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.


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