Category Archives: Inspirations

The Road Taken: My Portuguese Scrapbook

I’ve taken a fair number of trips in my life. Some I recall more fondly than others:  the Chicken Pox Plague in Lyon, France was a particular low with a six-month old and a two-and-a-half year old. Now that we have opportunities to travel just the two of us, we go for impromptu trips:  book on a Tuesday, leave the following Tuesday. Of course, it’s  a stupid strategy for most trips, but it worked wonderfully well when we travelled to Portugal recently.

The image above is a street view taken from the top of a double-decker tourist bus in Porto. Gotta love cool doorways. These come with eyebrows! Plus they are painted carmine and viridian: must use colorful words here, it’s travel writing afterall.

Another street in Porto:  shabby chic in an Old World way. Porto has a San Francisco feel to it with many climbing walks, which turns out to be good exercise for the simple, delicious fare to be had in town.

Ah, the curse of translations: the notorious homonym in the English language.

Clearly, in Portugal there’s a national predilection for tile, called azulejos. The Moorish influence is pervasive in geometric tiles like these, but the figurative ones are the Portuguese way of sharing art, culture, and history. Not only do tiles bedeck buildings inside and out, the “tiling” concept is also deployed underfoot. As you can see in the image below from the seaside resort of Cascais

No fear, just two photos more to close this installment (2 of 3 BTW). Across from Porto is the warehouse district of Vila Nova de Gaia and the locale of this fantastical example of collage/sculpture. I LOVE it! I could go on and on with superlatives, but I will practice restraint:  Art created with repurposed materials that pop up in unexpected places just slays me. I want roadrunner art just like this slapped up on an exterior wall at my home. I wonder if I could pull it off? I’d need welding skills though. Full disclosure: there’s another cool animal, a fox, on a Lisbon street. We drove by too fast in an Uber to take a photo.

See below a warm, just purchased Pasteis de Belem (as described in the prior post) soon to be consumed by me. The verdict? Sublime. Accept no substitutes.

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Sacred Spaces Dressed in Blue

Never did I imagine that I would find a place where cobalt blue takes on such heavenly forms as it does in Portugal. Many, many shutter clicks later I have too many examples of the Portuguese love of tile. Instead I thought I’d share my fave ecclesiastical applications. The opening shot is two churches bisected by a ten-foot-wide slice of a building in the middle. Turns out, even back in the old, old days local zoning laws found eccentric expression.

Overwhelmingly wonderful figurative tile work affixed to the side of the right-hand church featured in the opening photo. Porto certainly earns its place on the list of trendy international cities with it’s eye candy and more.

The Belem neighborhood of Lisbon is home to a magnificent monastery that glows under bright blue skies and rather delicious pastries called Pasteis de Belem. The monastery’s thrifty monks, who needed to find use for an abundance of egg yolks left over from using egg whites to starch their black cassocks, created a sublime custard spooned into a crispy shell that is the reward for hungry tourists who’ve worked up appetites strolling the church’s cloisters. Now I’m not sure if that is a Portuguese urban myth, but I like the idea of enterprising clerics finding a sweet answer to their pressing dilemma.

Porto has such an abundance of blue-tile-clad churches. This one resides near the Douro River.

This one sits atop a Porto hill.

This one is across the Douro River in the port wine warehouse district called Vila Nova de Gaia.

Now this church with it’s dramatic blue figurative tile is at the top end of Porto’s trendy shopping street.

Even in Portugal’s small towns blue-white tile work makes its mark. This fisherman’s chapel in the surfing town of Nazare is lovingly tended by its folk. It’s also sublimely simple after the Baroque beauties of the bigger towns.

Lest you think the tile stays outside with these churches, sacred spaces wear tile inside as well. This church on a promontory in Lisbon is a favorite of mine. Not so much Baroque abundance, but still rich with imagery.

Figurative tile gives way to abundant patterned tile inside an ancient university church in the hilly city of Coimbra. Did you notice the scholars merit leather cushioning in their pews? That could be a luxury with a downside counted in many more seated hours!

A few more things to share . . .

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Got the Blues, the Sea Blues

It’s been many months since I delved into my blog. Apologies. Life has taken me down many roads, some very sad and some wonderful. I lost my father and gained a daughter-in-law, and just recently, a grandson too–a sweet, tiny fellow that melts my heart. That is the wonder of life:  for every tear, there is also a reason to smile.

Another wonder is the ocean. What is it about the color blue that soothes, refreshes, and clears out the cobwebs?

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My sisters and I are amidst shutting down our parents’ home and my daily beach walk was the tonic to hours spent delving into the things that spoke of our father and mother’s long and full lives. I had the honor of dispersing my dad’s huge library of books and music. What an amazing person he was beyond being our parent: he was a scholar of many, many subjects; a student of a multitude of languages; and a remarkable conversationalist. He was our ready resource to answer questions before Google searches!

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Our dad was also a social animal who enjoyed good chats with his many friends. One of his favorite haunts was a gym called Staying Alive–no joke, that was its name. Like these seagulls that gather in social groups to pass the time, his posse hung out on exercise bikes and treadmills and covered as many topics as miles exercised.

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For all its beauty, a beach also hosts danger:  blue-balloon danger from the deep. I don’t remember seeing Portuguese Men of War in my childhood playing on this shore, but nowadays I see them with some frequency when I visit Florida. They are odd, and yet, strangely beautiful. Sometimes it’s a funny road Nature takes and these sea creatures certainly occupy an eccentric category.

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Blue is beautiful, especially when the sun shines in an azure sky and turquoise sea waves break on the sand. Sometimes a weird, inflated sea creature is cast ashore to meet its end, but that moment shows us yet another blue in Nature’s palette. A loss, yes, but also a peek into a wondrous undersea world few of us experience–mind you, swimming in a forest of Portuguese Men of War is not a good idea.

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Beauty Amidst the Thorns

McDowell Mt/Sonoran Desert

This is my first experience of the Sonoran desert in bloom and, wow, am I astonished by the profuse flowering of the prickly plants that dot this arid landscape. It’s amazing that the Cholla cactus pictured below can make room for tender blossoms amidst its dense armament of needles.

Cholla in bloom

In Springtime, the desert’s neutral palette is painted in tender greens, bright yellows, and pinky-reds as the cactus flowers open to sunlight.

Cholla in bloom

My son recently gave me a Moment macro lens to attach to my iPhone. I’ve not quite mastered the focus, especially in strong sunlight, but I did manage to catch a few hyper-close images of a Cholla cactus’s flower in bloom. I’m certain there’s a reason why the cactus flower’s stigma rises to skyscraper heights above bright yellow stamens–undoubtedly a pollinator-appealing structure–but to me this close-up recalls a SciFi creature like Ridley Scott’s Alien.

Cholla in bloom

Cholla in bloom

Don’t ask me to name the cactus variety featured below–I was too entranced by the vibrant magenta flower that crowned its thorny top. Believe me, it’s hazardous enough taking a cactus close-up, but when the macro lens requires mere inches in distance for a focal length, those needles are nearly impossible to avoid as I can attest!Cactus flower

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Ticking Off a Bucket List Item: Bead-a-Palooza in Tucson!

Well, I just experienced an ultimate “bright, shiny objects” event: I took a stroll through the gem and mineral shows in Tucson, Arizona last week with my long-time friend Ginny.  This renowned event has been on my radar for years and, now that I’m an Arizona resident, I can indulge! And, I used my trusty smart phone camera to share the abundance of gems, minerals, beads, findings, and other beautiful objects on display. Believe me, just as our tour covered a slice of the whole, these photos capture a mere fragment of that slice. The mind boggles at the possibility of hitting every venue!

Here’s your head’s up: at the end of January and the beginning of February of each year, international and national vendors gather in Tucson, Arizona to sell their sparkling wares. It’s a wholesale event for the most part, but there are vendors who do sell to the public. It’s a combination of sales and exhibitions and the venues are spread throughout the city. The Tucson shows are part of a larger exhibition/sales universe, but they are the Big Kahuna of the gem & mineral events in the U.S.

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

So, what do you think about trays filled with sparkling gems? Don’t you just want to pick them up and let them trickle through your fingers? I can’t say that it’s show etiquette, but it’s certainly a temptation. Did I purchase? Nope. I may have a modicum of jewelry-making talents, but setting gems is not one of them.

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

There were yards and yards of bead strands in every conceivable type and color spread throughout the two venues I visited. The trend in matte-finished beads surprised me, but waxy, matte-like finishes are a rising trend in kitchen and bath design for natural and manufactured stone counter tops. Well, duh, makes sense then.

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

Here I offer you only a portion of the rainbow array of wire-linked bead strands. The greens and blues really spoke to me. I wish I’d had a good reason to buy yardage because the selection was stellar, but alas, I decided to stick to my buying plan/budget–a not fun, yet necessary strategy when visiting a bead mecca or even a quilt show!

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

Here we have a bonanza of gold and silver findings which provide decorative elements to jewelry design. Love, love, love them!

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

I’ve got a soft spot for Swarovski crystal beads, especially this latest generation of crystal-bedecked beads. This vendor took those beads in a new direction for me:  multi-colored ones! She said some of her designs are directed specifically for collegiate use and thus the school colors and sports gear (i.e. those baseball/tennis ball beads) models.

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

Ah, my favorite photo. I could dive into this pile of colored-glass beads. I have a recurring fantasy of wearing all of them at one time stacked on my neck, running up my arms, and wrapping my ankles. Ludicrous and heavy, but fun! Thanks for the fun day Ginny!

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Back in the Saddle: BSOz Rides Again!

Hello? Anyone out there? (Should I pipe in Adele’s Hello for appropriate thematic music?!?) I know it’s been many months since I last sat at my computer to compose a blog post. Many things have happened in that interval. My husband and I packed up and sold our home in Northern California. Our new outpost is the Phoenix area of Arizona. Why not? Change is good, albeit temporarily disorienting.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Saguaros

I’ve had many mini moments to share, but never quite got to the composition phase. Today, Monday, is a writing day. I’d like to share a beautiful spot I’ve come to enjoy here in Arizona, the Desert Botanical Garden. The collection of desert flora and fauna completely blows away the idea that a desert environment is lifeless. Sure at summer’s peak, it’s a tough place to survive, but the adaptations to the arid climate are surprisingly lush, green, and vibrant. I’m always amazed by the desert’s greenness–no, it’s not the intense emerald of the British Isles, but it’s its own shade of wonderful.

Desert Botanical Garden: a relaxing vignette

Here’s the photogenic Queen Victoria Agave. I’m not sure why it’s got a royal title, but does grow like a crown.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Queen Victorian Agave

While strolling through the gardens I came across a gallery opening for Dyana Hesson’s paintings. Wow! She’s a master of catching sunlight and her brushstrokes are so clean and precise. Dazzling, dazzling paintings!

Desert Botanical Garden: Dyana Hesson exhibit

Here’s her show biography–I admit I got a little lazy here with the documentation and photographed it for you.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Bio of Dyana Hesson

Now tell me, does painting called That Way call to mind the work of a renowned quilt maker? I see Jane Sassaman’s jagged edges and lovely curves.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's That Way

Now this painting is one of my favorites for capturing the grayed green common to desert plants. Plus Hesson focuses on the juxtaposition of vegetation with dangerous jagged edges and a tender colorful blossom. The painting is called Beauty and the Beast.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's Beauty and the Beast

This series of photos builds to a spectacular painting called Sakes Alive, There’s Five!, a depiction of freshly bloomed cactus flowers. This may be a bucket list item for me:  find/buy the cactus plant that blooms with these beauty-queen-worthy blossoms. In the first photo I wanted to show you Hesson’s precision painting.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's Sake's Alive There's Five

Look at the way the light falls on the petals. Wow!

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's Sake's Alive There's Five

Are you ready for the whole image? Here she is, Sakes Alive, There’s Five! I could handle installing such a lovely painting in my home. Could I afford it? Nah. (The painting is very large, but here in WordPress, it’s coming up smaller than the detail shots. Oh well . . . )

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's Sake's Alive There's Five

Dyana Hesson’s paintings typically start with photographs. With smart phones at the ready, we are indeed one step closer to creating our own artwork in paint or fabric.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Purple prickly pear cactus

Here are a couple of cacti that have purple and reddish varieties. The one above is a prickly pear (another future purchase for my cactus-garden-in-the-making), but I’m not sure of the name of the variety embedded below–it’s a tall one though at 8 to 10 feet.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Cactus

Now here’s something fun. I’ve been to the garden 3 times now and have seen a roadrunner twice. Beep-beep! Road runners are wonderful to watch as they really do call to mind the the coyote’s famous foe in Looney Toons cartoons, but they are much prettier with striking plumage patterns and head comb. I am a fan!

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Regards from Arizona! I do have it in mind to be a more regular correspondent, stop by!

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Third Time’s the Charm? Another Flower-Themed Post

Dale's roses

I do have it in mind to share a quilt project I’ve been incubating for about eighteen months, but not yet . . . I got distracted by a visit to a very special garden located nearby. A quilter’s garden as a matter of fact! This particular quilter, Dale Fleming, is an incredible textile artist and a rather gifted gardener as well. With our California drought continuing unabated, the thirsty European-style garden is become a scarce commodity, as it should, and Dale is about to transform her plot of dirt into a water-wise landscape. This visit was her last hurrah before she overhauls her plants. (And, wouldn’t you know, we experienced a rare rainy day while we were there.)

Dale's roses 2

Dale's rose 3

Dale's rose 4

Clematis is an usual flower for a California garden, but here various purple varieties glow.

Dale's clematis

Dale's clematis 2

Dale's clematis 4

Dale's clematis 3

The roadside view of the garden is a delight: it is a little wild, meandering, and with a typical Dale touch, inventive with its plant choice and placement. I could see myself whiling away a few hours with a good book and tasty refreshments in her garden retreat.

Dale's garden

Dale's garden 2

These are Nigella–Dale says the seeds are edible, like poppy seeds.

 

Dale's garden 3

Here’s a before/after series of a Knautia blossom. The seeds are tasty fare for chickadees.

 

Dale's garden 4

The after: the flower in full bloom.

 

Dale's garden 5

I will mourn the passing of Dale’s Euro-style garden, but I suspect her water-wise interpretation will be just as wonderful. It’s no surprise that, for many quilters, their creative lives balance textile love with green thumbs. Dale is clearly one shining example of that sorority. Thanks for the tour!

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