June 24, 2012

Not gone forever.

Oh, so you thought I was gone forever. Not at all, but a broken laptop after weeks of working on my camper, and only having a zoom lens for my camera (having left my other lenses in Europe by mistake), my hands were rather tied in being very active on my blog. Then you get used to not blogging and emailing and before you know it you are doing other things and the digital world is replaced be the real world, which in fact, is not that bad at all.
However, now I have left my camera charger somewhere else, so not many photos to share until I buy a new one, besides I always need some time to settle in and find my way around a place but that has been done and I will be spending time on my computer again, also thanks to the many rainy days here, when all I want to do is cocoon, with Athena cuddled next to me.

The photo is by Andy Small.

March 17, 2012

Quechan people

This week, in between working on my camper, I visited the local Historical Society with a friend and the director, Carol Brooks, showed us some amazing photographs taken of the forefathers of the original people of this area. There are several nations around here, but nearest are the Cocopah and the Quechan. This is a picture of Quechan men. They were previously called 'Yuma Indians', but are now called by the name they had given themselves, the Quechan.
At the recent pow wow I got to talking with an older woman (78) and she told me that she had been to boarding school and had not been allowed to learn her own language. We talked about the 'Trail of Tears' too.
I often talk to Native American people at the pow wows I go to, but this was the first time in 15 years that someone was so open about these two subjects. 

March 8, 2012

Pow Wow dancer

The girl in the photo danced at every opportunity and so beautifully. It is good to see the younger people keeping up with their traditions. Every visit to a pow wow I learn more and more about the original inhabitants of the United States. I sit and chat with whomever is open for a little talk. This year I sat next to the lady who decorates the most beautiful walking sticks with peyote stitch and her friend told me about the history of her people. She was in her late 70's and had to go to boarding school and only speak English. The children were not allowed to speak their own tongue. She introduced me to the docent who teaches Quechan to the childeren now. My English is better than my Dutch, but I am very happy that it is good enough to read, write and speak and that I learned the history of my little country. I can't imagine what it would be like if someone said, "you have to disown your heritage". Even as a child, growing up in South Africa, I was still aware that I was Dutch. However, I am not Dutch enough to be really Dutch, neither English enough, nor South African enough nor American enough, to be any of those either. I am just me, I suppose, and quite happy with it.

Here is a picture of the dancing girl's face.

March 6, 2012

Pow Wow

The weather is improving. Come to think of it, the weather needs no improvement here. It is always lovely in the winter. Still, the mornings are no longer chilly now, which they can be and the birds are singing loudly in chorus. It makes the heart soar. 
I can't believe that I haven't written on my blog for so long. Last year I was very active around this time, painting, drawing and posting. More recently I have returned to Facebook, writing a manuscript and working on my camper. I also discovered Pinterest, which I enjoy and feel that I learn all kinds of things. Some people think it's an enormous 'time-waster', just like Facebook, but you see some amazing photography and art, and if I didn't 'Pin', I would never have known this:

Now I know that it has a name.

January 19, 2012


It's not all hard work these days, although I did remove the camper's old sofa bed and replaced it with a bed I made myself (with help from my friend, Ikea). I built a wooden frame of which I am endlessly proud and put Ikea sultan slats on it. It worked like a charm and fit exactly (I did spend most of last night measuring and thinking).
In the evenings I watch BBC series on Youtube or read blogs and pin on Pinterest, but I like to 'do' something and I have made the little nature collection you see in the picture. Some feathers have been left natural, others painted in silver or white (my only two available colors at the moment). I added painted twigs and seed pods.

January 16, 2012


Hardly have time for anything these days while giving my camper a make-over. I put her name on the back. It's Lemonade written the Dutch or French way. People probably think I can't spell very well.

These are Ikea plastic placemats to cover the area behind the sink. Happy little birds.

My fridge spray-painted silver, even the brown plastic has been sprayed.

I have been using soda can tabs to hang things up. Really helps when hanging up a basket to cover the plumbing that remained after taking out the little basin in the bathroom.

Even had some time to paint feathers to use as decorations in the camper.

December 24, 2011

Camper curtains

I am not going to show Before and After pictures, and neither will I make tutorials. There are so many tutorials on the internet that mine won't add much besides there are only so many hours in a day and I need my time to complete what I started.
The fabric I had was yellow, light grey and dark grey. It has been my map to the renovation. I used the old roller curtain and stitched the fabric to it. I am also making curtains in the same fabric for the larger windows. They should be up by next Tuesday.
I have already painted the kitchen area in citron yellow and I have decided to leave the wood laminate throughout the camper. I like retro, only I like fresh, new and clean better. Whatever is usable, I will spruce up and use again.


About 5 years ago I bought a 1984 Chevy Travelcraft and took her out on several long trips to Mexico and another to Utah and Colorado. Upon my return from my recent travels, I decided that I needed to cover two small windows for privacy. It has become the start of a total make-over. The last 5 weeks my nose has been to the grindstone with much pleasure I must add.
Old as she may be, the camper is in good shape but the retro interior has had its time. Nothing is worn out. I believe she only had one owner before me, and most repairs had been done. That doesn't mean to say that I am not encountering things that definitely must be repaired and improved on.
A lot of the cosmetic work has been done in these 5 weeks, leaving touch up, clean up and several large projects that I will do over time.
Back to the two small windows that started this all. I decided window film would work the best. Everywhere I looked there were just too many yards in a package, besides I am not really one for pretend lace curtains or anything too cute or cheesy. I had once read here about making window film with clear contact paper and so that is what I did.

One of the windows.
After I used a white Krylon Paint pen and doodled a bit on the contact paper.
This is what you see from the outside - and you can't look in.
Starting to enjoy this, I also made some for the bathroom window, with another doodle, because difference is the spice of life.
It will come off easily if I want to change it and still have yards of contact paper to do some fabric printing when I want to. I feel like roaring!

October 24, 2011


This doesn't look like much, but I am quite the Ikea hack. I didn't bring a warm coat or any sweaters, and with so many in Arizona, that I never wear anyway because it never gets cold enough, I decided to buy a fleece blanket and hack it into a warm shawl, by cutting it in at the middle, so that it covers my shoulders and looks like a poncho shawl. What one will do when no one is looking.
IKEA and I have been friends for a long time. Ever since they opened one of their first stores in Amsterdam, there has always been IKEA in my life.
When we moved to France and discovered that most furnishings were either oak with leather or corduroy or very wonderful but not very affordable, we picked up bits and pieces at IKEA to add to our own furniture and it worked.
In the US, when I had no idea of where to go to find what I liked - again lots of 70's style to go around at Walmart and furniture stores in my area, and that was not the hot style then, or Southwest designs, which were not what I wanted either, I happily discovered an IKEA not far from San Diego (which now has one of its own) and every time I would travel to my office in Salinas, I would pick up things I (thought I) needed especially oatmeal cookies and other things that reminded me of Europe, as well as all the handy knick knacks IKEA so readily provides.
When I made a home in Spain, the Barcelona branch saw quite a lot of me as I bought some familiar houseware and some small furniture to make a home out of my apartment.
Even during my short stay here in Holland, I have visited IKEA often and made the casita more comfortable and organized. I am even staying toasty and warm in my IKEA shawl.

October 17, 2011

The quilt.

For years my mother has been working intermittently, on a quilt for my niece, Fleur. It started out as a queen size bed spread, but each 'square' actually consists of 4 pieces of fabric, and 3 of those are of heavy linen from seed bags. Take my word for it, this quilt is heavy. The last (top) piece of fabric is from clothing Fleur has worn over the last 8 years or from curtains or linen from her bedroom(s). (She has had several different bedrooms).
My mother is 86 and it was getting so heavy that she was having trouble getting it out of the box she keeps it in. Also, Fleur lives all the way in Thailand and she doesn't need anything to keep her warm, because it's warm there already.
During one of my recent visits my mother took the quilt out of the box, and we both looked at it wearily. I offered to help, but my stitching is no where near the neatness of my mother's. It was still such a lot of work.
Anyone, who embroiders or sews, always looks at the back of a project. Here is an example of my mother's hand stitching. It's impeccable.
When I went round last week, I was quite surprised when my mother said that she had almost finished the quilt and had also made a pyjama or cushion cover as well. She had a long way to go to make a queen sized quilt, but had material to spare if she turned it into a single sized one. I so agree with her, besides I doubt that this will end up on a bed. It will probably be used as a wall hanging.

I asked my mother about the style of quilting but she didn't think it was anything in particular. Far in the back of my foggy brain I thought it might be Japanese or Korean. I have checked and it comes close to Kaleidoscope quilting from Japan.

October 16, 2011

The hat might change.

You would think that after traveling for 6 months there would be changes. When I left someone said that I would be really skinny after living the European lifestyle. Not so. I don't cook for myself and the others around the table can safely be put in the skinny category. I eat the same amount as they do, but I am still who I was when I left.
I am always saying that Dutch television is better than that in the US. Nonsense. It is the same mindless fodder we get in the US, so I don't watch it here either.
I still have the same daily routine that I had before, which is surprising because I am not one for much structure.
I really can't think of anyway that I might have changed.
Well, perhaps one. I dress differently even though most of my clothes were with me when I arrived. I like something a little different, and where I live is not the place to be too outlandish. Here, I find myself making entirely different combinations, along with the few clothes I bought here, which might raise an eyebrow back home. I was very tempted to buy a nuno felted hat last week. It was beautiful, fit wonderfully and would have kept my head warm too in the winter. I knew however, that it would be senseless to buy, because I would never wear it in the desert, even though it can get chilly sometimes and seeing that I drive a Jeep Wrangler, which allows the wind to blow right through the car, makes me wear a hat quite often. I don't wear a cowboy hat, and my small brim hat with an Indian-beaded strap is not a head turner, even though I think it is meant for men. If I wore that here, I think people would do a double-take.
Link to Dutch hatmaker (scroll down a bit to see more hats).

October 15, 2011

The neighbors.

Meet the neighbors. Actually, I think most of them slept over at my casita this Summer and it's a good job that I'm not scared of spiders, because I have seen them in all shapes and sizes now. Teeny ones that wanted to share my bed. Big, fat ones overhead that danced beautiful shadow dances in the light, as I read in bed. Walking out the door first thing in the morning, I would go face first into their webs. I am sure they called some bad names because then they would have to start all over again, only for me to wreck their beautiful work again in my rush to the bathroom the next day. (The bathroom is at the big house and for which I have to cross a stretch of lawn. I secretly call myself Ironbladder, these days).

October 14, 2011

First house.

When I was 21 I moved into this charming little house. I think the rent was about the equivalent of $ 10.00 a month. I believe I was one of the first young people allowed to live there, as before it was for widows and elderly women (who are usually widows anyway). It smelled awfully of cat-pee and the house leaned to one side so that anything dropped automatically rolled to the one corner.
My mother and father tore out all the carpeting, cleaned the catty corner well, and put in new carpeting and I got used to the slant of the floor and didn't feel perpetually drunk after a while.
I drove past it the other day and saw a 'for rent' sign and had to peek in. They have straightened the house and have made several changes. When I lived there the boxbed, which is the only translation I can find for bedstede, contained a small kitchen. Now I have to explain what a 'bedstede' is. In Holland until early in the 19th people would have beds that fit into wall cupboards with doors, so that the sleeping area could easily become warm and hold the warmth. With the doors closed, the bed could not be seen during the day. Another bit of trivia that is all yours now.

October 13, 2011

Hot air baloons.

I fear this is becoming a 'dog blog' because it involves Athena again. How can it not? She is always there with me. Anyway, I could not get Athena to quieten down the other day. She just kept barking and I couldn't understand why until I turned round and saw a hot air baloon, rising up behind the house as if it was going to hit it. We could actually talk to the people on board, that is how low it was and if anything makes Athena bark like a crazy dog it's hot air baloons. She just doesn't understand and frankly, this time it was rather scary because they were so low, scraping over the crops behind the house. 

October 12, 2011

The dog walking me.

September in Europe was unseasonably warm and my brother asked if I would like to walk Athena in the Amsterdamse Bos, which I thought was a brilliant idea.
Little did I know. First off, Chris takes three strides and is immediately far in front of us. This is too much for Athena, who wants to join Indy, Chris' Border Collie, and pulls with all her might, fanning out in front of me from left to right and right to left. I can't change hands because I am carrying my handbag (pffft, handbags. Why do we bother anyway?). From time to time Chris turns round to check up on us and looks back in the most relaxed way. Surely he can see the grooves my heels are making, like plough furrows, as Athena pulls me along?
Then from a path on the right two horses, in a trot, cross our path. This time I really thought my face would be ploughing a furrow. Athena is not exactly used to horses so close by and in the quiet woods her bark is deafening.
After a while, I give up and just let her off her leash. She is far better off than on, and she makes a dash for Chris and Indy. Panting and heaving I join them, just in time to see Athena lower herself in a slootje (a ditch of murky and green water) for a drink. She is happy now, I know but the smell is awful.
Chris throws a ball for Indy, who is a 6 month old pup, and Athena, who runs like greased lightning, scoops it up first. Walks back to Chris, then walks away placing the ball just out of reach. As Chris walks up, Athena turns and scoops up the ball again. This happens several times. I hear my good-natured brother mutter, 'demon dog', under his breath and I understand, but if anyone thinks that dogs do not have a sense of humor then they should have seen Athena in action. Demon dog was having a ball in more ways than one.
I pick up Chinese food on my way back home, then feed Athena and walk to the big house to say hello to the family. I had put my scarf on top of the food because Athena seldom messes with my stuff. When I return, there is no damage other than clean food containers and a little plastic bag on the floor. My scarf is still in the bag but other than that it is empty. She must have hands when I am not around, because it was all so cleanly and perfectly executed that I could hardly believe it had happened at all. The only confirmation I got was the look of utter bliss on my dog's face. She clearly had had a perfect day.

October 11, 2011

The casita.

This has been my Summer lodging. Athena and I much enjoy staying in it and are perfectly comfortable, but it is getting cold. The last couple of days have been gusty, with short, heavy showers, after which the sun comes out, but clearly Summer is over.
I call it the casita, because that's what it would be called in the Southwest. Here it goes by the grand name of chalet, which soon became Sletje, which is funny because in Dutch that means 'little slut', but in the nicest possible way.

October 10, 2011

Photo by Chris
Holland is small. I should say the Netherlands is small, but somehow that never sounds right to me. Well, whatever it's called, there are very many people here on a small patch of the earth and one begins to notice when you want to let out your dog. Athena has never been walked as such. I lived with a gate opening on to an 18 hole golf course, where the management allowed dogs to run when the the players had left. A little way down the road from my house, the desert opened up as far as the eye could see. Ever since coming here I have been looking for spots where dogs are allowed off the leash and can run. I haven't been very successful really. Every time I find one there are still bikers, runners and even roads with cars very nearby. It's off the leash, and on the leash and the occasional 'discussion' between Athena and me, because she doesn't understand why she can't just run.
I use baggies like most people do in the U.S. and even though I understand it is mandatory here too, I have yet to see someone scoop poop. When I let Athena do her business, people walking by frown or are ready to reprimand me until they see me take out my brightly colored baggie, which I whip out triumphantly just as they are opening their mouth. Still, it's not an easy thing to be a dog owner here.

October 9, 2011

Spirit Stick.

Far from floating, I am very grounded, but I could not resist calling my little collection of sticks, Spirit Sticks. I am sure that those who see me, when walking Athena, think me a little odd, because I am forever picking up bark, sticks, feathers, and other odds and ends I find along the way. Some people go to Thrift stores, I pick up my treasures when out in nature. I started making these when I first got here in Holland, and have quite a little collection now.

October 8, 2011

Collage and acrylics.

Never before have we been able to see the work of so many artists. It's like going to an exhibition every single day. Blogging has opened a world for me and I am in awe of what people create. It inspires me to try new things (as if I ever do the same thing twice). I have been looking into collage, which to me seemed to be an easy way to make a painting but to the contrary, you still have to have an eye for color and composition to make it work. The piece is collage in combination with acrylics on canvas.

September 13, 2011

There were five of them, heroically diving into the canal from the bridge, just like Jasper used to do when he was a teenager. After taking the pictures, I watched them for a while and then saw them carefully picking their way to my car, over the gravel.
They asked if I was with the police or if I would report them. Apparently, it is no longer allowed to risk your neck jumping off the bridge. I don't think the authorities minded much in Jasper's time. We had a nice talk about many things including the question if an American dog would feel at home in Holland.

September 3, 2011

End of Summer.

Geese flying over in V-formation, making an enormous racket, heading south. Summer is over and it's time for me to move on again.
I started out with no art materials at all, and lately on visits to friends and family, I have been given an arsenal of pastels, inks and gouache as well as blank canvasses, brushes and papers. I even have an easel now. I have been working steadily away on rainy afternoons and will soon have some work to put on my blog. In addition to the art materials, I must make a strange impression, when I take Athena out for a walk, as I pick up feathers, leaves, bark and sticks.
No matter. I have always done this. I have made some Magic sticks, for the want of a better name. I paint them; decorate them; hang feathers on them and even some sheep wool that I found near a field on a fence.

Slimy slugs.

Holland, where I am staying with family, has not had this much rain since 1906. I really don't mind the rain much, because after so many years in the desert it is quite refreshing. The slugs come out in great numbers when it rains and get in your way when walking in the garden. Great fat, slimy slugs that are little cannibals too, I have discovered. Squash their friend underfoot and the others have a feast.

August 11, 2011

Rose in watercolor pencils

It's not as if I haven't been doing anything, although I must admit that it hasn't been much in the way of artwork. A couple of days ago I painted this rose, or part of a rose, because I cropped the drawing the way I would a photo. I suppose you get used to certain things. It didn't seem right drawing a whole rose, for some reason. I don't usually draw flowers, and it seemed a little bit chocolate box top to me if I did a whole rose. I used my watercolor pencils, that I bought in Thailand, and tried them out in a different way than before. I pretty much drew with them, with only some pencil lines to keep me from going totally out of proportion. I then used water and brush in some places and in others I just left it as it was. I like how the rosebuds came out.

Green Wonderland

Swing Card published by Santoro Graphics Ltd London

If I look out of my window I see green plants and Summer flowers. I am wearing something warmish because the wind has picked up the last few days and the rain is a constant visitor. All very different from my usual situation, where it is now sizzling hot, and at this time of the year most plants have given up except for the Mexican Firebird and some foolhardy Lantanas. I'm not sure if I am glad to miss the heat in the desert, or if I have traded it for something that, in its own way, is bothersome.
When I take Athena for her walk, we pass green pastures with black and white cows, and a field with sturdy and beautiful beef bullocks, who look up warily at Athena, who is not interested at all. The sheep, across the road are far more interesting, but only fleetingly because she is smelling the 'news', and takes her sweet time doing this.
When I was in Chiang Mai recently, I found the tiniest glass bottle, and a publication of 'Alice in Wonderland', printed on Saa (Mulberry) paper for Fleur.  The tiny bottle made a big impression. At times, a very simple and inexpensive gift sparks more of the imagination than a toy that apparently has everything. We played many Alice stories, some by Lewis Carroll, others our own.
Fleur's birthday is coming up soon and when I saw the Swing Card, I knew that it was for her.

August 3, 2011

Here she is again!

Taking my dog on my travels was the best thing I did. She really is my constant companion, and although it makes things harder for us both, I know I could not have left her behind. Yevgenia Watts painted this wonderful watercolor of Athena and is ready to send it my way. She completely captured Athena in these bright and vibrant colors. Thanks Yevgenia, I just love your work.


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