Thursday, February 1, 2018

Art Glass project from Anselm

We are building a family cabin in northern Wisconsin and some of the interior work is being done while we are gone.  They are assembling a loft in the great room using more than one hundred year old barn beams.  The loft will need a railing and I had drawn a design that mimics the lines of a birch forest.

The last time I was in Kenya my daughter Ella, took me to Anselm Glass at Kitengela, in an arid rural  suburb of Nairobi.  The railing that I designed and discussed with Dan at Creative Metalworxs in Durand, WI was to have glass panels that represented some of the trunks of birch.  Anselm could possibly custom make these panels.  So we went out to Kitengela, riding the spine jarring rodes to discuss with Anselmo the owner, the design.  A day later he sent  samples via email for us to give feedback on futher production. We plan on five panels, each about 4 inches wide and 30 inches tall.  

The first sample.

We weren't entirely thrilled with the blue (that was my idea); it brought too much color to the trees.  When we went in person to see the samples we were also able to watch the process of how each panel began as molten glass.   Yata suggested that rather than the blue being added to the raw 'clear' glass that we add white.  Along with that will be added black frit, specks of black glass to mimic the black on white elements of a birch trunk.  

We are going on vacation with our family to the Seychelle Islands this Sunday for a week. When we return Anselm will have out glass panels ready for us to package and take back to Wisconsin, in our luggage.

Kenya 2018: the Nairobi Textile Market

We've been in Kenya for  a bit over a week now, visiting our daughter Ella and her family; Liam our grandson and her husband Kenfield.

Today Ella and I made a trip to downtown Nairobi to the Textile Market.  We had as our agent, so to speak, Moses who acts as sort a broker between clients and seamstresses.  Available in this more than bustling market area of the inner city are streets offering drapery in one store, zippers, buttons and the like in another, traditional Kenyan prints beside another with rolls of denim and canvas stacked in aisles so narrow one must turn sideways to pass another.
Turquise or Black Canvas?
Overhead are more rolls blocking the spare florescent tube lighting.  I nervously noted the simple nuts and bolts holding all this weight above our heads imagining a suffocating under the bolts...did I ever say that I not only drive defensively but sort of live defensively?

But our true destination, the luscious Ghanian Wax cloth prints, was through an unmarked doorway, up a long flight of stairs into another poorly lit room about 15 by 24 feet in size where the wax cloth, cut in six yard pieces were folded and stacked four, five even six feet high.  On top of these stacks sat women, about every two feet,  trying to draw attention to their individual textile delights.  Delights for a textile lover as I am.

I began sewing at the age of twelve and sewed most of my own clothes until I was about nineteen - due mostly to the fact that I've always been taller than most women and couldn't find pants or clothes long enough. My first job at the age of sixteen was at SoFro Fabrics and I loved helping customers find the perfect fabric for their pattern, gleaned from encyclopedia of textiles in my head.

This fabric store had quite different sales techniques: "Sista...come...look at mine...Yellow?  Here is yellow, you like, how about this.  Lady here is another, what about this one. This is very nice, what about this one. You like, here is another. Blue? No thank you? Do you have this?  Here madam, sista' look here, I have this....  So it goes with all of four or five women above us on there stacks putting the stimulating colored prints in our faces, competing with each other for our sales.  I went there, having been there once before years ago, knowing how over stimulating it could be, determined to be decisive and go with my gut.
Ghanian Wax Cloth
Phew it was wild and crazy but I came away with some prints that are so AFRICA and lovely, a real treat for the eye.

We returned to Ella's home with Moses where we determined thje sizes of pillows and colors to use for cording.  We discussed the options over a quick lunch and he intends to return a finished pillow or two in the next couple days.

Time to take a nap!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Velocity Made Good

Yata took his turn at the helm our first full day out and it was a windy grey day with big swells and a boat riding like a herd of stallions over the sea. 

Each day of sailing around these islands is unique, from Yata's stormy ride to one day of near calm that required us to motor. Borko,  the consummate sailor never took the lazy route of motoring when sailing was an option. 

We would determine our course in the morning and depending on the direction and power of the wind we would sail a direct route downwind or tack back and forth with a side or headwind. The day I sailed we had a side wind and I kept trying to get speed but at the expense of the direction we were headed. At one point Borko explained Velocity Made Good. If you sacrifice too much direction for speed you could actually have a negative VMG because you're not actually getting to your desired destination. 

Sailing strikes me as something that is ruled by the laws of physics but at the same time is an art. It requires a feel for the boat, wind & water. But it also rewards experience and that is something Borko had ' in spades'. 



Split, Brac, Vis in the Dalmatian Islands

We are on one of the archipelago islands off Croatia's coast bouyed in our 46 foot monohull with Katchy Kay, Jolly Jelle, Dan, Jody and our hired native captain Borko (sp?).

We left the village of Milna on the island of Brac this morning just before the rain set in. 
We had a great meal last night at a fisherman -owned seaside restaurant. Black risotto was on the chalkboard menu. I was intrigued  since I'd never heard of such a thing I love a good risotto. We ordered a meal family style; a Sea Bream and another smaller fish, roasted vegetables and the black risotto. For some reason the fish here is very expensive, in fact the fish at one and a half kilos( about 3 1/4 pounds cost about $100 US. But it served seven people and it was caught the same day. The fish was simply grilled and it was fantastic with a crunchy butter flavored crust and juicy firm white flesh. But the black risotto... oh my!  It is black from the ink of the cuttlefish, very black and I expected an inky flavor but instead it seemed rich and creamy as if made with dairy cream of some sort. Borko says not!  Kay says yes they do finish it off with cream sometimes. I doubt I'll ever be able to make this since I don't think there is any substituting ink of cuttlefish. But Katchy says we can get squid ink back home at Coastal Seafoods. 

  On the island of Vis we had a real treat, meat cooked under the bell, Peka. Borjko highly recommended it especially the octopus so we pre-ordered 4 lamb & 3 octopus. The meat is cooked over wood fire in a bell shaped cast iron pot for about 2 hours. It is served in the bottom of the bell at the table. It's a traditional way of cooking of Croatia. The octopus was the most tender and savory seafood with potatoes and onions to soak up the juices and a specialty of  the island of Vis. We were at Roki's  an inland establishment that provided transport and had their own wine. Red & white.   We were unduly surprised to see the place full of happy diners.    

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico wine in the cellars of CantiliciVineyard near Radda where we are staying this week. Winding roads up and down the olive and grape growing hillsides anticipates the rolling waves of a sailboat we will soon be on in Dalmatia.    After a few hours of riding the rough waves of Chianti hillsides we found this charming little village of Ambra. In the town square a group of locals had just completed a fundraiser walk for a cure for cancer. They were sitting along banquet tables having a dinner of charcuterie, roast pork, pasta, couscous salad with local red wine and the lovely treat, a dulci they called Peaches.   The Peaches are actually a yellow cake, rosy tinted with a core of cream. 

I had shown the servers my list of allergies that I had translated to the local language and they seemed even more confused asking me to 'say in English'. Which didn't really help, when suddenly I realized I'd given them the list that had been translated into Croatian. When I realized the error, we all had a laugh at my mistake. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Art & Food

 This is my watercolor rendering of Noah, our youngest grandchild, Nick & Maggie's. Although I think it almost looks more like Ian, his older brother.
I've also been working on more books and paintings while here in Dominica. I have made a habit of doing an annual self portrait and a grandchild portrait while I'm away for the winter.

 I have an exhibit coming up at the 

LE Phillips Library in EAu Claire, WI 

April 17th to May 27 with the reception on April 20th at 7-8pm. 

I'll be featuring my work completed during our annual global forays.

Black Bean Pitas with Hot Creamy Sauce     

4 cups cooked black beans
2 T vegetable oil
1/2 diced red onion
2 large cloves garlic sliced thin
1 tsp toasted ground cumin seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 small green bell pepper diced
1 med. tomato diced

1/2 cup water

4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 c. milk
3 T or more of hot sauce (too taste)
1 c. diced cucumber
4 whole wheat pitas

Saute in oil the onion, garlic, green pepper, tomato, spices and beans until onion is transparent. Add water and simmer until water is absorbed. Salt if needed to taste.

Cream Sauce:
Combine cream cheese, hot sauce and milk until smooth

Warm pitas, tear in half. Fill to 2/3 full with bean mixture. Top with cucumber and 2 heaping spoons of the cream sauce.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Keep it Pozitive

One third of a five foot by one foot acrylic of Dominican Sunset.
We’ve had an eventful week.  I think the last time we blogged, we were at the Sisters Sea Lodge at Picard Beach in Dominica.
Our room at Sisters Sea Lodge with new painting.
We are still in Dominica.  

Spesh, as in special, had taken us up to see the spectacular Syndicate Waterfall.

An old cottage used in Pirates of the Caribbean
He also 
rowed us up the Indian River where we saw a setting for the secondPirates of the Caribbean movie and introduced us to a new habitat. The river carries salt water quite far up the river and results in an unusual mix of plants and animals. The twisting roots of a particular tree resemble the arms of a swarm of octopi. We also saw a Yellow Crowned Night Heron, a Green Heron and more. 

We planned to drive to our next destination and enroute, go to the Kalinago territory. The Kalinago, aka Caribs are the last of the original people of the Caribbean.  They have a protected territory in this small country where they try, through educational demonstration, to retain some of their traditional crafts and practices. We visited their reenactment village and bought a few small items, a handwoven basket and a mask carved from the wood of the tree fern. Their name for the island was Waitukubuli which means, “she who stands tall”, referring to the high mountainous land they inhabited. 

Spesh had sent an associate of his, Charlie of Sunshine taxi.  Charlie came a bit early that Saturday morning to pick us up but since we’d seen this unusual behavior with Donkey, we realized we could take our time and he was not trying to push us. He just, “likes to be early”.  Charlie is a rastaman who is proud of his beautiful country and wishes all his countrymen would take pride in it and treat the tourists well and live a kind, healthy life…no drugs and very little alcohol, would be Charlie’s prescription for a better Dominica.  We warmed to Charlie of course; who wouldn’t with a philosophy like that, and arranged for him to return to pick us up a week later and take us to Mero, our next destination.  But before he dropped us at Calibishie Bay View Lodge he took us to the Islet Cafe in the Kalinago area where we had a great lunch from a high mountaintop perch.  The food was ‘really nice’ especially the starter, the plantain fries with a killer dip (my guess for the dip: cream cheese, mayo, curry, hot sauce).  As we sat down at the table, I pulled my lap top out of the backpack only to realize that the water bottle lid hadn’t been screwed on properly and had wet the computer.  I opened the screen, hit the power button. Yes, the apple started to reboot and then suddenly went black.  Nothing, it wouldn’t peep.  We took it to Bayview Lodge, put a fan on it and even put it in a big ziplock with rice and tried to restart it a couple times but it didn’t seem to even take a charge. Dang!

Yata’s mother died last week. We weren’t surprised, she was 98 and had been declining steadily for a few months. When we saw her at Christmas we realized it would probably be the last time we’d see her.  It was very sad leaving her. But she had had a full and fruitful life. She left behind three sons, eight grandchildren and eight great grandchildren who loved her dearly.  

Trying to communicate with family back home using only a smartphone and sharing it between the two of us was getting stressful, especially when I couldn’t charge the cellphone on the computer and had to try to find other people with usb plugins wherever we were, to keep the phone charged. Although people were generous and willing.

Calibishie is on the northeast shore of the island and thus has more of an Atlantic coast with brisk winds. It is also an area where many expats have built homes and thus there are more guest houses and tourism amenities.  We had heard from a number of people that we had met that there was a Canadian on the island who went by the moniker Poz  (for positive) and that he was a dead ringer for Yata.  So we had to meet him! Turns out we were staying an easy two block walk from his place, Calibishie Gardens and Poz Restaurant and Bar. They did look like they could be brothers. Poz, aka Troy, is a bit younger, taller and bigger but the eyes, forehead and nose are sure similar.  And they both have a positive energy that people are attracted to.  By the end of the week, we had swum in his pool, eaten our way through much of the menu, shared life stories and Yata finished up by entertaining his clientele on our last night with mostly Motown favorites.  Great fun. 

Poz is a bit of a social worker at heart, always trying to help people out and seems to be well loved by the locals and expats alike. But we came to realize that he was stressing.  His ‘ride’ had been stolen by a man who he’d hired to do some paint work on it.  The man was seen using the car and not returning Troy’s calls to return the car.  Troy notified the police but the best they would do was to follow up on a sting operation that Troy maneuvered, an illegal sale.  The man was caught in the act of selling the car that he didn’t own and yet Troy was still having a hard time getting the charge to ‘stick’.  So he continued driving, over an hour, day after day, to try to make sure that the man was properly charged. And on top of all of that he even remembered to pick up a usb charger block for my cell phone!  Wow!

Charlie was scheduled to pick us up this morning at 10am to take us to Mero, our final stay on Dominica.  But of course he arrived at 8:40 while we were still sitting in our pajamas having our morning coffee.  Again, no rush. When I told him that the laptop was dead he was amazed but said, “I have a friend, Cedric, in Portsmouth (which was on our way to Mero) who might be able to help. He worked for Apple in England for many years.”  I said, “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt”, although I was a bit skeptical.  I had contacted Apple and they told me to put it in a bag of rice which I’d tried to no avail.  But we dropped it off with Cedric who seemed like a capable guy.  We drove on to Mero and after some difficulty found out guesthouse, an elegantly appointed spacious villa overlooking the sea, again!  I guess that comes with being on a small island.  Within ten minutes of arrival, Charlie returned to say that Cedric had my computer repaired!  Wow, again!  These folks are almost miracle workers!  Within another hour we had the laptop back, fully operational.  I was so happy I gave Charlie a big hug and kiss and invited to take him out to dinner. 

We drove down the hill to the Romance Cafe on the Mero Beach for dinner a wonderful french style seafood filets in a buttery cream sauce with fresh vegetable salad and roast potatoes. While the manager/cook was totaling up our bill Yata grabbed a guitar and began extemporaneously singing a song about the Romance Cafe, shocking and delighting the staff. When we asked at the bar if the folks knew Poz, their eyes lit up and they said, “I heard there was a party at Poz’s last night.” I said, “That was him, playing music there last night”, pointing at Yata.  Poz is planning a party at Romance Cafe here with Yata heading up a jam session this coming Tuesday.  Stay tuned! 


Fungee with Carmelized Onions and Shitake Mushrooms
3 servings

1 cup of fine ground cornmeal
3 cups water
1 tsp or more butter
salt and pepper
1 red onion sliced into thin crescents
1/4 pound of shitake mushrooms sliced
2 T olive oil or butter or combination
1/2 tsp dry Thyme
1 scant T balsamic vinegar

Heat water in medium sized saucepan to near boil.  Slowly pour into the water the cornmeal, whisking while pouring.
Continue to stir with a spoon until it bubbles and thickens, about a minute. Turn off heat and add butter and salt and pepper, stir and then pour into a lightly oiled or buttered dish.

Saute onions in butter/oil for 10 minutes until soft. Stirring at times. Add thume and hitake along with some water if needed and continue to saute for another 5 minutes. Add vinegar and cook for 30 seconds. Salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve onions mixture over the warm fungee.