Friday, July 13, 2007

La Placita Olvera

"The Blessing of the Animals" by Leo Politi, is a mural on Olvera Street, in Los Angeles. I was there when the artist was painting it. I was just old enough to appreciate that he, Leo Politi, must have been terribly special, that he was allowed to paint on walls. It was a quiet morning on the busy street and I can still feel the sense of awe at watching him use a brush and paint to bring the scene to life.

On our way north, the children and I visited Olvera Street. It was my first time back, since 1980-something. I found it remarkably unchanged. Considering the way things can deteriorate, I should maybe even acknowledge that Olvera Street has perhaps improved. It's still a bustling spot of genuine Mexican and American history. It is still full of stalls selling cheap and trendy souvenirs and kitsch. There were also more traditional wares than I remembered, and the Street had managed to gain a distinguishable measure of pride, a sort of coming of age that accepted the commercial along with the cultural. Or maybe it's just me, coming of age.

It's strangely, sweetly, reassuring to find a once familiar place to be still very familiar. The narrow street with shops on both sides and overflowing vendor's booths down the middle, still displayed the sights I've known since earliest memories, like marionettes, toy guitars, maracas, Lotería, and dulces like cajeta, and chile covered sweets. Seeing it all, is almost like gazing into a market in Tijuana, Guadalajara, Oaxaca or Puebla. Almost.

Seeing this picture, I don't want to say anything. I want to sit down and hear my mother tell me about Olvera Street, East Los Angeles, the River, the rails, the church and her memories.

My memory is of aching to have baskets full of these little cantaritos and tazas and cosas. These were my favorite toys. Little clay jugs and mugs and tiny kitchen tools.

I would have loved to look like pictures of my Abuela Eunice in her falda and blusa, like a beautiful, modest and flowery señorita. I am still in love with the romance and femininity of full skirts, lace trim, and embroidered blouses. Sadly, they are not made with same care and attention to detail. Just the same I bought Maria a pretty blue dress with flowers and birds embroidered around the neck and down the front.

I remember sitting on this fountain's edge, with my cousins, Julie and Debbie, enjoying icy, syrupy raspados.

Art can evoke memories and longings, a desire to be a part of a community, a family, a culture. For a few years I felt like I belonged on Olvera Street, it was familiar to me. I feel fortunate that going back was pleasant and enjoyable.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Quilt's in the Mail

I think the surprise is still safe if I reveal the quilt and not the recipient, right?

This Butterfly quilt is on its way to its new home. It is machine pieced and hand quilted, and in the label is a little extra something.

Of course I hope she likes it, because that's the whole point isn't it?

I encourage everyone to seek out the rest of the Doll Quilts and admire all the time and care that went into these mini masterpieces. I am in awe. And like any true quilter, bit by the bug, I want to try another. I keep seeing new ideas and hoping to improve my methods and choices... there's so much to learn! At the beginning of this venture I came across Marisa's 'garden windows' quilt and found it irresistibly inspiring and early on I thought about using the pattern for a doll quilt.

Before leaving on our road trip I started the cathedral windows quilt and loved the results. It was challenging and intricate, but the results seemed worthwhile. I especially loved that it could be done completely without a machine... a bonus when camping and driving for 9 days. Patience is not one of my stronger suits, but I was being particularly meticulous with this, and I even started over when things didn't match-up satisfactorily.

With cathedral windows there are a lot of opportunities for things to not match-up. There are many corners and folds and details that can go terribly wonky and it tried my patience constantly, still it kept looking so unique and it was fun to pursue, because the reveal was so fun. But eventually its weaknesses were overcoming the overall appearance.

I felt attached enough to the concept theoretically, but it wasn't looking like something good enough to give away, know what I mean? I realize I didn't take a close-up of the trouble spots. See where the fabric rolls to the point of the arc? Well, when it wasn't at the raw edge it finished nicely, but at the raw edges it could not roll and hide the fraying threads, so that half of the points were ragged and sloppy looking... not for lack of patiently trying to ease the fabric and make teeny-tiny little stitches to hold it all together. Part of me wants to finish my 'first draft,' so I may be pestering Marisa for some advice and guidance.

My friend Anne felt she was too busy to sign up for the Doll Quilt Swap, but she did get inspired. Now her much loved Patrick El Gato, has a comfy, made with love, quilt all his own. Doll quilts are so much fun... little reflections of our time and love.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Finish Line

I added the last stitch yesterday afternoon. Of course I'm not sure it should be the last stitch. After looking at all the doll quilts at "Doll Quilt Crazy" and the ones that have been getting posted from "Doll Quilt Swap," well, I am feeling very insecure. Very, very insecure. Like maybe I should start over, or maybe I should invent a time machine and try again to make a go of it at the first quilt I tried. Maybe I should do more hand quilting... It's not that I don't appreciate what I've made. It's just that the other quilts, the dozens and hundreds of little quilts out there, are so amazing. Truly, the blogosphere is full of talented, skilled, inspiring and generous quilters.

It's amazing, all the thoughts that go through my head while I am hand quilting. I think about the colors and the patterns and each stitch going in and out of the fabrics. I think about Grandma Nancy and Wisconsin. I think about all the quilts I've made before. For this one I thought about the person I made it for, her likes, and interests and I hoped I was making something she would recognize and accept. I hummed "Mariposa."

When we put so much of ourselves into our little quilts, it's no wonder we second guess ourselves, have doubts, feel a bit hesitant. It won't be easy to send it away. Pamela, my swap partner and I were discussing this very point, when I shared my Doll Quilt Swap Visitation idea. I suggested we periodically post pictures of the quilt our partner so lovingly labored over, so she can see what her quilt has been up to. It's a bit nuts, but that's Okay. I shared with her that Spicy Chicken is loved by the whole family, especially Maria. She loves the doll quilt and being only 2, she naturally assumes that all lovely things are her own. We've been playing a gentle tug of war, and whenever she finds where I've put Spicy Chicken, she embraces it and says, "Oh, mine! Thank you. Thank you. Pretty-pretty."

My doll quilt must be pretty good. It must be ready to go to its new home. If a cat claims a quilt, like Hallie cat claimed the one Pam sent me, then it must be a sign that is done, and ready to share.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Day Dreaming

We built a boat and painted it, but I think we may paint it again when the season changes... just for fun. It's bigger than it looks.
It has 6 rooms, an office and a sewing room. The kitchen is amazing.

We've loaded our seaworthy vessel with essential provisions: 3 computers, a sewing machine, two cats, a bunny, some cups and plates, swimsuits, maps, charts, a compass, some sweaters and sunblock etc. We'll pick up some live chickens somewhere in the South Pacific. We'll be in the Pacific Northwest in time for berry season and the Salmon Festival in Coos Bay.

With our children safely aboard and our hearts full, we have left our dock and we are heading out to sea.

We leave behind the crowded shores, congested streets and busy harbors.

We feel good, eager, optimistic. The sea air is invigorating.

Now is the time to fulfill our dreams and face new challenges.

If we should find a little place on some distant shore, a place both quaint and ample, we may stop and move in, make it our own, grow a garden, give the chickens room to roam.

In the meantime we'll putter around the planet, take in the sights, and revel in our joy.

I will continue to blog, of course, and sew and read aloud to my children. I will still make hot tortillas, and take lots of pictures.

We will live free and with the open sea, by our wits and with the wind at our backs... until we run out of Joe-Joes.

Monday, July 09, 2007

I Blog, Therefore I Link
Lately a lot of bloggers have been traveling, and they've been posting good stuff from their adventures. Even though I am barely recovered from my last trip, these women are inspiring me to get back out there again! Europe perhaps, like Sabine, at "Cats and Quilts." She has several posts about her travels, including some sketches she did while in Paris. She lives in Belgium, and I often find nice posts at her blog, like stuff about cats, and quilts.

Speaking of cats and quilts, it seems Benjamin Franklin Thunder Cat approves of my second try for the Quilt Swap.

One more cats and quilts link: Go meet Madie Moonshine Madie-gascar, she's at "Happy Things."

Tami, a fellow Californian, has been in Scotland, with Nessie. I enjoy the posts I find at "Lemon Tree Tales." I keep meaning to brew some tea, then sit down for a relaxing read, so I can I appreciate all of the lovely details and pictures from her trip.

The next post I wanted to share actually came from another blogger, Marisa of "Quilt Otaku." She was posting about podcaster Annie Smith of "Simple Arts." I was delighted to discover that Annie Smith not only has great quilt help, she also has excellent Central California travel tips and suggestions... for food and quilts! Scroll down to her 07/07/07 post. I can't wait to check out some of her suggested stops.

If you'd like to see something besides other people's fabulous travel diaries, I have two offerings:

First I would like to point you in the direction of Kim's "Creative Blogs". She features other people's creative blogs. It's really very sweet of her to share all the talented and interesting blogs she discovers, and because she has a decent readership, I am sure other bloggers really appreciate the positive light she shines on their blogs. Go there to find inspiring, creative people, like Joe, the scrap-book guy.

One last suggestion... How About Orange? Yes, "How About Orange?" I go there periodically and I always seem to find something fun to do or think about. She posts lots of amusing "Time-Wasters" like this Logo quiz. And she's also talented, so it's fun to see what she's been up to.

Now, a word about Chickenblog: Labels!
They are in the sidebar now and, unless our server is still being annoying, they should link to all posts of the same category. That's 890 labeled posts all orderly and tidy. How rare and sweet and wonderful. It's Geoff. He is the best, and I love him and his sweet skills.

First playdough, then water colors, then pens and paper... and it was all too much.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Chicken Blog Goes to Morro Bay! + 26 Reasons*

First order of business:
Thank you to all of the people leaving comments when they visit Chickenblog. It's so wonderful to get feedback and to start conversations with visitors. I get to discover new blogs, and share deep thoughts with new friends, and I enjoy their talents and deep thoughts. I have always wanted to make connections with family and friends, for blogging to be a dialogue, an interaction.

All during the trip the children and I recently made, I wanted to write everything down. It seems driving, unpacking, pitching tents, cooking, trying to finish a doll quilt, and keeping track of 4 children was job enough for one person, so my journal never even left the bag. Every funny sight and witty remark is filed away, somewhere, in my brain, and so we may as well assume little of it will ever be revealed. Such a loss.

Fortunately, besides liking to write, I like to take pictures. No kidding, right? I took 1,500+ picture in 9 days. (Thank you God, and Geoff, for digital cameras.) Not all of them are keepers and I still have a lot to learn about my camera and photography in general. But the bliss I feel when I can click away and even hide my social awkwardness and anxieties behind my Big Black Camera... well, it's wonderful. I love coming home with all my images ready to download and share. I love capturing colors, fading light, beautiful expressions, funny moments, rare sights, nature, chaos, my children's faces... Taking pictures makes me very happy.

We camped for one night at Morro Strand State Beach. It occurs to me that I really love Morro Bay. I keep going back there and I always enjoy my stays. It's a small, quiet place. And we frequent the same quiet spots when we go. I even liked doing our laundry there. We enjoyed "Art in the Park," where we found a beautiful stained glass gift for someone's birthday... ( a surprise.) We found local blueberries at the Saturday farmer's market. The best? The Cotton Ball. I've been a fan for at least ten years, and now, in their new location, they are better than ever. So, if you sew, or if you wear or use fabric... you would love a stop at The Cotton Ball. If you don't love it, send me some fat quarters as punishment.

So, back to the beach and camping, and my trusty Big Black Camera. I took this picture, because it reminded me that parts of the beach were cut-off from foot traffic, to protect the nests of the snowy plover. The campsite kiosk had a posted photograph of a baby snowy plover, in it's vulnerable little ground nest in the dunes and vegetation. Even with a huge section of the beach off limits, we still found plenty of wide open beach to discover and enjoy. It is a beachcombers paradise, and a clammer's destination as well.

We had no intention of eating the clams we found, but we did enjoy collecting the empty, discarded shells. They were the smoothest shells I have ever touched. We also found sand dollars and key hole limpets. There were sea lions in the water and many different birds, including pelicans, egrets and...

...these! What is this bird? I've never seen them. I needed a bird field guide, a shell field guide, a marine mammal field guide and a California coastal tidal zone field guide. No matter. Sometimes we have to accept our ignorance and enjoy the experience for its own sake.

So, we made the long walk north to the tide-pools, blissfully unaware of the names of all the beautiful discoveries ahead of us. Like the turban topped shells, home to little crabs and sometimes snails. I called them periwinkles.

We peeked in pools, between rocks and across the sandstone shelfs that jut out in to the surf. We recognized the mussels, oysters, crabs and sea anemones.

Sea anemones are my favorite tide pool resident. They look strange and wonderful. They are otherworldly. They are so brave, sitting unprotected in a home that changes with every tide, they cannot runaway.

The big clawed crab, with it's hard shell? Not so brave. They scuttle and scurry and runaway all the time. Of course I would too, with seagulls and orange beaked feasters milling about, looking for lunch.

This was our first visit to the beach in Morro Bay... we usually visit the bay and estuary, the harbor and town. Now we know a new reason to return, again, to Morro Bay.

*26 Reasons I am Happy I Take Lots of Pictures


Luchador masks on Olvera Street.


Because Alex gave an interesting review of this book.


For a different perspective.


For a new twist on a tire swing.


You never know what you'll find in low light..


I see a whale.


Because I love Alex.


I love to remember how very good all of my children are.


Because I love Max.


Because I love William.


So we can show Geoff the Super Soquel Slide.


Because I love Maria.


Well, if I hand the camera over, I can remember that I love other things too, like swimming!


Photographs capture Alex's drawings, so we can share them.


And a photograph can help me question the wisdom of tackling a doll quilt on a road trip.


Because Dominic is adorable.


So I keep my own kitchen woes in perspective.


Because cousins Maria and Dominic are adorable together.


For Grandmas, and grand-babies.


For cousins and sisters and brothers. For family.


For uncle magic.


So we can recall the magic of camping and light.


And so we can relive the pleasure of listening to William read "The Lord of The Rings."


Because a photograph can evoke pleasurable memories.


It doesn't even have to be a good picture to bring back the warmth of the day, the sound of the children laughing, the cool spray of the sprinkler, Maria's daring charge, her brother's brave pursuit... then wet clothes drying in the sun and walking to the general store for ice cold drinks.


A snapshot, a moment in time. Maria bathing in the camp supply box, happy girl. Happy memories.