Monthly Archives: January 2013



My lovely if disorganized sewing studio got trashed a few days ago.  I rescued a young kitten, now named Saffron.  He is orange or marmelade or buff . A lovely happy color for a kitten. He has the sweetest face.


The Ecuadorians call him amarillo gato or yellow (male) cat. I got him from a rescue/neuter organization in Cuenca called ARCA.  For $15, I got the kitten, the rest of his shots and his neutering in a few weeks all included in that cost.

He was panicked and acting very feral at first.  So I read online how to tame a feral kitten.  However, with 3 days of gentle patient encouragement, Saffron is definitely trusting us up to a point.  I can pick him up and cuddle close to my heart but he needs to be released very easily or that terrified look returns.  I am estimating Saffron is 7-8 wks old because he is so tiny.  He has a good appetite and knows what a litter box is for.  So all is going exceptionally well.

Today, besides getting to sew again, I gave Saffron a quick, gentle bath to check for fleas and clean his fur.  It was a little dusty from life before he came to our house.  Soon he will be ready to explore more of the house.  He has been kept confined in the sewing studio until he is totally comfortable there.  Not long until he will have the run of the whole house.

A little bit ago, Saffron was playing with an orange ball of yarn, scampering after an empty spool and rubbing against my leg.  He let me cradle him and pet his ears, and back.  Then he rolled on his back and grabbed at me in that playful way kittens do just before they really wrestle hard with claws and teeth.  I have read that one can teach a cat not to bite humans hands and feet in their attempts to play.  I need to learn about that so that I can teach him.

On the sewing front, I made two more blocks to go with some Ohio star blocks to decorate one wall.  This is what they look like now before I layer, quilt and bind them. Then I can figure out how I want to place them on the wall.

My mother, Maxine, taught me to sew when I was about 11.  I took a 4-H class but she really was the one guiding me.  She is 94 years old today, living in the same house they moved to 67 years ago.  She and my dad, Milt, who is 95, hope to live at home until their last day.  My mom told me that Dec 25, 2012 marked  75 Christmas days together. Longer than many people live!  That is a long term relationship!

Back to the mention of 4-H.  I loved my classes and projects in 4-H.  Do you know what that is?  I believe the H stands for “Heart”  “Home”  “Helping” and “Health”   It teaches some values about life and skills for life.  I learned basics of cooking.  I learned to take care of a large animal, one year a Hereford steer named Harvey, another year a pregnant horse.  I loved the county fair when all 4-H kids showed their animals and entered things they had made to be judged.  I loved hanging out with kids from other schools.  I wonder if kids are still participating in 4-H?

Back to the kitten, Cuenca is NOT a place for a cat to be loose so Saffron will be an inside cat.  We may be able to reinforce our adobe wall and privacy screen to assure that he could be in the front garden safely.  We will see later about that.

In the garden, I took out most of the geraniums.  They grow well but I want to have more exotic plants in the tiny garden.  I also need to thin/separate the many agapanthus.  Several friends , both ex-pats and Cuencanos, want the ones I thin so that will be fun.  They grow so well here.  Full sun and they will bloom all year around in Cuenca.

This is all for today as I am going to make some gluten free muffins to freeze for healthy breakfast treats.
Have a terrific outlook on this next week of your life.  Enjoy every day!



Life in Cuenca – Tranquilo and So Interesting


Screenshot 1_10_13 5_16 PM

This tranquil baby is my daughter’s second son, Logan, at 2 months. Of course I am prejudiced but I think he is such a darling little fellow.

I was talking with a cab driver today (all in Espanol!) about life in Cuenca.  He lived in Columbia for 26 years and is so happy to be back in Ecuador.  He said it is much more tranquil here, people are friendly, the temperature is not extreme hot or extreme cold.

He asked why I like living in Cuenca so I told him as well as I can with my limited Spanish.  I love learning about a new culture and a new continent. There are so many kind encounters with Ecuadorians.  Their attitude toward life is generally joyful and thankful.  Lots of good stuff.

There is a lot of national pride in Ecuador.  Football, or what we call soccer is only one sign of national pride.  Many people in Cuenca enjoy talking about the national parks, various villages nearby with specialities of interest like weaving,  breeding orchids , leather purses or making filigreed silver jewlery.  Their pride comes out when they hear that I, as a newcomer, enjoy the people and the sights of Ecuador.  It is nice to see.

No gun toting.  No road rage. There is a national election next month and there are not huge amounts of money being spent by competing politicians. No frantic phone calls or even lawn signs.  Ecuador is a democracy.  I am sure there is corruption in many places (as there is throughout the world) but there are so many things they try to do right.  The contrast is very sharp with the many struggles the US is having with partisan politics, financial issues and gun violence.  How will the US get things turned around when citizens are so divided?

OK, its safer to talk about quilting.  I have been making different quilt blocks to go with the Ohio star blocks for small wall hangings or table runners.  In some cases, a block can be framed and hung on the wall.  In other cases, I plan to string some together, add borders to others, and most of all, I am having fun trying out different fabric scraps to see what contrasts well.  Results are sometimes surprising. Its fun.

Here is a block I will complete tomorrow. It was an interesting one to do.  Sewing curves is not my strongest skill as a quilter but I am proud of the results.


One thing I want to say about Cuenca: the community of extranjeros or “ex-pats” is surprisingly connected and very supportive.  Sure, the people who make up that community run the usual bell curve of interests, opinions, experience, personalities, etc. The number of English speaking people living here from the US or Canada (and a few from other places like Germany, England, France) is constantly growing with newcomers.  Estimates are 4,000 to 6,000 in Cuenca.  It is not difficult to find some people you like. Since most of this group of ex-pats are retired, many have time to socialize, explore the city and the country of Ecuador.  There are people who play bridge, a fly-cast fishing club, weavers, artists, conservatives, liberals – runs the full gamut.

So my point is that it is nice to arrange a dinner on short notice, ask for help in locating someone who repairs lamps, search for a dog to adopt, seek a source for organic tomatoes, find volunteer opportunities, locate a hairdresser, learn about eating raw food, and so on.  Many people who have lived here even a short time can suggest resources and answer a few questions.

With that in mind, my husband Lenny Charnoff, and another ex-pat Paul Fine, have begun a free

e-resource/exchange called Cuenca Daily News to help people in a new culture communicate about things like this.  Both seeking information and offering information.


On a different subject:  Some of you recall that my 17 year old cat, Fesity, died in 2012.  I am now seeking two young , healthy orange-and-white kittens to add to our family.  I prefere short hair.  Gender does not matter as both will be neutered/spayed. If you hear of anything that might fit the bill, please let me know.

Snapshot 1:11:13 11:13 PM

Some little kitty like this one would be purrrfect!

Hope you enjoy a fresh new week after a satisfying, relaxing week end.


Catching up – hummingbird and gluten free crackers!


In my last post, there was a paragraph or two about a hummingbird I call Wings. But somehow it disappeared.  So Wings appears to be a Sparkling Violetear varaiety (or Orejivioleta Ventriazul in Espanol) – Colibri coruscans. He is longer and slimmer than the rufous-sided hummers we had in Portland.  He has a lovely deep violet strip down his chest, like a man’s tie.  In the sun, he is very luminescent but in the shade he looks rather plain.

“Wings” patrols my little garden which is about 30 x 18 and walled.  He thinks it is his space alone.  He goes after the finch couple who are nesting in the ivy.  He goes after a large bird that sounds like a robin.  When people come to our gate and we go to let them in, he scolds us.  Today, a man is painting a 3 story building across the street.  “Wings” scolds him when he moves on the scaffolding.  You know, the usual hummer behaviors.  But “Wings” does not have a girlfriend at this time.  It is the time of year when it seems to me he should be hooking up to warrant this bossy protective behavior.  A Cuencana friend told me this type of hummingbird is endangered because another type is taking over territory.

Why do I call him “Wings” you are asking.  Well, his wings appear to move much more rapidly than any other bird visiting the hummer feeder.  He also tucks his little feet completely into his belly feathers so they can barely be seen when he is flying. Other hummers of the same variety bob their tail as they feed and hang their feet down a bit.

My balcony off my sewing room has a large window overlooking the garden.  It is like a big tv screen to watch the wildlife, including the hummingbird wars that are going on about territory.  Also, downstairs in the living room, my favorite chair faces the window right by the feeder so I have a front row seat.

Below is a photo of “Wings”.

But first, Len and I went to a party yesterday put on by a couple who moved here from the west coast.  We saw lots of other people who moved here from the US and Canada.  I made some gluten free crackers from a recipe by Carole Fenster (1000 Gluten Free Recipes).  They were delicious but al ittle dry unless tucked into some dip, which was readily available.

I took the hostess an unfinished quilt block small wall hanging.  It is the blue and orange star in the photo below.  She really liked the colors.  I have to complete it and a couple of other gifts so…better get back to work.

Blue and Orange star

Blue and Orange star


Have a fantastic day on this beautiful planet.  Sharon


Quilting without guilt in Cuenca


I have not been sleeping too well recently.  I feel well but I just have a ton of energy and wake up early. Usually around 6.  Today it was 4 am.  But I am NOT going to complain at all about having tons of energy.  It is a good problem to have. So I get up and go into my sewing studio, closing the door so that Len can sleep later.

I put some music on very soft and get all the lights turned on, turn on the iron and the sewing machine and I’m all set to enjoy myself.  Have I said before that I am really glad I paid to ship my sewing machine with me as extra baggage when we moved here?  Every time I turn on my Pfaff, I feel happy.  I waiting a LONG time for a good sewing machine so I really appreciate all that it does.  And how smoothly it runs.  And how easy it makes things like hemming slacks or piecing a quilt.

I have been making Ohio star blocks for a few things: a table runner for us, a wall hanging for our bedroom, a couple of gifts for friends.  Here are a couple of examples:




Here below is a “Tequila Sunrise” quilt I began 2 years ago.  Now I would select different colors but I guess I will finish it.  Jill M, you said you like it.  Come visit me and its yours!  It is wall hanging size.


Have a terrific new week.  Let me know what your projects are and what your hopes are for 2013.  Sharon


Christmas Eve and a new year in Cuenca, EC


This was my second Christmas in Cuenca.  It is a lovely, unique city in which to celebrate the birth of Christ.  We watched the Parade of Children on Dec 24  – so colorful and full of family groups participating together in native costumes and costumes from the bible. The children were so pumped  for this event they look forward to all year long.  They walk miles during the parade , starting near Super Maxi de las americas and winding along to the Nueva Catedral at Parque Calderon. There were zillions of decorated trucks and cars, horses, bands, tons of different groups from all around the Ecuador province of Azuay, but the delight is in watching the children of Cuenca. Even children who can barely walk were in costume walking along with family members.



I was a little sad on Christmas Eve.  I recall wonderful times when my children were growing up. We would open one gift on Christmas Eve, intending to save the rest for the next day.  But  often it would evolve into a frenzy of opening gifts, laughter, excitement and pleasure to see each child pleased with new things.  The beauty of celebrating Christmas is being with people you love.  I am with my dear husband in Ecuador but on Christmas Eve I missed my kids and grandchildren.  It is an inevitable part embracing life on another continent 4700 miles from them.


In May, 2011, Lenny and I began an amazing, courageous journey for our retirement years – and I love it. It is that thing: “my heart resides in two places with no full resolution once you love both “there” and “here”. So I will continue to visit family and friends as often as is affordable while loving my new life in Cuenca, EC.

Now, with New Year’s Eve behind us, we begin a new year, exploring new adventures in South America, struggling to learn a new language at age 63, luxuriating in retirement with enough time to quilt to my heart’s content, swim at an olympic pool for $1.50 per visit, read books on my Kindle, nurture plants in my little garden. Lenny walks every day, exploring the city and speaking with people only in Espanol.

With the new year, I must get going on a new Espanol class, next week begins more visits to the pool to swim each week – strengthens my knees, among other benefits.  I am growing kefir for the first time, a mild drink that is good for repairing the conditions in the intestinal tract. And a BIG thing I have planned is to get an orange tabby kitten in March.  I will find him/her somewhere when the time is right.

What new things are you going to do this year?  What quilt projects do you want to do?

I have about 4 quilts all completed but for the binding.  I plan to work on those beginning Jan 15, until they are all done and hanging on my walls or resting on our bed.  The table runner I’m making for our table is nearly ready to quilt.  I just need to layer it and baste it.

Oh, here is an interesting  quilting thing:  in the US, I always used a product by J T Trading called 505 Spray and Fix.  It is a temporary fabric adhesive for sewing, applique, quilt and crafts.Well it is also incredibly, dangerously flammable so you cannot bring it in a container, you cannot fly with it, you cannot have it mailed to Ecuador and I have not found it here in fabric stores.   So I’ve learned to baste my quilts.  It is surprisingly easy – no big adjustment.  Just a point of interest.   But, if anyone in Cuenca finds this product, please alert me!  I am also curious if anyone has used the product that is fusible batting.  Is it hard to avoid wrinkles as you fuse your quilt top to the batting?

There is not word in Spanish for “quilt” – nothing that exactly describes what a quilt is.

OK, have a terrific new week in this brand new year!


The quilts are delivered!

new grandson's crib quilt

new grandson’s crib quilt

Blake's Dino quilt 11/12My 4th grandchild arrived October 30.  Welcome to life, Logan, my daughter’s second son. He was a full term little guy, nearly 8 pounds and a real snuggler. Logan’s crib quilt is the top photo

He was welcomed by his 4 yr old brother Blake and his dad Todd as well as momma. My son’s family arrived from San Diego – we all shared Thanksgiving.  The young cousins seemed to enjoy each other immensely.  I had SUCH a great time with my children, their spouses, my grandchildren, friends that whole week we were ALL together.  And a brief trip to see extended family in Idaho was cut short by the baby’s arrival back in Oregon. – a short but sweet visit with some of my family of origin.

My husband and I arrived in Oregon just hours after Logan’s birth.  Logan is a handsome little fellow with lots of black hair like his mom had as an infant.

2 grandsons

2 grandsons

I gave Blake the Dino quilt I had made for picture above

Logan got his zoo animal  crib quilt.

Blake immediately clutched the dino quilt to his chest and roared like T-Rex.  It was a very satisfying response for me as a quilter  and a grandmother!

It brings up something I often find myself reflecting on: when you make something, it is part of you and yet to give it away causes  it to feel more expansive.  Like your heart is enlarged -in a  good way – by giving/selling/donating this object you spent many hours creating. And knowing that someone will really enjoy the warmth and pattern of your creation.

There are some quilts I  want to keep in my home.  I do not want to “let it go” to someone else. And that is ok, I enjoy those in a different way. But other quilts I make become larger in life by the fact that the quilt goes on to a new home.  It is a cool paradox/outcome. – letting something go expands the heart of the maker.  There is the early stage: the challenge of designing and creating a quilt , usually this includes for me a stage, however short, of frustration that something is not turning out as I had hoped . It often needs to be redesigned. Another stage entails completing all parts and then deciding it is “good enough”, the stage of letting the product go on to have a life of its own.

These thoughts have been gathered over the past 2 months.  Logan is 2 mo old,  with a 4 yr old brother, BLake.  My San Diego grancdhilren are having birthdays: my granddaughterEmma is now 10 years old!  Her brother Andrew will be 7 in a few weeks.  What a blessing these young ones are in my life!  I am very fortunate.

Just a word about the Nov Presidential election in the US.  We elected to vote while we were there but will vote online next time.  Need to get that all set up. As someone who lives overseas, a US citizen still has a right and responsibility to vote.  It is a privilege to do so.

It is an ongoing adjustment to visit the US and then return to lovely Cuenca where my husband Lenny and I now make my own home, away from family.  As I have said elsewhere, my heart is divided in loyalty – my life in Cuenca, EC is calm, interesting, affordable and simply a big adventure nearly every day.  My life when I visit the US is made up of visits with friends and family, old haunts, the beauty of Portland, OR and surrounding areas, and many, many tearful goodbyes.

My heart resides in two places, expanded in love and adventure yet always longing for more time with those I love.

It took a bit of time for these thoughts to gel into cohesion enough to post this blog.  Thanks for reading.  Have a fantastic day, wherever you are.