Studio Upgrade

This is the view of the north side of my sewing room; it’s a bit messy because I’m moving stuff around to get ready for a major upgrade. Well, major for me: the patio door will be removed and the space framed up and then a window put in, and a skylight is going in the ceiling. The fellows who did my window installation a few years are doing the work:

Here I’ve cleared stuff away, which is to say I’ve stuffed everything in other corners of the house. You must admit, this view is a bit glum:

Especially when you look closely at the patio door; the idiot who installed it did a bad job, check out how the mortar is cracking:

And not just on the inside, on the outside, too; it was getting to the point where this just wasn’t even safe and secure, let alone aesthetically pleasing:

After vacuuming, this is my new view of the north side of my sewing room; much nicer. The dark blob in the center of the skylight is the ceiling fan blade. I love the natural light. Now I have to put all my stuff back!!

Backyard Then and Now

Six years ago, my backyard looked like this: and, I should say, this is a huge improvement over what it looked like 7 years ago: then, it was a pit. The notable features then were a huge rusting broken down shed and scattered shotgun casings on the ground. My house was basically such a wreck the first year I owned it that I couldn’t take a single photograph.

This is how things in this part of the yard look now:

This is the view through the not-yet-covered-in-tombstone-rose arbor:

Every year I try and rehabilitate another small piece of the yard by planting mostly native plants that will produce shade one day and reduce weeds; this is a small bed of  perennials, all of which are largely buried under annual wildflowers, an ornamental kale and hollyhocks:

It’s hard to believe this will all be largely shrunken and brown come June!

My Very Beautiful Bathroom Tile

Last week, my bathroom bath/shower was tiled and new plumbing fixtures were installed. The plumber came one morning as I was getting ready for work. When I heard him say, from the bathroom, “you’ve got to see this”, followed by him coming out to show me a cell phone photo…well, I knew my old house just yielded yet another surprise:  a shower fixture held in place with….duct tape.

Yes, that is duct tape (circa 1958) holding the old shower in place. No wonder it always wobbled.  I should send this image to the duct tape people as a testimonial to how long this stuff holds up. It was still sticky!

Here is the new shower, set considerably higher I might add; my old shower was for midgets.

Here’s the very cool and curvy tub faucet…

And here’s my tub, scrubbed nice and clean and white; I didn’t have the tub re-glazed as it’s held up well. Plus I’ve heard re-glazing involves very stinky solvents, which would certainly give me a migraine.

This is the view from the hall. I just love the tile, which is porcelain from Italy. The small white tiles are glass.

Eric from Absolute Installation tore out my old green tile from 1958 and put up my new tile. Several bricks fell out of the wall during the process (good thing this is a double-wall house) and he mortared them up just fine. I asked him to place random inserts of the small square white tile, and I just love the way it turned out. Even smaller tiles in the same color frame the window and the 2 small corner shelves. Eric was very professional, things were always tidy after he worked, and Bearbear just loved him. I wholeheartedly recommend him; it’s hard to find people who do great, honest, artistic work AND whom you can trust to have in your home.

My Almost New Bathroom

Recently, I shared a photo of what my bathroom used to look like: a pit, really, painted gray-blue and with only a small north-facing window for light. All the fixtures were over 50 years old. Maybe the toilet was replaced in 1972, but other than that….it was very sad.

My carpenter pal Rob Saunders is 74 and does (still!) beautiful work; he built me beautiful bathroom cabinets. He worked with his son to take out all the crap in my old bathroom; once the drywall was patched, this is what I was assigned to paint…

…along with this…..

I took the photo above  from the bathtub. It’s a very small bathroom, a little over 8 feet deep and not quite 5 feet wide. Aside from beautifying things, the purpose of the remodel was to maximize the small area with as much cabinet storage space as possible.

Here are the very sad looking towel racks from the old bathroom:

I started with a coat of primer. Even in the middle of the day (remember, it’s sunny here in the winter so there’s lots of daylight) I had to use a very bright, scarily heat-producing lamp to see what I was doing.

I left the original blue where I knew the cabinets would be placed; you can see some of the color I picked to go over the primer, a nice soothing warm color called Parchment, appropriate I think given the amount of time folks spend reading in the bathroom.

I also took this time to do my own “remodel” of my small hall closet, which is 2 feet deep, 2 feet wide and about 8 feet tall. Here’s a view from floor level:

Like the bathroom, the closet is blue: and let me just say that once you put something in a dim dark blue closet it’s impossible to ever find it again. Here’s the closet once I took out all but the 2 highest shelves.

My goal was to turn the closet into something I could use for shoes, coats, bags…like any normal hall closet…so that my front door area could be tidier, and not look like this:

I painted the closet Parchment, too. And because I no longer had a bathroom mirror, I didn’t notice that painting such a narrow space made me get paint in my hair, which was pointed out to me at work the next morning.

I put in a dowl and some small hooks for hanging stuff up.

Once I finished painting, Rob and Tom put in my new cabinets, new sink and new water-saving Toto toilet. The cabinets have recessed lighting and a recessed fan. I can now see myself in the mirror, and the bathroom is nice and bright.

Now, if you didn’t notice the disgusting green tile in the background….that’s being replaced next month with something much nicer. Be prepared for another bathroom blog post!

More of What Gets in the Way of Artmaking

I have felt so burdened lately by getting stuff done. Usually I feel OK about daily chores and routines; I appreciate some structure to my artmaking. Lately, though, there’s been too much structural work going on: yard and garden upkeep, bathroom remodel, shopping for a new commuter bicycle, etc. And not enough time for art, making me cranky. I’ve mentioned in prior posts I’ve had some painful back problems (which have turned out to be painful–but less serious–hip problems) so that hasn’t helped my irritability.


My winter garden is looking good, thanks to an inch of rain last week and recent work to tidy up the yard. Here’s the kale, lettuce, beets, parsnips and carrots:

The cabbage is a bit sluggish in comparison, there is a bit of lettuce in there, pink trumpet flower in the foreground…

I’ve put in a few new perennial beds in my effort to make it impossible for weeds to get a successful hold; you can’t really see it here but there’s a red salvia, a Gregg’s Mist flower, Chocolate flower, canyon creeping verbena stuck in the ground here with the existing hollyhock, desert grass and yellow bells:

Here’s a new bed of evening primrose, verbena, white sage and a euphorbia:

Finally, as disgusting as this photo is, I’ve been working on my bathroom remodel. One look at this and you can see why I’d put time and effort into improving this mess, which I think has it’s origins in 1958. This is being gutted tomorrow!

Art some time soon, I hope!

Miscellaneous Projects

I managed to get a few things done this past week. Like start quilting this paper/silk lamination piece so I can then try and build a frame for it; it’s not easy to see the quilting design, but, it’s there:

I also put up one of my pieces at my chiropractor’s office; I think it looks pretty cool, maybe someone will buy it!

And I finished moving all of my books into my art room, to free up my livingroom wall….

…so I could put up the Drug Blimp triptych from The Grasslands Bakery, which used to hang up behind the bar there:

My sister gave me the painting. It’s hard to believe she made this 20 years ago, when surveillance technology on the US/Mexico border consisted of blimps with cameras. Now there are drones that could fit in my old Mazda hatchback that do the same thing.

I’m off to Asheville, N.C. tomorrow for 5 days of what I hope will be excellent and most favorable fiddling conditions. My update when I return. 🙂


Post-Grasslands Adjustment

I’ve been very tired this week; last weekend–closing down the Grasslands–was exhausting. I’ve been busy moving stuff around my house to accommodate the art and dry-goods I took from the bakery.

For example, all my books were once on this wall…

…but I moved them to this corner to make room for the art my sister gave me, when the Grasslands closed, and which now needs a home.

Then, in what I hope is an exciting turn of events in my quest to make frames for my art–especially the new paper laminations I’m making, which I don’t think look great in a traditional quilt binding–I found a deal on Craigslist last Tuesday while I was just browsing. The ad had just been placed for this mitre trimmer….

which can be best thought of as a kind of paper-cutter for picture-frame-sized wood, as it trims already mitre-cut wood to a smooth finish, and…

…the same folks who had the cutter also had this picture joiner, which is a handy way to clamp and staple–with v-nails–the mitre-cut frame wood:

I’m going to give these a shot tomorrow I hope! Almost ready to get back into the art-making.

New Doors and a Window

This is the door I painted last weekend. The same father-son team that installed my windows last year put in the door; they took of the steel security door  so I could paint that after work.

It didn’t take too long:

Here it is, finished:

I love my door! The old one was poorly installed; weatherstripping was hanging from the top; the screws holding in the knob were stripped and several times a week I had to use my sewing machine screwdriver (a very small one) to temporarily tighten up the knob.

I asked the guys to take off the security door on the east side of my house, too, as I figured I might as well paint that sad looking and largely unused door:

This door is part of the (inadequately) built addition on my house, in the room where I sew. Here it is after some paint (yellow is supposed to be good for north-east-facing doors, according to feng-shui design principles, though this is probably more east-north-east):

And here it is with the security door:

Probably what I like best is my sewing room transformed from this…

…to this, after swapping out an ancient air-conditioner (I never even turned it on once in over 6 years, thinking the thing would likely blow up if I did) for a cheerful window:

I had piles of tools in my livingroom for part of the week…

and I spent hours after work painting (lucky it’s light till almost 7PM now). No art work done for this week. And I still have to clean my house from all the dust!

Travel Prep: A Summary of Eccentric Last Minute Tasks

Most people getting ready for a vacation would occupy themselves with normal tasks. I like to tidy up the house and yard, and then I find myself involved with a variety of tasks involving either ending a project or starting one…so when I get back I have a clean house and something to get started with right away!

This morning, to add to my guilt about gutting my beehive yesterday, I found some newly hatched bees in the comb I removed; I took them out and put them by the hive entrance, but I don’t know if they made it in:

Then, for breakfast, some of the figs I picked the other day: yum. A fresh fig is sublime. I’ll give the uneaten ones to my mom before I leave; they can’t go to waste!

I wrapped up the door project the past few days. I have 3 exterior doors; and the one in the back of the house I’ve never been able to use, because it was a bad door. I won’t even post a photo of it because it was that bad. I finally had a pro replace it (same excellent guy who did my windows last winter), and he popped off the security door for me so I could paint it, first with a primer:

Then bright blue….and I was limited by the spray paint blues available, not many; first I used an exterior blue paint I brushed on, and then I tidied it up with a unifying coat of bright blue spray paint….

…to match the color I’d painted the solid door….

…and presto, he came by the other day to pop the steel door back on, and I now finally have a door that I can use. It’s been years. I’ll have to paint those steel bolts blue.

Then I just got the latest Jane Dunnewold book in the mail; I pre-ordered it so my copy is autographed, you can read more about Jane Dunnewold here:

The photos inside are so luscious, here’s a sample–the directions on how to make print-paste:

That got me starting a collage (which I’ll finish when I get back) of prickly pear cactus color copies, which I’ll use to make some laminated paper, a process I posted about a few weeks ago:

Then, to save money, I resurrected my very old (and very old-fashioned) oilskin raincoat I got in New Zealand almost 20 years ago; these things aren’t breathable, but they do keep you dry, and I figure even though it’s summer I should probably bring a rain coat to Newfoundland.

I didn’t realize that oilskin can be “reproofed”; that is, re-waxed, so it stays waterproof. I ordered some DuckBack reproofing wax online and got to work; this is how the coat looked prior to waxing….

…and this is a before and after look, the right side in this photo is the side I’d reproofed. I think you could just use melted paraffin wax for the same effect, but, I wanted a slightly nicer and less petroleum-based smell; DuckBack has lanolin and some other oils.

Now I just have to pack my carry on bag……

Landscaping With Me Mum

Just a few days ago my driveway was clear of all the gravel and rock I’d ordered earlier this spring:

So to remedy the situation, I ordered 6 tons of really pretty 1/2 inch desert gold decomposed granite; and my mom generously offered to help shovel and spread the stuff in my yard, despite osteoporosis: here she is early yesterday morning:

The gold color looks really nice in contrast to the brown stuff I used to make the pathways:

Here’s the yard (with just the pathway) before we spread the decomposed granite:

And here it is when we were done. Bearbear, as you can see, is poised for action, just in case he happens to see a cat out in the street.

After spreading the fine gravel at a 3 inch depth, I hosed it down and then tamped it by using a cookie sheet that I stood on: this packed down the clay particles in the decomposed granite and creates a very nice firm surface, which, in theory, should repel weeds.

So, this project took us 4 hours. I made a nice lunch (including chocolate chip muffins with cream cheese filling, yum), made sure my mom had a lovely nap outside under the citrus trees, and then home 50 miles south-east she went…but not without a quick self-portrait of us as she went out the front door.  Per bone density tests she has multiple cracked/wedged vertebrae; but, you wouldn’t know it by her shovel-ready-acumen. I should be so lucky when I’m that age! Way to go, mom!

Finally, below, the next project: my hot date with 100 feet of Mr. Drip Soakerhose. This is a clever and easy way to irrigate, by cutting sections of soaker hose and solid tubing and connecting them with the yellow plastic connectors you see below, thus controlling where to soak the garden….and where not to. Once the soaker hose is set in place, I’ll mulch with straw; luckily, it’s been a really mild spring so far, and tonight it’s going down to…..50 degrees! Bizarre for so close to summer; so that I’m a bit late in setting up my irrigation probably isn’t going to hurt much, it’s not scorching hot….yet.