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.

June 28, 2011

The Tree of Happiness.

Ever since I arrived in Thailand I have noticed the phuang malai, the garlands of jasmine, marigolds and roses, which the Thai hang on their house shrines, or near a little statue of Buddha or even in their car. I seem to have to buy one now and then, and hang it in my room, just to give it some color. The picture in the background is of the Tree of Happiness, I was told.

Temple pet.

Indulge me, I happen to like photos like this and besides, my mind constantly drifts to Athena, my dog, who is waiting for my return (I hope). Do dogs forget their owners? 

Free finches for good luck.

The past few days, I had seen this wizened women walking around, and later at one of the temples. I had made some pictures from afar. What intrigued me today were the baskets she had with her. As I came closer, I saw that they contained birds. In surprisingly good English, she said that she would let them free which would bring me good luck. Naturally, I had to cross her palm with a banknote, but it was worth the experience to me, and being able to take a couple of shots from close by.

Now, I am going to sit back and see if some good fortune will come my way.

Look at that smile. I think she is the smartest business woman in Chiang Mai.

House Shrine.

I love this house shrine. She looks a bit of a material girl with that bag of money and that demanding little hand.

June 27, 2011

Little lotus blossoms.

Rain started beating down after lunch, and I decided to seek refuge in a massage place, that also does manicures and pedicures, because I needed to spruce up a little. As I entered, I looked down at the feet of the woman, opening the door. They were really dirty, but I decided to go in anyway. The gay helper, was more interested in the color I would choose, than giving a massage to one of the four English girls who also came in out of the rain. Everywhere you go, there seem to be a few too many people to handle the work, and this gives an impression of disinterest. Thai seem to be obsessed by removing hairs from their body, with their nails. They are the kindest people, and are said to be hard workers, however there is obviously a lot of hidden unemployment. I had 3 people attending to me, and still got a really bad manicure. My 7 year old niece could have done better. I did however have the best cup of tea since I arrived in Chiang Mai.
As soon as the rain let up a bit, I decided to move on but it didn't take long before I was drenched again.
I had seen Lila every day as I walked to my hotel, so went in there dripping generously around, for a hot oil massage. Lila is more upscale; still a massage is only around $ 10.00 to $ 25.00. Feet only, a mere $ 6.00.
I think I could have held the little lotus blossom lady assigned to me in the palm of my hand. Yet her size did not prevent her from pummeling and squeezing me in ways I would not have thought possible. Neither have I ever had the experience of having someones knees in the small of my back whilst they were pounding on my shoulders. This was one hefty massage, I tell you.

June 26, 2011

The Notebook.

Although I talk to a lot of people, traveling on your own can be a quiet business. You share your experiences by writing to friends and family, and of course, a blog is a great way to document what you do. I do not keep a journal, because I have found that I never look at them again. The past is the past, and you carry the best memories with you anyway. I do use notebooks to jot down ideas for art work; make rough little sketches and make notes on things I see. The same note book is used for planning and keeping track of times and dates. I have a moleskine agenda, but my life at the moment does not have much in the way of appointments. My last note book is almost full and I thought this was the time to look for another. The Sunday Market was a good place to look for this. You can buy these at home, I suppose, but where is home?
The background is saa (mulberry) paper printed in Thai (I think), and is probably some religious text. The pompoms are made by the local ladies, and they were surprised that I wanted a handful of loose ones, because they are usually attached to bags and clothes.

It looks like Blogger is back to normal. I have my header back at least.

June 25, 2011

Blogger has a problem.

I have just checked other blogger blogs and many of them are having a problem with their header. It's blogger that has a problem.
Rain is pelting down today, but I won't notice much of it as I am going to my Thai cooking class in a bit. I got soaked yesterday afternoon, and sat out the heaviest cloud burst having a foot massage. All the pampering you can indulge in here!

June 24, 2011

The Blogger Monster is acting up.

I have lost my header and my side-bar has moved way down to the bottom. I don't think it's any of my doing and I have not been able to fix it.

In the nut.

House Shrine

The smell of lemongrass is everywhere. Normally, a pleasant smell, but in excess it is as if you cannot rid yourself of it. When I leave my room, a swirl of the scent always manages to find my nose. It will follow me for the rest of my life, and will forever remind me of Thailand.

Upon arrival, the guesthouse I had booked, was full. I slept next door in an overpriced boutique hotel and might just as well have been in California. It was lovely, but I am a bit of a romantic when traveling, and prefer a place with atmosphere, which I quickly found.

The room is dark though, with only a tiny window, but it has airconditioning, a roomy bathroom and anything else I might need. I have been adopted by Tatar, a young man, who speaks excellent English and who tells me about daily life in Chiang Mai and the surrounding countryside.

From the first conversation we had, there was one word that I didn't understand. I heard him say 'nut'. 'Here in the nut', and thought it was a Thai word for the region. Yesterday evening, again the word kept appearing in the conversation and I had to ask him what it meant. It was 'North'. 'Here in the North'. The 'th' is not an easy sound for foreigners to make.

I travel for the feeling of where I am, not so much for the things one has to see or do. I wandered in and out of Wats (Buddhist Temples) yesterday, did a little bit of shopping, but hardly bought anything. Tatar says not to waste money on the tourist shops, but to wait for the Sunday market, which will be right outside of my hotel on the main street. People from the villages bring their crafts for sale at the Sunday market. I am not looking to buy much because I am traveling light, and there isn't space in my luggage. In Bangkok, I bought some beautiful turquoise beads from Afghanistan and I will be looking for silver beads from the Hill tribes. I want to make a necklace for Marianne, and I know she likes things that are "different". I will do my best to find unusual beads and make a design that she will like. The stones themselves are very heavy, so I cannot add much weight to it. My niece (7), picked up the whole strand and said, "Oooof, who wants to put that around their neck?"
 In fact, I have not seen any silver beads in the many shops. Even the area, where on my map, it says 'silver beads', there were no beads to be found. Maps here are not very reliable. The main streets are shown, but the myriad of little allies are not, so you have to ask or guess where something is. The saa paper store was in a little back ally, and I was fortunate that an expat school teacher walked me there, otherwise I may not have found it.

I might have danced naked on a table last night. After dinner, I felt like a sundowner and ordered a gin on ice. When they brought me the glass, I thought it was water. Two lonely ice cubes floated in a glass filled to the brim with gin. I decided that a third of it was more than enough. Wisdom comes with age, thank goodness.

June 23, 2011

The train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

Close-up of temple decoration.
 When Bangkok is left behind, and as the rice fields come into view, your lungs fill with the freshness of the country side; as when swimming submerged and breaking the surface for air. The fiery orange and crimson flowers of the Flame trees; the fresh green of the rice field; the flowering weeds along the tracks makes one forget the hustle and bustle of the city.  I boarded the three wagon train at 8:30 a.m. to start the 12 hour journey to Chiang Mai. A bunch of young backpackers were in the other section of the wagon, but they were quiet, and most slept. A Chinese gentleman down the aisle made himself comfortable with a little pillow under his head, and I settled in. 12 Hours seemed like a long time. My legroom was minimal and the seat a little thinly stuffed, but I had a folding table, like in a plane, and the uniformed hostess brought coffee, juice and a bun, which raised my expectations, which. unfortunately, would not be met. Lunch eventually consisted of white rice, and some pieces of what I think was dried chicken. Later I saw the Chinese gentleman empty a little bag of fish sauce over his rice, which I must have overlooked, but which would have immensely improved the flavor.
I had my breakfast at the station prior to departure, and one food stand displayed 'Mexican buns' of all kinds. I have never seen these steamed buns in Mexico, but they must sound exotic here. I ran my fingers over the bun in the train, and it was as soft as a baby's cheek. I should have left it at that, as it didn't taste like anything much and the bright green interior, was .....well, a bright green interior. Nothing more. Perhaps you are only supposed to caress these little buns and not eat them.
By 10:30 we were surrounded by highly professional, crisply measured rice fields and large agricultural equipment, crowded at time with flocks of white herons, dotted with an occasional larger grey and black heron, waiting patiently, staring at the water for his midday meal to swim by.
As you slowly continue up into the mountains, lotus covered ponds and canals accompany you for miles, and the rice fields change into smaller, more rustic rectangles until you are in the foothills, where they are no longer seen and are replaced by lush tropical vegetation.

Thailand is a clean country, and even the train's toilets were clean, with running water and soap. I have seen far worse, even in Europe. I don't mind using a squat toilet, but this one would not hold still for even a minute. I must have looked really pleased with myself when actually getting out of the little door, in the rolling train, balancing on every ridge that I could find, so that I didn't have to get my shoes wet. It was probably water anyway, but I wasn't entirely sure, as I didn't think that the backpackers' sense of balance was any better than mine.

June 19, 2011

Paper Cut.

Handmade paper (die) cut card on saa (mulberry) paper made by the hearing impaired here in Thailand.
When I left home at 21 to live on my own, I could hardly cook. Over time, I became rather a good cook learning to refine my skills while I was living in France.
My brothers are both excellent cooks. How that happened, I don't know. There is quite a bit of age difference between us, so my mother might have decided that they needed to know how to cook (and sew buttons on their shirt), or that they started, earlier than I, out of interest, but over the years we had some very good times preparing delicious meals (and eating them).
One brother likes preparing big cuts of meat and large fish. Christmas at his house often meant that something like duck or capon would be served.
My husband was a pastry chef prior to making a career move, and when the family was at our house he sometimes made impressive looking desserts. The one that stands out most of all in my mind is the Gateau de Sainte Honore, a pyramid of cream puffs, around which he spun threads of sugar.
In my cook book, where I have kept notes and recipes since I started cooking, there is one entry which is especially dear to me. In the handwriting of a 10 year old it tells how to make mayonnaise from scratch. At the time, I was totally amazed and charmed that my little brother could make mayonnaise all by himself.

A subtle nudge.

I have been waking up very late lately. Even at the worst of times, I am a good solid sleeper. It may be the climate; it may be that I need it, but I have had such trouble waking up the last couple of months.
Yesterday evening, there was an enormous alarm clock next to my dinner plate. It's definitely not a travel alarm clock, but my brother's sense of humor didn't escape me. He has always had a fine sense of humor. Anyway, I now wake earlier to the sound of 'It's a small world after all', accompanied by a very loud rattling and ringing. His gesture makes me realize how I miss being around him, but we live in different parts of the world, and that's the way it is.

June 18, 2011

The Monitor Lizard on the ceiling.

Mango wood bowl.
 It must have been a day or two after my arriving here that I was sitting on the veranda, waking up. Suddenly I heard a loud scuttling noise beneath my feet, and out from under the wooden planks scurried a great big monitor lizard. It was over 3 ft and very fat. It made it's way over the veranda to the other side and continued through the screen door, which easily gave way. I was at first taken aback, but soon gave a shout to the maid, so that she knew the creature was in the house. She gave a yelp, and with the lizard sitting on the printer, she climbed a chair and brandished a mop at it. Fortunately, the reptile decided that this was not where he wanted to be, and took the same route out of the house and back under the veranda.
It was only then that I heard the scratching on the ceiling in the evenings but I could hardly imagine that such a big animal was walking over the space between the roof and the ceiling. Mr. Sweetie was called, the general maintenance man, and I don't know if his name is Sweetie, but it certainly sounds like it. He came with a little bamboo cage with some aged chicken to entice the lizard into his trap. The lizard I saw would not fit in there, that I knew. Holes in the garden were filled and more precautions were taken. The family settled back into their normal routine, and at night we listened to the scratching. In the meantime, the trap stood outside with it's lure, letting off a foul smell. According to me, it was foul enough to entice a monitor lizard. But who am I, where lizards are concerned?
About three days later there was much hoopla outside and my sister-in-law grabbed a shovel and scooted the remainder of the lizard, that was sticking out, into the cage.
Once closed, we all peered in. It could not have been the 3 ft, fat lizard we had seen, because even the cage wasn't 3 ft. However, the maid came to the conclusion that the lizard must have lost weight in the meantime and was convinced that it was the same lizard. It's true that we haven't heard any scratching on the ceiling anymore.

Fleur and her friend peer into the cage.

June 17, 2011

Cupcakes and girly things.

Thailand is a country of extremes. Yesterday I walked through squalid allies and by a canal that was an open sewer, where I saw a monitor lizard swimming between the debris. Cats and kittens made a dash for safety, as I walked past. There are just so many of them. The smell of urine was everywhere.
Then there is the other side of Bangkok. The excellent and efficient Skytrain and Metro. The hair salons that could be in any other big city in the world. The elegant women, balancing on their high heels; the general cleanliness of the people around you. The glimmering gold malls, such as the Emporium and Siam Paragon where you can buy designer anything and everything (though not art paper).
Another aspect of Thai society is the third sex. The lady-boys. Men dressed as women, but as Thai men, in general, are slender and especially when young, can be quite effeminate, one is inclined to think that there are more gay people here than elsewhere. The lady-boys consider themselves women however, and dress accordingly. Their shoulders might be broader than those of a girl, their hands and feet bigger and certainly their voice let's you know that they have made the step from male to female. On the other hand there are many women who work as construction workers. A land of extremes, compared to our world.

June 15, 2011

Thai tourist.

Tried to find the Chinese Art Supply shop, but things went a little differently and meandered through the outskirts of Chinatown, where there was enough to see and decided it was too difficult to do what I had set out to do, based on the map in my Lonely Planet guidebook.
I am aching to do something creative but a travel sketchbook is not my strength. My trusty camera is having a hard time too, perhaps it's the humidity, but it's not working as it usually does.
I have also developed a ridiculous sleeping pattern. At home, in the Summer, I am awake at 5 a.m., in the Winter later, but here I can sleep 12 hours, if left alone. It can't be the heat because I've lived in a hot place for so many years.

In a little store that sold talismans, I saw some small lizards with multiple tails. Many Thai wear a talisman, usually a depiction of Buddha, but these lizards were said to be a lucky charm. The most expensive had 9 tails. Being a sceptic, I assumed that they were fake. Checked it on internet (of course), and saw that lizards detach their tail when caught. In some cases, in certain species, the 'old' tail doesn't fall off entirely, but a new tail is formed as well - hence the two tails. Still, it's an exceptional situation and is rarely seen. So I have my answer, however 9 tails? That little blob of silver at the base of all the tails makes me think though, that, possibly, a drop of super glue has something to do with it.

On the metro I saw an ad stating: "It's not over till you sing a fat lady's song". You see a lot of creativity in English here and some are good for a chuckle.

June 13, 2011

It can hardly be said that I am super soft about animals. I have known people who want to take home every cat or dog they see along their way. Much as I dislike seeing stray animals, I am rational enough to know that I cannot help except by calling the Humane Society.

When I was growing up in South Africa, at many of my friends houses there was a chain dog. My dog, if it was mine because my parents took care of it, would sometimes follow me to school, and wait till it was time to go home.
I wasn't a big animal person like my brothers, but I have had pets all my life and I enjoyed their company. Those who read my blog regularly or browse for earlier posts, will know that I am very much attached to my dog, Athena. She is my constant companion and it pains me that we are separated for the time I am here. I even brought her to Europe from the U.S. because I could not leave her behind while I was gone.

In Thailand, there are mangy dogs on every corner, usually close to the food stands, which are truly everywhere. They are fat, but have sores and the mange is so bad that it's horrible to look at.
At the big Weekend Market I had to go through quite a few moments of horror. There were animals of every kind for sale ranging from reptiles to little hedgehogs, with paws that were still rosy pink because they were so young.

When the local Humane Society puts dogs up for adoption at Pet Smart, they are usually barking or interacting in some way with the people who come to look at them. Not so on the market. Dogs cowering in a corner, looking you  with extreme submission. I am sure that many Thai love their pets, and I have seen quite a few with well pampered dogs at the vet, where we took the new addition to the family, a little Scottish Fold kitten for her shots.

I was surprised to see the Thai Ridgeback, a very unique dog and little known breed in the West, in cages, and although they looked physically well, they had the same forlorn look in their eyes as the other dogs.

It makes you realize that although people are much the same all over the world, there are cultural differences that we don't always understand, but I think that is why we travel. Precisely because we want to see and learn about these differences. If it was the same everywhere, which slowly we are coming to, with McDonalds and Starbucks doing their very best, travel would not be half as exciting.

June 8, 2011

Seahorse in Crayon.

It's not been all that easy to keep up with anything creative lately. First the lack of supplies, then the lack of inspiration, followed by the fact that weather makes all paper corners curl and most importantly lack of a table to work on. Of course, there are tables in the house, but I am so used to working in my own space with no one around me, listening to an audio book, that I have been working in the spacious guestroom, right, which has no table.
The picture didn't quite work out the way I wanted it, and you can see Fleur's fingers, but that adds charm, I think. Perfectionism is not something I strive after. Rather, I prefer spontaneity and we had a good time making the pictures. The drawing I like, a little bit of reality and a little bit of fantasy. They do exist, leafy seahorses.

I used Faber Castell crayons from the children's drawing section, marked 'for children 3 years and over'. I think I fit the category, besides I never nibble on my pencils.

Little Helper.

A painting by Fleur.
I have a little helper who held up some artwork for me to photograph because during the monsoon here, everything is wet and light is scarce because the house has a canopy of tall tropical trees that keep out a lot of light. When you sit on the veranda leaves and flowers drop down, and now and then a coconut.

Dutch Embroidery Sampler from 1786.

Yesterday I googled my name, which I do from time to time to see what comes up. I noticed a picture of a sampler there and my first name. I had posted something a while back on a sampler my mother had made many years ago but it was not the one in the picture. I went from one link to another and met another Elza, and a group of embroidery enthusiasts, that were looking for a particular sampler which they had seen in a coffee commercial. After a long search they had already found the pattern which was made at the Zuiderzee Museum in Enkhuizen in the '70's but that is no longer being offered for sale, I believe. I took the opportunity to tell them that my mother had worked there during that period and had made patterns from very old samplers, counting them out stitch by stitch, finding the correct colors and embroidering them to check for mistakes. She also embroidered some for herself, which have been given to my brothers and me.
This morning I read the posts a little more carefully, and sure enough there was my mother's name, which was on a paper along with the pattern they had found. What fun to see that. To me it's an acknowledgement of her work.
Then another surprise. I found my brother's sampler in a drawer in the guestroom here at the house in Bangkok and to my surprise it is the first sampler made by my mother from the reconstructed pattern. It's the exact same sampler the Embroidery group was looking for.
It's monsoon here, so it was out of the question photographing it outside, because everything is wet and now and then there is another shower. I think the pictures are clear enough though for those who are interested to see the finished result.
Now I am going to write my mother a letter telling her all about it. I am sure she will enjoy hearing it.


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