Monthly Archives: July 2012

A LOT of fabric

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I own a lot of fabric. I mean “A LOT OF FABRIC!”   I create a project when I fall in love with some fabric online or in a quilt store in the US.  I try to imagine the pattern, buy coordinating colors and work hard to not buy too much   But, also to be sure to buy enough fabric.  It is super frustrating to begin a project months (or years?) later and find I needed 2.5 yards, not 1 yard of a particular fabric.  But it happens and you find something else in your fabric stash to fill the need, right?

A tiny fraction of my stash.

I suppose that quilting can be a metaphor for life: a person wants to make a mark in the world in some way.  Most people love to get attention and praise.  A person wants to ACHIEVE, to create, to complete a task.  A person is drawn to some type of interest to occupy their time.  Quilting can meet the need and provide satisfaction for all of these needs  IF that person likes quilting.  Some people hate it.  For one of my brothers, the magic happens with fly fishing – catch and release – that fills these needs for him.  Another brother finds designing buildings and flying his own plane to be top notch rewarding. My 3rd brother is a serious gamer when he is not working on the land.  He interacts with people all over the world from a series of computers in his living room.

In life also, there are things you really like and things you really dislike, procrastinate about, put off. Maybe it is washing the dishes.  Maybe it is completing the end of a project.  Whatever it is, it says something about your life and how you approach every day living. What does the item you procrastinate about say about your life?

For me, at this stage of life, quilting is a favorite hobby. By living in Cuenca, Ecuador for the past year, I am pretty isolated from others who are actively quilting, cut off from my support group of other quilters and the resource for learning that comes with quilt classes in the US.  This has forced me to face some things I want to put off, like layering and quilting.  It has also led me to see what I REALLY dislike but must do…binding.  Putting the binding on a quilt is the last step, it is completion.  For some reason I really dislike that.  Is it that finishing means the end of that experience?  Or is it just that I’m not very good at binding. My corners never look as good as the books show. Ahhh well, it certainly gives me something to improve upon, to conquer my procrastination, and to accept whatever turns out and be happy with that.

Here is peek at a “quilt kit” crying out for my attention.  This project will be a new challenge and should result in a gorgeous quilt to hang in my new stairwell. My great quilting buddy Cindy and I had so much fun finding just the right fabrics for this project.  Many happy hours.  A shout out to my loyal friend Cindy in Tualatin, OREGON. I am selecting the color of paint for the stairwell to coordinate with the quilts I want to hang.  The red and caramel quilt will be beautiful there.

The Red and Caramel Basket Quilt kit is ready to start soon

On another note, Sunday I talked with two of my three children who are grown with families of their own. We skyped so I got to see them sitting in the shade at the farm where I grew up.  They were visiting my parents who are 94 yrs old.  There were also aunts, uncles, cousins and assorted others.  I talked with all 3 grandchildren and saw how they are growing.  What a joy…that also caused a pang of longing to be there with them.  I am going in November to Oregon and will also visit Idaho.  Seems a long way off.

This is my grandson Blake at 18 mos with my dad who is now  94, across generations there is a connection the camera caught. This is the little guy who will be 4 in a couple of weeks and will have a new little brother in a few months.  I have 2 other grandchildren in California – Emma is 9 and Andrew is 6.  I miss all of them and their parents, my extended family and friends!

OK, a word about living gluten-free (no wheat, barley or rye).  Tonight I made gf waffles from scratch: brown rice flour, quinoa flour, added some teff…turned out great! we were completely decadent and had strawberries and whipped cream on top.  A rare treat.  We ‘ve bought strawberries at the markets every week since we arrived – year around strawberries from the lower elevations of Ecuador.  Esta maravilloso!

Unusual flours I’ve found in the market: Banana flour, flour of purple flower, dry shredded coconut can be pulverized in a blender to a fine flour. And baking soda.  At the top is cornstarch. And pine nuts.

Plans for the “gluten-free user’s group” are moving ahead: First meeting slated for August 21 at 10:30 am.  If you are gluten intolerant or celiac or just interested in avoiding  gluten foods, please consider coming. Sharing resources and ways to be gluten free in a country full of bread made with white flour.  And other needs and sharing.  All of that plus tea or espresso and a gluten free treat.

Please send me an email if you are interested:  nature93@gmail.com

Hope the end of your week is magnificent. Thank you for reading my blog.

Sharon

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some thoughts about Cuenca, Ecuador

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I was thinking about who decides to move to a foreign country for a retirement experience.  I cannot generalize but I sense it takes a special set of circumstances for a person or couple to decide to move to a new country to live out their retirement years.  For some people, this is a lifelong dream.  For others, the thought of being far away from the familiar and from children/grandchildren is horrifying.  So I thought I’d share a few thoughts about living in Cuenca, Ecuador:

The Cuencanos (as permanent residents of Cuenca are called):  What a delightful people they are! Generally quite physically attractive,confident, proud of their country and beautiful inside too. They are kind, generous, eager to be helpful.  Many are sort of innocent in that they are not jaded by steeping in too much materialism and a “me-me-me!” entitlement.  They are quick to offer help in finding things here, getting banking and utilities set up, explaining how to blend azucar (sugar) so that it dissolves in recipes more quickly, etc.  Many will open their homes and welcome newcomers into their family celebrations. Len and I have been incredibly fortunate to be, well, sort of adopted by two families where the matriarchs grew up as best friends. It is such an honor to be included.

The ex-pat community is quite helpful also. There are people here from all over the United States and from Canada, as well as other countries in lesser numbers.  There are about 2000 all-year-round ex-pats here and some who go back and forth throughout the year. The estimates of how many ex-pats vary wildly but this is my best guess after 14 months of observation. Ex-pats offer entertainments, answers and friendship to newcomers. And they speak your language and understand a similar sense of humor. Translating humorous things into another language often falls flat.  Idioms seem to be death to humor in a new language. And many understand the adventure, joy and isolation that leaving one’s country of origin presents. Isolation from familiar haunts and neighborhoods, from grandchildren, from familiar foods one cannot find here and from long time friends.  I have known ex-pats to keep track of someone new to be sure she/he is not isolating, to assure the newcomer is invited to things, to offer to shop or assist in locating items.  It is heart warming!

You can have quite an active social life in Cuenca.  For the first time in our lives, my husband Lenny and I have as much social life as we choose . We had very little social life when we were both working full time, caring for 5 pets and living in a suburb of Portland, OR. Our  friends were scattered far and wide around Portland so getting together was complex.  If we went to a friend’s for dinner or had people over, that was usually a 1-time-a-month thing.  Now it can happen weekly and is often spontaneous. Think about it: many ex-pats are retired and most live within 2 miles of each other so getting together or meeting for lunch or dinner is very easily arranged.

Many concerts, dance productions and cultural events are free in Ecuador, subsidized by the government.  Shocking but true.  Culture is supported by the government.  The arts are very valued, respected and cherished. It is a delight to go to a symphony that is free! And wonderful to live where the arts are seen as a treasure.

You can meet a friend for lunch and treat that person for about $5.00 total for 2 lunches.  Almuerzo (lunch) is the main meal for Cuencanos so it is rather large and is offered by lots of restaurants for $2.50 per person.  This includes a watered down tropical juice that is freshly made, the soup of the day,  a main course such as chicken, pork, fish or beef, a huge serving of rice or potatoes and a small salad or vegetables, along with a small postre (dessert) .  At this price, there are no individual choices unless you pay more and no “doggie bags”.  But you get a lot of basic food for an incredibly low price.

The food in Ecuador is bland but good.  The pork and chicken are out of this world delicious, perhaps because they have no hormones or additives.  Most meat is raised in natural settings resulting in a leaner product. A few herbs and seasonings are used and every restaurant has its own version of ahi, a sometimes-hot sauce made of tomato, peppers, onion, garlic and whatever else they decide will represent their place of business.  I cook at home a lot because I eat gluten free (no wheat/barley/rye).  I add herbs and seasonings as needed from a stash I brought with me from the US.  However, I have found many of the usual herbs and seasonings in the markets and grocery stores here. And there are tons of choices for ahi (hot sauce)on the grocery shelves or you can easily make your own.

Cannot pass up mentioning that the fruits are over the top terrific.  Papayas are usually 50 cents each, avocados 3 for $1, mango,  pitajaya (peet-uh-HIGH’-uh), guayaba, and other fruits new to us have become a morning smoothie hobby for my husband, to my delight.   Bananas, pineapple, mango, pears, limon (like key limes), plums and other basic fruits are all here and taste delicious. They have figs but dates are hard to find, as are dried or fresh cranberries. But Cadelaes “the spice store” on Remegio Crespo near Boyaca has nuts and dried fruits as well as a lot of spices and some imported goods, like fish sauce.

Prices seem to be creeping up.  Many of the blogs about life in Ecuador list prices that are outdated. We notice everyday life things are more expensive than stated previously, while still being much less expensive than goods are in the US and many other countries.  An example: a 3 bedroom 2 bath furnished apartment  in a nice neighborhood in a secure building listed for $550 may cost $700/month by the time you add in the condo fee and all utilities, including internet service. One can find less expensive housing and more expensive housing but this is probably closer to average for a furnished apartment.

If you rent an unfurnished apartment in Cuenca, it will come without appliances so you will pay less for the rental but need to provide your own refrigerator, stove, micro, etc. Sometimes “unfurnished” means no mirrors in the bathrooms and no light fixtures – bare hanging bulbs.  But don’t be totally scared off by this because you can find large kitchen appliances at fairly reasonable prices.  Light fixtures also can be found in a wide range of prices.  But do not move here expecting to find a really fantastic furnished rental for $200 in a convenient, quiet neighborhood – those are very rare.  And a recent observation: it seems they have over-built so apartment/rentalss are plentiful.  You will find many choices whereas just 18 mo ago, finding several apartments to chose from was very difficult. If you are interested in buying, there are many more options now than 18 mo ago also.

Cuenca is not for everyone.  Like any foreign country, it requires that you learn a new culture, welcome new experiences with altered expectations, learn or re-learn Espanol, seek creative ways to adapt to living in a new environment for your retirement, if that is a new status as it is for many who come here.

But if these things are on your list of “must dos” before you die, then Cuenca, Ecuador could be a wonderful destination. It is not paradise but it has enough of the qualities I wanted in my retirement to keep me here: tranquility, friendly people, safe streets, moderate weather year round, flowers blooming every month of the year, places to explore and new favorite haunts to discover.

Personally,  I love the weather here – never really too hot, never ice cold. The altitude of 8300 ft does not bother me much.  I delight in the people I’ve met. I know crime can happen anywhere in the world but feel safe here with a few precautions  – like don’t flash a big diamond ring around, don’t pull out your IPad on a bus full of people living below the poverty level, don’t walk along an unlit river path at midnight.  Pretty common sense things.  My husband and I have fallen in love with Cuenca and recommend people check it out if your dream is to retire in a foreign country.

One reason I wrote this post is that people considering moving here are often hungry for information about what it is like to make such a major leap.  It is not a good fit for some people who try it out but for me personally…I love it.  Mi gusta Cuenca!!!

Now about quilting.  Here is my lovely sewing studio half packed and thoroughly messy.

Here is another quilt top I have nearly completed.  Just 3 borders and then its ready to quilt and bind.

The Melon Block Quilt

And the next shot of a quilt top may be the first quilt I sell.  I made it for a baby girl and have the joyful knowledge now that my daughter is expecting a baby boy.  The baby boy quilt will be my next quilt project after I have moved into a lovely rental house with a little larger “sewing studio”.

Baby/toddler quilt

Thank you for reading my blog.  I hope you are having a lovely day and come back to visit this site soon.  You can become a follower – then you will receive an email when I make a new post.  My posts will be more frequent  from today forward.

Sharon

Stop quilting and pack up!

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As I’ve mentioned before, we are moving to a house in another part of Cuenca in about 10 days.  I am wildly trying to complete some “almost finished” quilt tops before I have to pack up my machine, fabric and tools to move.  But every day I think “stop quilting and pack up, girl!”

But here are some nearly completed quilts:

 

We do not have that much stuff but enough that I need to get crackin’ on the tasks.  My husband is not good at packing – really good at a lot of things but not this so I coordinate with the mover and do all the packing.  We brought a little of our own stuff and have bought major furniture over the last few weeks.  The way we were able to do that is we met a wonderful couple who was leaving Portland, OR for Cuenca a couple of months ahead of us.

They offered to rent us a little space on their container so we shipped our tempurpedic bed, boxes of fabric, my sewing table and tools, a few beloved paintings and a recliner we both love.  The container came from Portland to Cuenca in about 18 days!  Much faster than expected.  They held our things until we got here.  So now 14 months later, we are moving those things.  I’m very excited about the new rental home.  Great neighborhood, closer to shopping, near a couple of friends I’ve made.  So it will all be good once it is done.

Here is what I worked on this week: a purple and pastels quilt for a little girl.  It turns out my daughter is expecting a baby BOY in a just over 3 months so…I will make a new little boy quilt and sell this one.  It will be the first quilt I’ve made to sell.  I had all the fabric and love it.  It has been fun to make and I know someone will really love it.  Here are some photos.  It needs one more border to complete the top.  Then layer and quilt it.

OK, now I really am going to pack another few boxes RIGHT NOW!

Hope you are having a fantastic week surrounded by things you cherish and friends & family who love you.

Buen dia!

Sharon

Cuenca Gluten-Free Users Group Planned to begin in Late August

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Cuenca,ECUADOR   Gluten-Free Users Group Planned –  to begin in late August. Are you or a family member challenged by being wheat-intolerant?  A group is planned to address the challenges and joys of being gluten free in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Gluten free cheese puffs

The NEED:  If you are new in town or newly discovering you need to eat a gluten free diet, it can be very challenging to locate products, learn Espanol names for things like tapioca flour, locate alternative grains to try, what restaurants will try to accommodate your needs? We can share resources, discuss ways to ask some merchants to carry products needed for a gf diet.  And other relevant areas of interest. More information will follow about where and what date meeting will be held. Contact me if you are interested in attending this initial meeting or a future meeting. Regards, Sharon email: nature93@gmail.com