November 25, 2009

A great big melting pot.

I dream about this. Ripe, sweet figs.
Last spring I planted my third Mission fig tree and again during the summer I lost the tree. I am determined to try again. Though I must admit, I don't see a lot of fig trees around here, so I might be trying the impossible.

I must have tasted my first fig, picked from a tree in our garden, when I was about 5. That's when it all started and since then I am always looking for fresh figs. When I am unable find them, dried figs, but even better, fig jam will do as a replacement.

One of the best lunches in my life was when we took a boat in Istanbul to see the beautiful old houses on the waterfront of the Bosphorus. Towards midday the ferry docked in a small town of which I have forgotten the name. There we had to wait for several hours to take the same boat back to the city.

I found my way to a long line of women in front of the public toilets and I paid some money for a piece of paper which was very frugally handed out by a woman in a black caftan and scarf. I looked at the 2 sheets of paper that she gingerly had laid in the palm of my hand and hopefully looked up at her. It was clear that it was all I would get.

Walking down the main street we bought bread, grapes, olives, cheese and figs and we found a place on the banks overlooking the water to have our picnic. If you have never eaten fresh Turkish bread then you have missed something. The perfect combination of these simple foods and the luscious, ripe figs have left a lasting impression on me and added to my fig fascination.

When I was visiting my mother in Holland this fall I passed a Turkish grocery store and outside stood a basket with ripe figs. Soon the shop-owner and I were picking out the best and ripest fruits for my dessert that evening.

Holland has become a great big melting pot over the years and when I am there I much enjoy shopping a little at the Indonesian toko for my spices, and at the Turkish or Moroccan grocery stores for the things I cannot find in my area of the U.S.

November 21, 2009

Flat stitch embroidery.


Look what I found! It pays to tidy up the boxes tucked in the back of a cupboard. I made these little posies years ago. Little is the word, because they are each less than 2 inches big, flat stitched on tightly woven cotton seed bags.

I grew up surrounded by women with ever busy hands and so it was natural that I started doing the same at an early age. I learned a bit of everything but became the mistress of nothing. Still, I am glad I had a chance to learn so many different things.

It's so nice to see the returned interest in handmade things. I subscribe to many blogs written by (mainly) women who create by knitting, crocheting, sewing and many other techniques.

In a world where mass production leads the way, originality is hard to find except..................when something is made by hand.

Naturally, I embrace the new trend in handmade things. I have begun to notice that it's okay that something looks handmade. In fact, it should look handmade because it is. None of that perfectionism to emulate a mass produced item. Totally my cup of tea.

All these great items can be bought on Etsy, at SeeJaneKnitYarn, Sineminugur, TheRullofFabric, Boojiboo, TeaPartyHats, AshAshToys, Artwallah, Asherjasper and TheSittingTree.


November 18, 2009

Seed Pods.

Seed pods are always a grateful subject whether you are drawing, painting or making photos. Camilo, my gardener had finished the Autumn pruning of the trees in the garden and had put all the seed pods from one particular tree together in a bunch. The tree itself is not amazing in any way and is planted at the side of the house, where it can hardly be seen. It is on the south side where the sun blisters most of the day in the Summer and where a tree is most needed.

Camilo knows I like things like seed pods, broken egg shells, unusual stones, dead insects and other things that we find while working, so he was happy when he gave me the bundle and so was I. I have been using them in different ways but photographing them gave the most pleasing results.


November 16, 2009

Tiny the lizard.

The other day, as I was brushing my teeth, I felt something run over my foot. It was a lizard. Extremely tiny and almost translucent. At first I prepared myself for the hunt, but then thought better of it. It not only required that I look for and actually find my glasses but I don't think they do any harm. They even eat insects, so I just let it be. It will find its way out again.

Then today I remembered I had made a picture of one a while back. It was just as small and also had no coloring. Imagine my amazement when I blew up the photo and saw the above. Tiny lizards are very colorful, except I couldn't see that with or without my glasses.

November 15, 2009

Tortoise shells.

A chilly wind has been blowing all day. People are actually wearing jackets but they won't die of hypothermia even if they are wearing shorts because the sun is bright in the sky and temperatures not low.

I spent most of the day making table top photos. Working with light and depth of field. I light the subject with two lamps and use a white backboard. Like I say, it keeps me off the streets.

The tortoise shells in the picture are medicine containers that I purchased at different Pow Wows in the Southwest.

November 14, 2009

Crazy dog.

A gift from my brother. Yes, the same one who sent me the card with little girl and very large dog.

Not very many people here will remark on this little sign at my front entry to the house. "Chien lunatique" as you will probably have gathered means, "Crazy dog" in French and my brother and I got a good laugh out of it.

When Athena was a puppy my brother bought a sign that read, "ATTACK PUPPY", which I had on my gate for a long time.  I don't need it anymore. Everyone in the neighborhood knows Athena and her exuberance.

Athena herself would be the first to say, "What do you mean by exuberant?" "I am always perfectly composed". "Well, almost always".

November 13, 2009

Sis and Dog.

I have never really been known for my attachment to animals. We always had them when I was growing up, but we lived in the same house in toleration. The dogs and cats were never overly fond of me and neither was I of them. I will not even go into the menagerie we had except that it included rabbits, chickens, a goose and many more different animals over time.

Even if there was a moment of interest from my side, I always ended up being slobbered on or worse, as in the case of Mimi, the marmot, peed on. That was usually the end of a very brief love affair.

Both my brothers are animal people and when I told them that I had taken a dog they raised their eyebrows. When I told them the dog was a Weimaraner, it was the cause of some hilarity.

My brother sent me the above card "Sis and Dog" and he was right. Athena and I, at first sight are perhaps not the perfect match. She is a sleek runner, all muscle and energy, and I, well, let's just say that I am none of that.

I can't think of a decision I made, that was so out of character than taking home that little puppy and yet being so very glad I made it.

Athena is my constant companion, who accompanies me almost everywhere and who give me quick, little lick when she passes me somewhere in the house. She let's me know when I have worked enough and should be walking. She puts up with me, and I with her when she decides to dig her way to Australia or is so giddy with happiness that she forgets she is now too big to jump up and try kiss your face.

It turned out to be a match made in heaven, after all.

p.s. Athena has her own blog. Click on her name to go there.

November 5, 2009


A friend of mine sent me these pictures taken by a surfer. Amazing results. Makes you want to take up surfing. I couldn't find out who the photographer is as there are several surfing photographers out there doing similar things.

November 4, 2009

Pen and Ink Still Life.

I have a tendency towards broad strokes and avoiding detailed work but you can't do that with pen and ink because it just becomes messy. So this is a study in self-discipline too really.

November 3, 2009

Pen and Indian ink.

In spite of having a boatload of new inks and paints what did I use? Indian ink and a nib pen.

November 2, 2009

Bocas del Torro

Posted by Picasa
When you travel there is always a story to tell.
Sitting in a steamy, rather overfull bus somewhere on a road in Panama (I usually travel by public transport in Latin America), I speculated if I would make it to my final destination on time that day. There had been a little rockslide and it had taken some time to clear the road before we had been able to move on.

I was headed for a small island between Bocas del Torro and Bastimentos, and still had to make my way from Almirante, through the Chiquita plantations to the island of Colon by way of water-taxi and then on to the island. The prospect of staying in an eight room Caribbean guest house on a remote island with white sandy beaches was exciting to me and I was also ready to stay in one place for a week.

Only one of the rooms was to be mine of course, and there were no glass panes in the windows but hurricane shutters. The island had no electricity but there was more than adequate compensation: the sound of waves running up the beach, fresh fish for dinner, a mosquito net to sleep under and a lantern to read my book by in the evening.

When I finally reached the jetty from which I was to take a boat for the island, darkness had already fallen and I was told that no one would be willing to take me there now because of the risk hitting the coral reef.

When in despair, show it! The man in the tatty grass hat who approached me said he would take me for $50.00 (the usual going price is $5.00) and I accepted without thinking twice because the sirens of the island were calling me...rather loudly.

The moment I nodded, things started happening. The little crowd of onlookers suddenly became part of a flurry of activity and I realized I had just bought dinner for them all. My bags were lowered over the flimsy wooden quay into a well of darkness and an animated discussion in Creole flared up.

For the time being, it seemed no one was in the least interested in me so I peered over the edge of the planks to see where my belongings had gone. My eyes widened as I saw the really small vessel swaying to-and-fro in the  iridescent, oil slicked water. It was definitely a considerable way down from where I was standing which made it look even smaller.

The realization that I would have to lower myself that far down to get to the  boat, which was also in perpetual motion, was so daunting that I think fear dulled my brain, and the next thing I knew was, I had dropped myself from a standing position, with a great big thud, to sitting flat on my rear. I looked up at the astounded faces above me while the rickety jetty shuddered. Without giving a thought to any splinters that might end up in my behind, I scooted forward and before I knew it, had plopped myself into the boat.  I can't say how I plopped into that boat, but no other word covers the action that got me there. It was a totally brainless maneuver. No one was more amazed than I, that I had, granted very unelegantly and in a very unconventional way, ended up in the boat.

I rewarded the round whites of the eyes gazing down at me in puzzlement from the dark above with a broad encouraging grin and precariously settled myself down in the middle of the boat. I was ready to go. I did hear a soft "She be a strange one" in that delicious english they speak in the Caribbean.

As we left the harbor of Bocas, under the dark sky without a moon, I relaxed a little but chugging out to sea it slowly dawned on me that I was soon going to be in an enormous expanse of water bound for a practically unhibited island with broad shouldered men who would have no trouble tipping me overboard or worse. I brooded about this as one of men lay flat on his stomach at the front of the boat with a torch and yelled instructions to the other at the engine where to steer, so that we wouldn't hit the coral reef. They seemed busy enough though, to forget about me being in the boat.
Still, I could hear my mother's voice ringing in my ears: always be careful Elza. Well, I hadn't listened to her this time, had I?

Our progress was slow. Very slow. Not a light to be seen, even as we neared an even darker mass than the surrouding blackness, which was indicated to me that this might just be the island. Not a light anywhere. Inside my head it was even darker as I scolded myself for having being so impetous and impatient.

We went back and forth along the shoreline of the island to find where I should be dropped off and finally, we saw a faint glow and then a long jetty loomed up. It was too soon for me to be relieved though. Had I just faced a downward drop from a jetty, I was now looking at having to climb my way up to a jetty that towered above me as the boat rolled beneath my feet. Despair was becoming a familiar little companion on this trip.

From above there came a hand, a rather small hand which belonged to a very small man from my perspective as I stood in the rolling boat, and looked up at the dreaded height of the jetty. The swell of the waves raised and lowered me while I knew I was never going to get up there and contemplated my alternatives, when the hand from above grabbed mine, and strong hands were placed on my behind and before I knew it I was unceremoniously heaved onto the wooden jetty above me. Delivered like a sack of beans.

As I mustered all my dignity, I put on my hat, picked up my little rucksack and strode, on very wobbly legs, over the jetty towards the faint light under a tree.

As I emerged from the dark, I passed the other guests as they sat at their evening meal and I managed a calm and friendly, "Good evening", pretending I was returning from an evening stroll on the beach, while being very aware of their amazed faces as their eyes followed me, their mouths agape. "She be a strange one", each must have thought in their own way, as I disappeared into the darkness again.


Related Posts with Thumbnails