Category Archives: Gluten-free in Cuenca

Making a Few Fun items for Friends

Making a Few Fun items for Friends

October in Cuenca, Ecuador has seemed more like Portland, Oregon in late October where I used to live for 35 years.  There is usually a lovely autumn but then late Oct into November, cold storms crash in from the Pacific and make you KNOW summer and the growing season are OVER for this year.  So Cuenca has been very chilly with wind and rain nearly every day for a couple of weeks – not seeming tropical at 8300 ft altitude.  Does Timberline Lodge ever seem tropical?  Well, it gets really sunny at times but not tropical, right?  It is nearly the same altitude here.

I received a wonderful gift from a lovely, generous woman named Gerry.  She brought a whole suitcase of stuff from my daughter’s, clearing out Tenley’s pile of my fabric and gluten free items.  What a thoughtful gift to offer someone in Ecuador!  Thank you Gerry!!! Hope you and Dave move here soon.

photo 1photo 2

From the fabric, I quickly made a couple pieces of Indonesian fabric art into 20″ x 20″ wall hangings  – both will be framed 20″ x 20″.  Now that I am very excited about!  I feel they look terrific.  Now to finish the back and hang them on either side of the bed in the emerging master bedroom decor.

Does anyone know a reasonable yet GOOD framer in Cuenca?

What is needed now is for me to finish that “quilt of the decade” for the room to be gently coordinated.  But that quilt will come in time.  Oh, and new curtains.

What are you doing as October comes to an end?

Do you make halloween costumes for your children or grandchildren, friends, neighbors? The coolest halloween costumes I ever made were when my children were about 7 and 12.  My daughter was a little fuzzy Panda and my 12 yr old son had a raccoon suit with a fantastic fluffy tail.  All the kids loved the costumes at school.  It makes me a little sad to see everyone buying not-so-cheap ready made identical costumes.  How does that help creative thinking? I understand that every one is busy, not everyone sews, buying is easier but money is tight.

I wish people would get more back to roots! I did not teach  my own daughter to sew.  I was one of those very busy moms…and on and on and on.

I had trouble sleeping last night, partly because a 12 pound cat flopped on me several times at 2 am to wake me.  Sheesh!  Butch is the culprit. Curry was happy to keep sleeping at the foot of the bed.

So I got up and decided to sew something.  I had some napkin sized snowmen riding motorcycles – I wanted to quilt a couple of those as small pieces for a friend in the Puget Sound.  Motorcycles have a special meaning for her these days.  She has been a great friend, recommending movies, books and ways to manage stress.  Thanks, J!  Something  playful coming your way. I will have someone heading back to the US carry it in their suitcase and drop the envelope in the mail to J.    Snowpeople??? We NEVER get snow in Cuenca but thoughts will soon turn to those places that do.

photo 2 (34)

After a couple of weeks of rain, this week has presented glorious days.  Flowers are blooming, birds are mating, life is moving right along here in Cuenca, Ecuadorphoto 3 (11).

photo (92)


Here is my favorite shot this week of two of my favorite males, my husband and Butch.  Butch is the orange one.

photo (94)

Have a super, unencumbered new week!




More Chickens Coming To Roost


This is a very visual post with few words.

This is an update on the chicken wall hangings I’ve been making.  I’m going slowly but enjoying the process.  It is fun to see what emerges using fabric components in different arrangements.

Chicken or the Egg?

Chicken or the Egg?


photo 1 (35)


photo 2 (32)

photo 2 (31)photo 1 (32)

Have a terrfic new week as you more forward with your life!

Be Who You Are

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
― Bernard M. Baruch




How do we embellish our lives? It is a luxury to think of that question.  The very question means the asker is a person of some means: enough to have food, shelter and basic needs covered.  And time to think of ways to enrich one’s daily existence.

I was once friends with an artist in Oakland, California.  She made a habit of looking at the simple ways in which people add a little richness to their life.  It might be an antique shawl passed down from a favorite great aunt, now hung proudly in a window.  It might be a bold red pillow from Target on sale.  A set of woodworking tools treasured formerly by a man from 1901 but discovered at an estate sale in 2014 could bring the new owner joy over and over.

A bright quilt that is very close to being all completed

A bright quilt that is a happy addition to our home

Today’s economy in the United States is very driven by people buying buying buying far more than they need.  It has become an obsession with many to constantly buy more stuff.  Advertising feeds this obsession. Possessions are king!  Many people are caught in this emotionally unfullfilling cycle. It can be hard to see a way off this mirthless merry-go-round. Many have fallen into a habit of THINKING they NEED more things.  It can get a little crazy.

I know a man  of modest means who owns 38 pair of jeans.  They are all blue.  They are mostly unworn.  He agrees that he can only wear one pair at a time….and yet he told me he would buy more if it looked like a deep sale because “I might NEED them.”  Can there be much emotional fulfillment in this stark approach to life? In the richness of his many purchases, he isolates himself because he does not want anyone to know this about him.  No one is invited to his home because he knows his hoarding might be uncovered.  His life is quite spare regarding social contact and yet he shops more. Where is there space for spiritual connection in this cycle?

Cuenca, Ecuador city bus

There is really very little that we actually need beyond basics like food, water, shelter, and respect. The rest is all frosting.  And, although frosting is a lot of fun, it is not required for daily life. I admit, frosting can make one’s daily life a lot more comfortable. But take a minute to imagine what basics you actually require for your day-to-day existence.

Many people who elect to retire in a different country, such as Ecuador, have gone through every single item they own and made a decision to toss it, give it away, sell it or pack it.  That process is exhausting and repetitive, arriving in layers for most of us – we pare down, saving things, we pare down again, letting more go, we get tougher and leaner as we go through this process. It requires a harsh frugality to do this.  And yet in the end, it is, for many, an incredibly exhilirating achievement  –   that moment when you face the freedom of having few worldly goods weigh you down. For the lightness of being “without” while still having life’s basic needs covered.

Gluten free cheese puffs

Gluten free cheese puffs

Where do quilts fit in with all of these thoughts?  One reason I love making a quilt is that I can dive into a carefully selected pile of fabric and come out with a new quilt. This quilt will have a unique life with its new owner.  An example: I am about to sew a quilt for my grandson Andrew who is 8 years old.  What will a quilt from Gramma do for him?  That remains to be seen… but it could warm him on cool San Diego nights.  It could comfort him when he is sad.  It could accompany him as he goes to a friend’s overnight party.  It could color his room a bit, which is his safe, comfortable retreat zone where he recharges his “energizer-Bunny-like” enthusiasm for life.  It could help his sister get comfy when a grandparent is about to read a story in Andrew’s room and she joins in. Oh…and best of all, it will warm my heart to see Andrew use the quilt in whatever way works for him over the upcoming years as he develops into manhood.

photo (58)


Buying more stuff may not make you happy.  Try this: pare your life down, right now in your head, to what you feel are most essential to your daily existence. Then embellish with a few things you hold most dear.  Do we really need a constant renewal of “stuff”. Would it work as well to clearly see ways to cherish…and embellish… what we have.  A comfortable chair, a walk along the river with the breeze lifting your hair, an incredibly soft scarf, the rich variety and depth of flavors in a well made Indian dish, a pot holder made by your grand-niece. These are all embellishments.

What small things enrich your life?

Be Who You Are

Quilting Alone In Cuenca, Ecuador


photo 4

Quilting for me is a solitary sport.  It can be a team sport often, in many locations around the world. But quilting is an  uncommon activity in Cuenca.  Although a number of ex-pats and the rare Cuencana say they quilt, I have not met many who are actively quilting.   This is just a fact.  I am very happy to have time, space and fabric to work on numerous quilts so I don’t mind this solitary sport.  In fact I LOVE being able to set my own hours and pace for quilting.

For several weeks, my main focus I has been a “purple and blues” quilt, above, laid over my king quilt so ignore the tulips and orange peeking through.  The quilt top is done and it is gorgeous.  I’m very proud of it.  My daughter, Tenley, will be 35 in March so I want to have a lap quilt for her in purple and blues, her favorite colors.  However, as I design a quilt, it sometimes grows as I mess around with color combinations and find some I cannot leave out.  So I am plan to make a second quilt for my daughter who wants a  lap quilt. The current  quilt top grew to be 98 ” by 74″ – almost queen size.

photo 1 (3)

Oops!  But, really, this “mistake” is fine with a great outcome because I became very attached to this quilt as it is evolving. I  will hang it at the top of my stairs or behind the living room sofa – wherever it seems to look best once it is completed.  I hope to have the quilt hung by Christmas. It is typical of any quilt I design that I end up with a larger project than first planned.  I need to learn to downsize!  Because the bigger they are, as all of you know, the harder they are to actually quilt on the machine. But I am determined to get this one up on the wall to enjoy.

There is the added bonus that when we have guests, I could pull the quilt off the wall, wash it and put it on the guest bed.  It’s all winners here.

There are no long arm quilters with a machine in Cuenca.  Note to interested parties: you would have some business, doing quilts for the people in the ex-pat community and no competition. The downside is that you would need to charge less than in the US, most likely, as this locale as a retiree economy cannot sustain current US pricing.  Just my thoughts.  But an argument could be made either way.

For my daughter’s lap size quilt, I have plenty of the same materials so it will be equally gorgeous but the size she wanted.  I have ample time to make her quilt after the new year – I will deliver Tenley’s quilt when we visit the US in June, 2014 so it is all good.

Back to the team versus individual sport of quilting. I am on record here saying I MISS my old familiar quilt store and my favorite quilt teacher, Victoria, very much.  The old store is gone now, a newer smaller one replaced it with much less to offer.  The old store had plenty of relatively clean floor space where one could lay out a quilt.  There were huge tables where one could layer a quilt.  And there were always kind, generous people who would put their own projects aside to help a person smooth out the layers of “the sandwich” of backing, batting and quilt top.

That is right where I am now in the process.  I have a great cutting table ( 72″ long x 45″ deep) where I am layering the quilt but I really miss having extra hands to make this sandwich thing come out right, without wrinkles.  That is my focus tomorrow.  I am layering a small section at a time on the cutting table.  I can hand baste about 3 feet of length at a time so that 95″ length will take me a bit.

photo 3 (2)

One challenge is that the young cats who live here, Butch and Curry, love to play wild games all over the house at a drop of the hat.  Last night, when I was away for a little bit, they had a wild wrestle on the loose parts of the quilt sandwich that are hanging down and gently folded onto the floor. Any thing that looks different gets a cat’s curiosity juiced up so…I came home from dinner and found a bit of chaos on the landing where the cutting table lives.  But it was all repairable and I”m retired so…there is time to do all things that hold my interest.

Kale crop continues into 6th month

Kale crop continues into 6th month

When I am not quilting or doing things away from mi casa, I garden, cook gluten free meals and hang out with my precious loving husband.

Spinach Frittata

Spinach Frittata

My friends think up lots of interesting things for us to do around Cuenca.  Here is Taylor by the only phone booth I’ve noticed in Cuenca.

photo (15)



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!


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