Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Shrinking world
I was thinking — as the plane from Atlanta to San Diego was buffeted by strong winds and the pilot steered a course between one layer of storm clouds beneath us and another on top of us — that my world has become a whole lot smaller in the past couple of years.
Just this year, for example, I've had two trips to Australia, visited Washington DC, New York, San Francisco, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Yosemite, Palm Springs and Los Angeles, and now here I am, back on the ground in San Diego again after two weeks in England.
Only a few years ago, my world was vast, and I went very few places other than Perth and Eagle Bay, with the occasional trip to Melbourne!

Anyway, I'm home again, and am unpacking and washing and trying to organise all my pics as well as my thoughts about having been back in England, the country of my birth.
Seeing my family again was brilliant, and they all made such a fuss of me and Lily. It was just wonderful — and we had a gorgeous wedding in an old converted barn right in the middle of the Sussex countryside, with views of rolling farmland and meadows across the South Downs.

Here are some pics from Saturday. Lily and I, her boyfriend Nick and her dear friend Alice, who was at primary school with her in Perth and is now working in London, hired a little VW and went tooling around the countryside. We saw two mediaeval castles, at Herstmonceux(above) and Bodiam (below). And in between the two, we relived the 1066 Battle of Hastings at the actual site, just outside the small village of Battle that has grown up there since.
Next day, I was in California!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

A little NYC pied-a-terre
Thought you'd like this ground-floor flat. It's a snap for $575,000. I'd have to re-do the kitchen — I'm not a big fan of seeing and hearing the fridge from the living room.

:: Lily and I are off to Fashion Valley this morning. We have to get our eyebrows shaped, and I want to look for a dress to wear to the lovely Sam's wedding (yes, I have left it a bit late, but I'm confident: shopping here is that good).
I'm signing off now for a couple of weeks. But if I get the chance to download some pics and post from the UK, I'll give it a shot.

Bye-ee!:: The lovely Jennifer, over at Infinity More Monkeys, has given me the above award. Why thank you, Jennifer! In turn, I get to pass the award on to seven other bloggers:
Natalie, who lives just a few canyons from me in San Diego and whose family journal-style writing I discovered soon after the traumas of last year's wildfires. She's longing for a home of her own and a piece of land to raise chooks, veggies and her happy healthy kids!
• Kim, who lives near Seattle, in the Pacific North-West, and whose blog, Something to Say, is unfailingly full of great art, ideas, photographs, designs and interesting links every single day.
• Birdie, who writes/curates dear ada. I don't know her at all really, but every day she posts about artists and designers, promoting them and publicising them. I hope they email her privately to heap praise and thanks on her!
I've found so many great artists and works on her site, and on Kim's, and have passed countless links from them on to Will, who now has a host of bookmarked sites to inspire him.
Then there are my Australian reads, starting with
• Laura, one of my bestest and closest and most missed mates from home, who started off her blog, Loving the Question, quite hesitantly, and who now writes with great gusto and bravado and fluency about her life, her crafts, her travels, and especially her career as a midwife.
Shirley, Fairlie and M are new friends. I love visiting them for a taste of life in Melbourne (Around the Traps), Sydney (EasternMax) and Queensland (Rhubarb Whine), and welcome doses of lovely Aussie irony and humour. I remember with thanks how they kept in touch with me when my dad was really sick and I had to rush back to Perth, twice. They really helped me keep my pecker up!
Now you all have to re-produce the button (above) and dob in seven worthy blogs. Have fun!
Q2 coming along wellLily's been working furiously on her quilt, and now has finished its centre medallion. There are another twelve more blocks to go around this bit, apparently, and she wants to get over halfway before we leave on Monday morning.
:: Will and David have arrived home from San Francisco with great news: Will has found a job, as a sort of intern/assistant to a photographic studio — fantastic! Plus, he and his friends have found a wonderful, roomy, light-filled apartment, the whole top floor of a house, in the Haight district, the legendary centre of 1960s counter-culture (man) and site of the Summer of Love. He's so excited!

:: My suitcase is open on the floor of my bedroom, ready for me to casually throw in bits and pieces as I think of them, for our trip to the UK. So far, that is a US-UK plug adaptor. So I'll have to get cracking soon.
We're flying Delta, via Cincinnati, and I think the luggage restrictions will be a shock after flying Qantas long-haul flights so frequently, with its generous 32-kilo allowance, plus the same again for frequent flyers. Thank goodness it's summer, so we won't need to pack anything heavy.

:: Lily and I walked the dogs to the vet today to start the long, slow, complicated bureaucratic process that is required for us to take them home to Australia next February. The vet knew what we'd be battling with to meet Australia's famously strict controls: micro-chips, certified rabies shots, blood tests, monitored tick baths — all beginning this far in advance so the poor boys will spend as short a time as possible in quarantine back home. It's so much more complicated to get them home again than it was to bring them to the US, which required not a lot more than rabies shots, a vet's signature and a flight booking. We picked them up at LA airport and drove them home.
Oh well, let's just hope we get through the process okay — we're terrified that they'll get all the way back across the Pacific and be rejected because of some minor stuff-up.

Friday, 11 July 2008

And on to the orange
Lily has cut out all the pieces for her purple and orange quilt, and we've started piecing. Her quilt is in about half a dozen big blocks separated by sashing. So the aim is to get one block sewn up before we head off on Monday. Then I can do the rest on my return.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

1 and a bit Q in 2W!
Well, we have finished putting together the top and the back of Larissa's quilt. Yes, the back is purple — that's another of Larissa's favourite colours. She should be a Freo fan!
We ran out of one of the fabrics for the backing, so we improvised, as you can see. I like the make-do aspect of this!

I'm fully intending to quilt it myself, even though it is queen size and I'll end up wrapped in it for most of the rest of summer. But Lily, thinking to save me some work, went investigating online and found out that once we've pinned the two layers together with the batting between, we can get it professionally hand-quilted by the Amish for $360 — which seems expensive, but not really when you think about what a fabulous job they'd do of it, with tiny little stitches and no more than 2" between stitching — or machine quilted by someone with a handy long-arm quilting machine for $270.
But I'll stick with plan A.

Now to get stuck into Lily's — we made a minuscule mock-up with tiny squares of her fabrics which we glued to paper and then Photoshopped to see how it would repeat.
We'll be cutting that out tomorrow. We won't get as far with this one before we go away on Monday, but we'll see. :: David and Will are in San Francisco, trying to find Will and his friends somewhere to rent once term starts towards the end of August.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Green days Well, after six days of almost non-stop cutting and piecing, the 36 green quilt blocks are all finished. This one is for Larissa, Lily's friend and house-mate up in Olympia.
And after numerous arrangements on the floor, Lily and I think we've nailed the order the blocks ought to go in when we trim them and sew them all together. That will be tomorrow. Then it'll be on to Lily's quilt and I must say I'm looking forward to working with some oranges and purples for a change!

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Getty in the skyHigh on a ridge in the Santa Monica Mountains, between Bel Air to the east and Brentwood to the west, and with the great 405 freeway roaring at its feet, the Getty Center is one of the most spectacular buildings in the world. It is massive, with wings of galleries and exhibition spaces and fabulous walkways, courtyards and gardens — too much for one visit, really. And throughout the gardens and surroundings there are scattered works of art, as well as all the treasures inside. There's always work from the permanent collection on show, as well as a schedule of changing exhibitions. David and Will went off to see 20th century photographs by August Sander ("Sombre," was David's verdict); Lily and I headed for Women of Art and Science, the big new show of flower and insect paintings by the 17th century team of Maria Sibylla Merian and her two daughters; and we all went to see Imagining Christ, a collection of mediaeval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts.
And it's all free — the only thing you have to pay for is parking, $8, in the centre's huge underground carpark, way down in the canyon off the freeway. From there you take a lift to the surface and then an almost silent electric train which shuttles visitors up and down the hill. The whole place is constructed of marble brought over from Italy. Plantings for this summer, I read, were all in blues, purples and greys. Stunning. It's always an inspiration being here and looking at the landscaping — there's so much you can do in a hot, dry climate other than trying to recreate an English cottage garden!
This was the first time I'd been there in warm weather, and we really appreciated the constant breezes and the cooling sound of water everywhere outside. The Los Angeles air was hazy, though, so the view wasn't too clear, but we could still see the skyscrapers of Century City (below). When we've been here on sharp, cold winter days, we've been able to see all of LA, from the sea to the city away to the south east.
Below is the view looking west, over Brentwood, where Australia's consul general has a house. The consulate is in Century City.
This is looking the other way, to the leafy gardens and mansions of Bel Air — some of them even have what appear to be orchards or vineyards.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Fourth of July
Here's some Jasper loveliness in keeping with the spirit of today:It's so quiet round here — no freeway noise, no local traffic, no kids chirruping at the park nearby — it's Independence Day and the whole world is on holiday!
Happy July Fourth to all my mates over here!
We celebrated yesterday (a day early here, but it was already July 4 in Australia, don't forget!) by going to see this at the Hollywood Bowl:It was a combination of Fourth of July fun and fireworks, and a celebration of the Dodgers baseball team's 50th year in Los Angeles, having been relocated from Brooklyn. Very successfully, by all accounts.
We had amazing seats (below): that's Lily, in the Fabulous Purple Clapotis, looking back at the camera. David is in front of her in the white shirt. We had a box all to ourselves.
This was the view looking back the other way: Temporarily suspending our allegiance to the Dockers and the San Diego Padres, we clapped and cheered with the loyal and patriotic Dodgers crowd as a lot of their heroes from past days trooped by on stage.
Randy Newman, who wrote the Dodgers' end-of-game anthem,
We Love LA, played piano, sang and conducted the wonderful orchestra as it played his theme from The Natural. It was a baseball-infused night! Randy is our family's all-time favourite and we have loved him, Dave and I, since we were 18-year-olds at the University of WA together.
Now our two youngest kids are fans, and while we're in the US, we have vowed that at least one of us will see Randy perform every year. Dave and I have seen him in concert at Long Beach (2005), and at Humphrey's by the Bay in San Diego (2006). Lily saw him in Seattle last year, and so the pledge continues!

For the finale, last night, the Bowl's famous shell was lit in stars and stripes ...
... the orchestra played a stirring medley of Souza marches, and about a billion fireworks lit up the sky. It was spectacular.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Paint it red
This bank ad pisses me off.
Lily showed it to me last night, and she was breathing fire over it as well.
Let's begin with the neat little statement in the top left corner. Conservative, old-fashioned, narrow-minded, ignorant, reactionary. Wrong.

Then look at the picture and read the copy that goes with it on the opposite page (click on the image for a bigger one):If your son did this to your garage door*, wouldn't you be overjoyed?
Wouldn't you be proud?
We won't go into the fact that the idiotic, anal, despicable parents in this house — who've had the whole house re-painted the same institutional colour as the one next door! — clearly had no frigging idea their son was capable of making art like this.
There isn't enough space to go into all the angles of the utter wretchedness of this horrendous ad.
But now we know exactly the kind of people Citi Bank — and it's huge — appeals to.

Especially if you live, like we do, in the sort of ticky-tacky suburb full of ticky-tacky cookie-cutter houses just like this, that are the same colour (beige) and size (average), made of the same boring (cheap) materials, with identical doors, windows, roof-tiles, driveways, setbacks and mailboxes, and that all look as though they were built on the same wet Wednesday afternoon in a grey month in 1989 ...

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

2Q in 2W The day after we all re-assembled in San Diego after our trips — Will, David and I from Phoenix and San Francisco, Lily from Phoenix and Albuquerque — Lily said: 'Mum? Can we make a quilt?'
What do you reckon?
As it turns out, she wants to make two quilts. Queen-size. One for her bed up in the chilly north, and one for her friend and housemate, Larissa.
So off we went to Rosie's quilt shop at La Mesa, and Lily chose all the fabrics. Larissa's is all in greens — which, frankly, is a challenge for me as it's really outside my comfy colour zone — and Lily's is in oranges and purples.

We've kicked David off the end of the dining table that doubles as his desk, and we've taken over the kitchen and dining room completely. Cutting board is up on the kitchen work bench, sewing machine on the dining table, iron close by.We were at it well into the night last night, and with two quilts to make in two weeks, before we go to England, we'll be at it again all day today ...
Lily plays me strange and wonderful music from her growing collection of indie rock and pop, and we cut and stitch and iron and chat and argue, sorting out the world's problems and the Australian and American political scenes, while David, Will and his mates all swing in and out, contributing their opinions.
She knits, too
:: PS, I've now lost 3.7 kg (8.2 lb). Yay!
Museumising(Totally unrelated pic — but I so loved this building in Phoenix, with that sign!)

After decades of having to be satisfied with merely looking at pictures of art in books, including three years of art history — during which the experience was augmented by looking at slideshows of pictures of art in books — I'm in heaven over here!

In Phoenix last week, we visited the Heard Museum, which concentrates on Native American art and anthropology and is set in a converted and expanded 1920s house set around a courtyard which reminded us all very strongly of Hackett Hall at the University of WA!
The museum was full of jewellery, baskets, rugs, pottery, household items and other art by the many nations of the south-west, including Navajo, Hopi and Apache.
I was stunned by the very first exhibit in the lobby, of three big and beautiful pots from the same tribal region. The first was made and decorated in the tenth century, and it was set beside one made by a woman last century and another made more recently by that woman's grand-daughter. All bore the same traditional bear-claw design, and all three were similar in shape and style — continuity of method and design that had lasted a thousand years and more.
Off the lobby was an exhibition of modern art by this brilliant young Navajo painter, Tony Abeyta, who worked straight on to the wall in Indian ink washes and charcoal to create a vast image of the Navajo underworld. It was breathtaking.
:: That evening, we went to the Scottsdale Museum of Modern Art, where I was riveted by an exhibition by a Los Angeles artist, Pae White, who — among a lot of other great work — created brilliant mobiles out of coloured paper and thread that moved subtly in the slightest movement of air. They were hypnotic. If you click here, you can see pictures of some of her work on show in New Zealand.
:: And finally, after a few days among the weirdness and wonders of Las Vegas, the Nevada Desert and the Sierra Nevada, we braved the surprising cold and gloom of San Francisco in June to see a big exhibition of Frida Kahlo's paintings at SFMoMA, plus room after room of photographs of her and Diego Rivera, including a touching few seconds of video showing the two of them together at their house, Casa Azul. This exhibition was organised to celebrate the centenary of her birth.
I've never been much of a fan of Frida, finding her work a strange mix of the simplistic and the spooky — understandable, of course, given the horrendous accident that nearly killed her in her teens. I'm also cynical about the constantly repeated self-portrait, which she seemingly rattled off, in the same pose, same angle, again and again, differing the background decoration and surrounding objects. I'm still not convinced, though I am perhaps more sympathetic after seeing this exhibition.