July in North Carolina

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My “summer” is almost over, at least as far as work goes. I have a job that is most intense January-early May, calms down in summer, then starts ratcheting up in early August as the new semester begins with a new cohort of history graduate students. September quiets down a little, then October hits like a hurricane, then there’s two tolerable months until January, when it all starts to get crazy again. I like it. It is a bit difficult making the transition from July to August, though.

It has been very hot and too dry. The occasional strong thunderstorm has not been enough.

This past weekend I lolled around the house, mostly, watching movies, reading, and cooking a little bit. I had plenty of butterbeans from the garden, and some very tasty tomatoes. There are a few volunteer field pea vines, but I didn’t plant them this year because of the annoying ants that hang out, who will run up your arm and bite you unless you shake them off before picking each pea. My poor little okra plants have recovered enough so that I will have a few to eat with my butterbeans this week. I used to only like my okra fried. Now I prefer young whole pods, boiled briefly to make them tender but still a little crunchy, and eaten straight up. Pickled okra is nice too, even though I am not generally a fan of vinegary foods. The woodchuck came back and decimated my broccoli and even tried to eat my Mexican sunflower, which is trying its best to survive. I hope that my neighbor traps him soon.

woodchuck damage

Woodchuck damage

Movies watched: “The Dallas Buyers Club,” “Django Unchained,” and “Chicago.” I love Chicago and have watched it several times. Book finished: “Ghostwritten” by David Mitchell. Excellent book.

I got a bit of prep work done for the back side of the t-shirt quilt – cutting apart more t-shirts and ironing light interfacing on the fabric, then cutting the pieces to specific sizes so that they all fit together once I start designing. This side will have the rejects from the front side, so I’m not putting as much effort into it, but it was so much fun doing the front side I decided to piece the back side as well.

The tapestry loom has been moved back inside. It was way too hot to weave on the front porch, even with the fans. I’ll probably leave it in, but I moved it in front of the window so I’ll have a little more light.

I have an opportunity to buy a 60″ tapestry loom that once belonged to Sylvia Heyden at a good price that is within an hour’s drive so that I can pick it up. It would have to be taken apart and rebuilt, though, and since it was probably handbuilt for her, there won’t be instructions. It is massive and heavy according to the owner, and I’d have to get rid of some stuff if I acquire it. The 24″ Shannock loom would definitely be up for sale in that case, but I need to finish “Cathedral” first. I’m going to go see it soon to make a decision.

Last weekend Sandy and I went to Lake Waccamaw for a long weekend. My focus was, and still is, healing my neck and shoulders. It’s been almost exactly two years since I hung that Scandinavian-type vertical loom on the stairs at Arrowmont and heard my neck say “uh-uh.” Since then, it was touch and go with my chiropractor helping, but since he moved out of town and I lugged a big backpack and bag around the United Kingdom and Ireland, my neck and shoulders have been very, very unhappy. So I am undergoing some intense massage therapy that hurts so much it makes me cry on the table, but I’m tired of depending on pills and I want this to heal. I have faith that it will help, and I’m looking forward to being able to get back to weaving without pain.

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On this trip my sister and brother-in-law took us to a new BBQ joint in Whiteville, Big W Barbecue, which is owned by a Slow chef, Warren Stephens, who was the executive chef at Cochon Butcher in New Orleans and at the Fearrington House near Chapel Hill. According to the article linked above, he is here because he loves Lake Waccamaw, and he is a native of Lumberton. I was pleased and surprised to find out that he uses heritage pasture-raised pork. I mean, you can’t find that in eastern NC, which is ground zero for hog factory farms. I am somewhat of a heretic in North Carolina because I am not a fan of barbecue, especially the vinegary eastern NC style. But everything on our sampler plate, even the Q, was delicious. He makes his own sausages, so I bought some for the freezer at a very low price for Slow meat. I will go back for sure, especially since I missed the pork tamales – they were sold out. He was playing John Lee Hooker in the restaurant too.

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There is always a lot of beauty at Lake Waccamaw, so here are the shots from that hot weekend. The bottom one is my favorite – taken while sitting in a gentle rain at the edge of the lake. Click on the photo at the top of this post to be taken to a video and turn on your sound for a stress reliever.

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Catching up

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The front yard container garden has been producing tomatoes, despite its propensity to dry out every day and some blossom end rot. I should have remembered to put epsom salts in the holes when I planted these. The peppers are really unhappy. A few of the plants’ miseries have finally been put to an end, due to an early invasion of aphids that I didn’t control when I was traveling. I made chili with ground bison and tomatoes and peppers from this garden last night. Even the Romas that had blossom end rot were fine – I chopped off the ends. The Beefy Boys, which Sandy picked out, are a hit. Very sweet and dense, the right exact size for two sandwiches. Even when they split, they patched up just fine.

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Butterbeans are here. I hope to have enough for a little taste for everyone when I go to see my sister and brother-in-law at Lake Waccamaw this weekend. We have also eaten a few green beans. That patch did not germinate well at all, but I combine them with potatoes as they get big enough to pick and they taste good. The celery is ready but I haven’t tried it yet. The broccoli is all leaves. The woodchuck has been enjoying munching on that.

Also, the semi-shady spot next to my steps seems to be a great place for lettuce and parsley.

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My big trips are over for the year while we pay off credit cards and concentrate on home for a while. I wish that I didn’t bunch them up together, but May-July are the best times for me to take off from work, and flights are much cheaper before June. I’m lucky that I get so much time off at this job – it is one of the reasons I love it here so much. However, it does come at the expense of regular pay raises.

I came back from Portland with a raging case of food poisoning – certainly the worst I have ever had. Once my fever came down to the point that I could think straight and use Google, I played Dr. House and self-diagnosed myself with e coli from the cherries from the farmers market that I munched on from Sunday to Thursday, which I forgot to wash. I chose not to go to the doctor, although I had my husband on alert that I might have to go to the ER or urgent care. From what I read, you just had to stay hydrated and suffer through it, and doctors couldn’t do that much for you. So my lesson was learned. I will never be cavalier about eating raw unwashed food again, especially food that has been handled by the public.

I spent another week getting my stomach back to accepting normal foods and healing from the muscle aches. Now I’ve turned my attention back to healing my neck and shoulder, which, in the words of my massage therapist, is all “cranked up.” She recommended that I see a different therapist who specializes in pain management, and I’ll go to her this afternoon. On Tuesday morning I went to my regular GP for my six-month blood-letting and she prescribed me muscle relaxants, which haven’t kicked in yet. Gawd. What a mess. It’s hard to get anything done when I’m in this kind of pain. Heat helps, but in mid-July I’m not eager to curl up with a heating pad or use a patch.

I want to weave and dye and weed and plant and do a lot of things that keep me from healing, and I’ve been too stubborn to stop with the yard work. I can’t stand to see the weeds and vines take over. My worst fear is that I won’t get better. In that case, I have to find a way to keep doing the things that I need to do. Stopping permanently is not an option, but I may have to stop for a while longer.

There is some good news. The new chiropractor I saw in June fixed my lower back and hip problem! Hooray!

Anyway, I hope to start posting more art-related photos and topics here very soon. Please bear with me!

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Diego and Pablocito have been enjoying the front porch. They stay there until we make them come in, most of the time. Diego often enjoys the swing, but they have to share the cat tree. It’s fun watching them watch the birds and squirrels. You should have seen Pablocito when the woodchuck ran by. The expression on his face was priceless.

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Portland for a Day, June 26, 2017

Crystal Hotel, Portland

View from Crystal Hotel window

When Susanne dropped me off at the Crystal Hotel in Portland on Sunday evening on her merry way south, I wanted to go out. I really did. But I was so tired, and it was so hot outside and the room was so cool and comfortable. So I let myself collapse on the bed with a copy of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn, with an occasional peep out of my window to see the street life below.

Crystal Hotel room

This time my room was “Wrecking Ball” by Emmylou Harris, which is funny because Emmylou is an alumna of UNCG, where I went to college and now work. Each room at the Crystal is decorated on the theme of a song by an artist who has performed at the Crystal Ballroom.

books from Powell's

I had one day to spend in Portland. Going to Powell’s Books is a requirement for me, so after breakfast in the Zeus Cafe downstairs, I headed there for a couple of head-swimming hours.

I decided to take public transit out to Washington Park to see the Portland Japanese Garden that afternoon. It’s a tad pricey at $14.95 adult admission, but well worth it on a mild sunny day. I wandered up and down the paths for a few hours, sitting occasionally on a shaded bench listening to a water feature or watching the koi.

Japanese Gardens, Portland

Japanese Gardens, Portland

Japanese Gardens, Portland

Japanese Gardens, Portland

Japanese Gardens, Portland

Japanese Gardens, Portland

Japanese Gardens, Portland

Japanese Gardens, Portland

Japanese Gardens, Portland

Japanese Gardens, Portland

Japanese Gardens, Portland

When I returned, I drank a Crystal Terminator Stout on the sidewalk besides Ringler’s Annex (also part of the Crystal), and then I took advantage of the saltwater soaking pool in the basement for the first time. I will never skip this again. I wish I could go back in time and do it the two times I stayed here before. Then I went to Al’s Den (also part of the Crystal), and had a bite to eat while listening to an Irish band. In other words, I ate and drank everything during my day in Portland at the Crystal, and I was happy with that. I heartily recommend it, unless city noise really bothers you (there are earplugs), or you just can’t survive without a TV, or sharing a bathroom in the hallway is extremely objectionable to you (they are clean and I’ve never had a problem with it).

Forest Grove, Oregon, 2017

FOBA 2017

Susanne and I love Forest Grove, a beautiful small college town in the middle of rolling farmland with the backdrop of the Coast Range on its west and only a thirty minute drive from Portland to its east. We discovered it through our three trips to the Focus on Book Arts conference we went to in 2011, 2015, and 2017.

The first place we went when we got there was Maggie’s Buns, which I’ve written about before. They had an abundant and delicious lunch selection. I had their veggie lasagna, which rivaled my own in texture and taste, and I am very snooty about my lasagna. I’d go back just for it, but we all tried each other’s salads and they were wonderful too.

Table at Maggie's Buns in Forest Grove, Oregon

Maggie's Buns ceiling

I took a photo of the ceiling at Maggie’s Buns this time because if I’m ever able to look up long enough to do it (neck issues) I’d like to paint the acoustic tiles in my bedroom like this.

At the Wednesday Farmer's Market

The Wednesday evening farmers market downtown is one of the things we love about Forest Grove. When we go, in late June, there are abundant fresh cherries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and all kinds of vegetables. This time there was a baker, Slow Rise Craft Breads whose breads are made from local organic grains and wild yeast. Oh, the complex flavors from that bread. We bought some Face Rock Creamery smoked cheddar cheese from Urban Decanter to go with the Slow Rise rye levain and rolled our eyes in pleasure for the rest of our time there.

We didn’t make it to the King’s Head Pub this time, but we did buy Cornish pasties and almond shortbread from the Great British Bakery at the farmers’ market. The pasties were better than the ones I ate in Cornwall!

Goofin' at Waltz Brewing

^^^Goofing around. We’re sitting on an old Cadillac seat at Waltz. Look closely and you’ll see that the photographer caught my beer just as it was spilling out of my glass.

Susanne talked to a street fiddler who invited us to a bluegrass jam that evening just a couple of blocks away at Waltz Brewing, a very small brewpub in a renovated garage. The garage door was up, there was seating on the sidewalk, and the weather was perfect. We munched on our goodies from the market, petted the local dogs, drank ginger ale and porter, and enjoyed the music. We enjoyed it so much that we skipped the conference lecture again the next night and went back to hear a blues guy play guitar and sing to a karoake machine. I bought a growler of Coffee Porter with To the Roots Espresso (from a local coffee roaster) to keep back in the dorm room fridge.

We were invited to a potluck on Sunday with a group of folks who are developing a co-housing community, which I was quite interested in, but we didn’t have time, it was roasting hot, and I can’t even think about doing anything like that for at least several years. I was curious, though.

Waltz Brewing

Forest Grove has a community edible garden program. Plots with veggies and berries had signs that invited you to help yourself. One was in front of Forest Grove Community School, which also had lovely flowers and artwork.

Forest Grove, Oregon

On Friday evening, we went to a Hawaiian restaurant – a new experience for me but a trip down memory lane for Susanne, who spent a year of childhood living in Hawaii. At Kama’ Aina, Susanne had manapua (sweet bbq pork in dumplings), I had shoyu ahi poke. Poke hasn’t made it back to North Carolina yet, but my bet is that it is the next big foodie thing. Very much like sashimi, but with different seasonings. We also blew everyone away with our garlic breath the next day after sharing garlic furitake fries. Just when you think that you can’t make fries less healthy, somebody decides to fry them with butter and garlic and sprinkle them with sesame seeds and flaked seaweed. God, they were good.

We were sorry to leave Forest Grove, but not sorry to leave the dorm, which was not air conditioned and had no fans. The temps the last two days we were there got up to almost 100 degrees. Pacific University is a lovely campus, though.

Forest Grove, Oregon

^^^From the garden in front of the Forest Grove Community School.

Focus on Book Arts 2017

Lily's Book - FOBA

Susanne Baker and I attended our third Focus on Book Arts at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon last week. It was recommended to us by my friend Judy Strom, who I met at Journalfest in Port Townsend, Washington in 2009 and we have met up at FOBA ever since. We love this retreat/conference for many reasons:

  • The selection of workshops is perfect. There are 1-4 day workshops over the course of five days. You can take all five days or just one day. There are always classes for advanced, serious bookbinders, and classes for beginners, and lots of levels in between. There are structural classes, historical conservation classes, and playful, creative classes.
  • They keep the class sizes small.
  • The instructors are excellent and often known nationwide for their work.
  • It is completely run by volunteers, who are passionate about this event.
  • Forest Grove, Oregon, is a lovely town and Pacific University, the first university founded west of the Mississippi, is a historic campus of great beauty, with manicured lawns, towering redwoods, and flower gardens. Honestly, I have checked out the real estate ads and the job listings for this place quite a few times.
  • It’s about 30 minutes west from Portland and another hour going west will get you to Cannon Beach.
  • I ALWAYS meet the friendliest, most interesting people there!
FOBA 2017

This year, Susanne, Judy, and I took a class in beginning embossing from Janice Fisher on the first day. I couldn’t get any good photos – embossing is hard to photograph, and when I’m into what I’m doing, I don’t remember my camera. I did better later. My main takeaway from the class was that embossing paper is so much simpler and easier than I ever guessed, and you can do it on almost any kind of paper with as little as a stencil cut out of an old manila file folder and a popsicle stick. Janice was very into recycling and repurposing ordinary objects for embossing.

Chinese Thread Book - FOBA

Chinese Thread Book - FOBA

On the second day, we all separated to go to different classes. Judy went to a different class every day. Susanne chose a four-day long class in twined binding taught by Roberta Lavadour, and she was in heaven the whole time. I chose a two-day class by Jennie Hinchcliff called “Collecting & Keeping: Chinese Thread Books.” I was hesitant about choosing this one since it involved some origami, but I LOVED IT. LOVED IT. LOVED IT. It’s too hard to show you how much fun this book is without taking a video, and I’ll put one up in a few days when I have some help.

Chinese Thread Book - FOBA

Chinese Thread Book - FOBA

We built two small learning books on the first day, and on the second day the third book encompassed what we learned. It was turning very hot and we were in an older building with no air conditioning, so the glue dried very quickly. I ended up hurrying a bit too much at the end and glued down my insides facing the wrong way, but it still works just fine. (I was very lucky to go to a room the next day with AC when the temps rose to 97 and 99. Judy ended up in the room I was in and she’s pretty tough, but even she had to leave the room to finish her class project.) I would like to take another class from Jennie.

Chinese Thread Book cover

Chinese Thread Book, opened

Opening one of the twelve hidden containers in the book

The third class was the one I was most excited about – Leighanna Light’s “Lily’s Book.” I had taken a class from Leighanna in 2010 called the Vintage Metal Deck that fascinated me, and I’ve wanted to take another class with her since. I love her textures and her palette and her expertise with attaching things to each other.

For this one we brought a large piece of heavy gessoed canvas, then used gesso to stencil and stamp all over it for texture. After brushing on a base layer of paint or ink wash, we tore the canvas into pages for the book and played with Leighanna’s assortment of acrylic mediums and Venetian plaster. We glued down cloth and paper and other stuff, laid the pages out in the hot sun to dry, and kept on layering and painting the pages until we ran out of time (see top photo). Then we did a simple longstitch binding (thank God for my Japanese screw punch – those pages were thick). The next step for me will be attaching more stuff to the cover and spine. I brought some of my metal deck cards from the 2010 class and one of them just happened to be perfect for the cover. I’m eager to work in this book some more but have had some challenges getting back to it yet. Click on any of my photos and you can see more photos from this trip.

Lily's Book - FOBA

Lily's Book - FOBA

Lily's Book - FOBA

Lily's Book - FOBA

If you’d like to read about my previous trips to FOBA, you can find those posts here:
FOBA 2011
FOBA 2015

Next post: Photos from Forest Grove