we go here so I can bird in comfort.





So, what do we look for to tell which gull species is here?  Face it, they are usually white with grey backs and a yellow beak.  What varies?  The size and shape of the bill, the bill markings (the one below has a medium size wide bill with a red dot on the bottom), the leg color (clearly pink here rather than grey or yellow, altho telling the pink and the gray apart can be difficult in less than bright light), and finally whether the wingtips are darker or lighter than the back.  The wingtips look like they should be the tail when a gull poses like this but with this guy, his tail is white, the wingtips are the longer grey with white stripes part.  There's some other things to look for like shape and contrast of white parts on the back, and relative darkness of the grey back, and if you've got a scope the eye color, but legs, bill, and wingtips will get most of the distinctions you need to really narrow it down.  



I'm calling this one a Thayer's Gull, but I'm not experienced enough with gulls to be totally certain as there's some hybrids that look a lot like this.  Part of my reason for wanting to upgrade my camera this year is so I can zoom even closer on some of these birds and do my ID later from the photo.  Which is why I have so many gull photos from Parksville.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Dragons and more dragons AKA vacation prep


Today we're packing for a week out of town.  I got a new book, Dragonvale Art, visible at the left edge toward the front of the picture below, and it has inspired me to do some dragon sketching while on vacation.  I also wanted to play with my watercolor paints on actual watercolor paper rather than fabric so those got added to the supplies stack.



I am bringing along watercolor bars, Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils, the Dragonvale book, 2 small ceramic 4 compartment plates, sketching pencils and black markers, two plastic tubs of watercolor paints, lots of brushes, 2 different size sketchpads, 6 pads of watercolor paper of different types and sizes, my current dragon silkscreen and the black ink and the tools to screen with, 2 pieces of fabric with the laughing dragon screened on them, a piece of acrylic that I use to paint the fabric on and the blue tape to hold the fabric to the acrylic. And the fabric medium to add to the watercolor paints so they don't wash out.

In a recent Facebook post, I mentioned going for 50 dragon sketches this week.  Since the 50 collages week in my Fiber Arts program, I have gotten very comfortable setting myself impossible goals and seeing how close I get.  I assume I'll fail to make it but set the goal so my reach exceeds my grasp.  The 50 collages in one week assignment taught me that I can do more than I think I can if I just get going and see how far I go.

Speaking of reach, grasp, and the power of just continuing to make progress, I'm 35 page views away from 30,000 unique page views on this blog.   I started this blog in February of 2008 so it's almost 9 years of blogging.   A big thank you to those who have followed along and here's to another adventurous almost decade coming up.