Following the Dream: Crete, Part 4

Last October I managed to transport myself from my everyday world to the Mediterranean island of Crete, Greece. How did I manage to pull this off? This is a question I ask myself. Sometimes, someone else asks me a variation of that question. I have been thinking about the many layers of answers which are accurate.

My wish to explore the ancient goddess civilization that flourished on Minoan Crete was deep and strong. I needed a stubborn desire because there were hurdles to my participating in the Goddess Pilgrimage. First hurdle was the financial consequences of withdrawing money from my retirement fund–not an easy decision. The health hurdle was a central consideration. In early 2017, I started chemotherapy to try to shrink the tumor affecting my right arm and right hand. By August, 2017 my energy was still good, but the long term exposure to the chemotherapy was an unknown. I signed up for the Goddess pilgrimage with high hopes. I believed this trip would “remind me of who I am”. And it has done that!

My belief in my creative self, and my trust in traveling with feminist women convinced me I could do the long flights and then fourteen very full days exploring Crete. The encouragement and support of both Jeanne, my life partner, and Martha, my friend of forty years, were essential. The woman who is my primary care physician also provided valuable advice and support. Many of my women friends cheered me on. As I prepared for the long flights, I consulted friends who have experienced the current airport security measures–this was a primary worry for me–how to navigate the Transportation Safety Administration rules and regulations.

The first step was obtaining a passport. I had only seven weeks! I put all my focus on gathering the necessary documents. Since Martha lives in New Jersey, I arranged the trip to spend one night with her each way. This would break up the trip from Arkansas to the east coast and then on to the twelve hour flight to Athens. Just in case the overseas flight arrived late, I needed to allow a long layover in Athens before the hour flight to Crete. I tried to figure all this out myself, but finally resorted to help from a travel service, i.e. Bank of America. (I was desperate for help.)

The woman assisting me was quite helpful and it took several hours on the phone–with lots of stress involved. Finding nonstop flights at the late date was almost impossible. I did manage to get a nonstop for the Newark to Athens leg at the beginning of the trip. But I did not understand the fare structure that the airlines had instituted to raise the prices of economy by offering a sub-economy fare with many restrictions. So for several of the flights I was on a sub-economy ticket and not permitted any carry-on luggage. Only a single “personal item” was permitted and within strict measurements.

This may seem like boring trivia, but I mention this because it can be a rude awakening at the airport. In studying the luggage weight restrictions, I quickly found that if your one checked bag weighs over 50 pounds the airline will charge you a $200 fee. To ease my mind I ordered, for less that ten dollars, a portable luggage scale which allowed me to weigh my luggage both going over and returning. A more expensive investment was our first smart phone–we were able to get a phone with an inexpensive overseas calling plan which let me phone home every day. This was a valuable lifeline.

Learning to think in Euros was another challenge. Twenty Euros was closer to thirty dollars U.S. dollars. I traveled to Greece with my cash already exchanged into Euros to receive the best exchange rate and to be familiar with the different currency. I would be illiterate in most ways, but at home I could learn how to use Euros to pay for necessary expenses.

Departure, Wednesday, October 27, 2017
The early morning drive to XNA to catch my first flight was harrowing because we encountered backed-up traffic on the interstate. We exited, but found that we did not know the best way to get to the airport. I was stressed and it was only 6:00 am! We made it. Then I survived my first security check, but was so up-tight I forgot to turn back to wave “goodbye” to Jeanne.

With a three hour layover in Charlotte, NC it became a long day on airplanes. When Martha picked me up at the Newark airport I was exhausted and felt lousy. Martha encouraged me to nap before we ate dinner. I still did not feel well on Thursday morning. I missed my flight to Athens that day because I was in the Princeton Medical Center experiencing dehydration! My dream trip began with a nightmare. After many tests and two units of IV fluids I began to feel human again. Martha, as an experienced nurse practitioner, was a great companion during those long hours in the emergency room. The other nurses took good care of me while I was there, but I wanted to go to Crete. Was my dream over?

Jeanne strongly encouraged me to not give up. Because the women organizing the Pilgrimage had urged each of us to purchase trip insurance, I had done so. (It had taken me two days to compare policies and to check ratings of various companies.) I did have a way to continue on to Crete at minimal extra cost.
Finally, Arriving in Athens
Saturday afternoon I left Newark at sunset and arrived in Athens twelve hours later at dawn. I requested wheelchair assistance at each stop for the rest of the trip.

Five hours spent in the Athens airport went slowly although I did have a friendly visit with a young woman from Puerto Rico traveling with her father.
We each guarded the other’s luggage for time to eat and use the restroom. Because I’d done my homework, I was even able to help her with her currency exchange situation there at the airport bank. I continued reading my thick paperback Maeve Binchy novel which had helped me pass the hours on the flight across the Atlantic.

Five hours later, on to Heraklion, Crete via Aegean Airlines

I’ve talked about some of the hurdles, but I want to include some of the thrills too.
I discovered with that first liftoff from Fayetteville how I thrilled at the miracle of each take-off and every landing. I felt so very “at home” inside each of the aircraft no matter what logo was painted on the outside of the aircraft. The narrow confined space with the tiny galleys and multiple port windows had been my workplace for sixteen years and five million miles. As we flew over the Mediterranean I admired the deep blue of the sea and reviewed my training about forced landings at sea.

My home-away-from-home in the 1970s & 1980s was the Boeing 727 Stretch model which carried 200 passengers. Those narrow aisles still felt familiar after being grounded for 24 years.

Thirty-seven hours after leaving Newark, I was finally checking into the hotel in Heraklion, the capital city of Crete. As I was rolling my luggage in the front door, I met three women exiting the building. We passed each other, but I heard them question, “Could that be our missing pilgrim?” They returned, and I met the other women who were all leaving for dinner together. I was pleased to meet some of the others on the tour, but declined the invitation to dinner. I was exhausted. I’d missed the first full day of the pilgrimage, but my dream of seeing all Crete had to offer was just beginning!

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Foxglove Viewing at Cedar Hill

“View the drama of hundreds of blooming foxgloves and tour the gardens. Weed if you want! We can use the help!” This was the invitation we handed to friends a week ago to announce our Foxglove Viewing event. Since we held it on a weekday this year several of our friends couldn’t come. I’ve put together this camera tour just for them!

Partial Garden overview

After a rough ride through the creekbed that passes as our road this was the view that greeted everyone–foxgloves ranging in color from cream to magenta.

Front walk leading to our front door draped in native climber Virginia Creeper.

At the main entrance to the terraced garden this Trumpet honeysuckle (another native) beckons the hummingbirds to drink:

Near the honeysuckle on an east facing wall I’ve massed many of my house plants that enjoy fresh air of living outside all summer:

Heading toward the west side of the house we are approaching my Rusty Rustic Shade Garden:

This is the view out my bedroom window as seen from my sewing spot with the vintage Featherweight perched for all my quilting projects:

Now we are circling through the rustic Shade garden with several stops. Here you must use your imagination to see the remnant of a wood cook stove I dragged back from an abandoned site in the woods. The section of the stove bolted to the base held a two-section warming oven along the top. I’ve turned the whole unit up side down to use to display plants. Can you see it?

In the shadiest corner two elegant Yellow Lady’s Slipper, a native orchid, demand our attention. Two decades ago we found a small colony of these fabulous flowers located behind our house only to have them chewed to the ground by foraging deer. We fenced that struggling colony and watched it come back over time. Our deer fence worked. About ten years years ago we noticed a single seedling escaping out from under the fence. We transplanted it to this spot just in case the deer destroyed the original colony. As you can witness, this Lady’s Slipper has thrived under the careful watch of the painted wooden swan I found beside a dumpster in Fayetteville.

A small glass topped table and three metal chairs stand at the center of the shade garden. At the lower right is a bed of wild ginger, bloodroot, trillium, tiny crested iris, woodland phlox and christmas ferns–all native to these Ozark hills.

This metal grate was a “found object” I was thrilled to find near our turn off from the White River road to our place. Because both this grate and the glass top table are see-through they do not seem to command too much attention visually or overwhelm this small space.

As you can see here, I find myself drawn to all the shades of terra cotta whether rich fabric tones for my quilts or clay pots in shades of terra cotta which can range from pale orange to browns and even reds. Terracotta, terra cotta or terra-cotta derives from the Italian: “baked earth” and from the earlier Latin terra cocta). This is an earthenware, clay-based unglazed or glazed ceramic, where the fired body is porous.

Passing the terra cotta grouping and circling back toward the entrance we’re approaching another set of found objects. Walk closer to see the misshaped enamel basin filled with river rocks, soil and a delightful native sedum named woodland stonecrop–love the little green rose-like leaves of this plant that stays green year round and blooms in the spring. Only last week in repairing the bamboo fence that surrounds the shade garden did I find this freshly discarded antler not fifteen feet outside this shade garden. My eye decided that it would be a perfect “handle” here.

We had a picnic in the shade of a huge cedar tree in the back yard. This metal sculpture of a Great Blue Heron from my long time friend Martha has lounged there long enough to allow the Virginia Creeper to crawl upward.

You’ve missed the tour of the native plant nursery and exploring the terraces of the vegetable garden, but it was hot and sunny that day so few ventured to those gardens. Therese snapped this photo of my Rat Terrier companion, Zora, as she climbed on my lap as the day ended.

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Seeing Ourselves Reflected in our Photographs, Crete, Part 3

A collection begins when we are attracted to the same thing again and again. My first morning in Crete, I stepped out of our hotel and found a weary looking street dog curled up in a warm corner of the street-side coffee bar. I took her picture. She watched me warily. She was not interested in visiting with me. This was the first of the thousand pictures I brought home with me from two weeks on a goddess pilgrimage to Crete.

I met and photographed five other dogs. In my mind, I can also see the exuberant puppy who followed us to the labyrinth site. We were singing as we walked in a serpentine line along the deserted road overlooking the sea. The excited pup added her energy to the early evening, but I didn’t get her picture. The following morning, I returned to the labyrinth shortly after dawn to walk the spiral again, but no pup was around. I’d hoped she would join me.

Both dogs and cats have been reliable life-companions for me ever since I fell in love with a woman and her silver standard poodle named Genevieve. As a child, we did not have pets. My mother said that dealing with four kids was enough. As an adult, I’ve learned how both cats and dogs can be among the most satisfying of companions. Since falling in love in 1973, I’ve never lived without both felines and canines. Zelda, my first standard poodle is a legend. She lived to be fifteen and moved to Arkansas with us in 1987.

I’m not surprised that I sought out dog-energy when I was a stranger on the island. Dogs remind me of home and belonging. In many ways the semi-tropical October days in Crete reminded me of my girlhood in south Florida—especially the sight of the brilliant fuchsia bougainvillea vines draping the straight lines of buildings and arbors. When the vivid papery blossoms fell they sprinkled color on steps, courtyards, and doorways for days.

Bougainvilla climbs over houses and porches on most every street in Mochlos.this street scene and the closeup of the papery flowers greeted me when I first stepped out of our hotel to explore on Sunday, October 8.

After walking the labyrinth that early morning, I roamed the small fishing village of Mochlos admiring the simple houses in the soft early morning light. I was gawking at everything. Open aired tavernas lined the curve of the harbor. Everywhere there were planters brimming with plants. Often I’d see cats slinking around the base of the pots wary of me. Houses in light colors nestled nearby. I saw whitewashed houses or terra cotta buildings or houses in soft pastel tones. All these were nestled side by side along the narrow streets.

Mochlos Bay curves around the harbor lined with tavernas and a beach located down steep stone stairs.

Each structure or house had its own perfection. I was amazed how these buildings of simple lines could be so unique, and then so effectively enhanced by a bright door, or a group of five terra cotta pots, or a lush grapevine arbor over the front area. Blue doors appeared everywhere, but no house looked like a duplicate of another.

This sprawling house was the only boutique I saw in Mochlos. I found a soft white nightgown (on sale–end of the season) to keep me cool on the warm nights there.

Houses in simple shapes with carefully chosen accents, like the leaded glass arched window in the door captured my attention.

Doors have long fascinated me because they are both invitations and barriers. Many of the houses and tavernas were punctuated with blue—all different blues. Every turn brought a new sight I wanted to record with my camera. I wanted the opportunity to study that view of this house and this yard later. I wanted my friends to experience these streets with me. I found I was obsessed with photographing doors. It was the doors and windows that I had to document with the camera.

You are seeing the balcony and blue door into my room in Mochlos

This is the more formal entrance to the small hotel. Note the patio on the left where our rooms were located. Did you notice the restrained touches of blue accents?

We usually used this entrance to visit with the innkeepers. Breakfast was served on the back terrace each morning.

As I explored along the curving bay of Mochlos, I passed a storage shed located close to the waves where I admired the weathered, sun-bleached turquoise color on the lopsided doors. Another simple home captured my attention with its door and one window facing the street painted a clear deep blue. Then I came across a house fronted with a black wrought iron gate displaying the intricate curves of two large herons facing away from each other. Truly, I was sightseeing. Arched doors and arched entrances were of special interest to me because the curves softened the square buildings. Or, did the arched entrances recall the openings to sacred caves of the Great Mother?

As I roamed Mochlos the faded turquoise shed door grabbed my attention.

That day, I learned a new visual vocabulary of blues–from the palest blue shade, to turquoise, to bottle blue, to brilliant blue, to a deep green-blue. At the edge of the Mediterranean sea, in that village, we were confronted with the rolling blue sea and the overarching blue sky. Repeating the vibrant blues of their world by the ocean seemed only natural.

There were no yards to tend, just small courtyards or tiny porches. The residents were growing lush plants in shapely terra cotta pots or huge reused olive oil tins with unique logos. On that early October morning when I was roaming Mochlos, I passed a Greek woman dressed in black sweeping the sidewalk and street in front of her house. We nodded at each other and I pointed to all the large pots with overflowing growth to indicate my admiration. Pink hibiscus flowers blooming in one pot caught my eye. As girls, my sisters and I would use needle and thread to string together large double hibiscus flowers from our neighbor’s six foot tall hedge to make flower leis to drape around our necks. We soon discovered that usually the ants on the flowers left the flowers to explore us.

As our group approached a small museum in Vori, I noticed the drama of how the arched wall entrance to the courtyard framed the bright blue door seen across the courtyard. With the vibrant green fern at the base of the arch softening the lines, this became one of my favorite photos. Actually, I began to have fantasies about living in a spot where I walked through a stone arch then crossed a courtyard to approach my own house with a blue door.

The contrast of the brilliant blue with the earth tones and green ferns caught my attention.

Another sunny day while wandering along the narrow streets of Skoteino, I found an abandoned storefront with four large windows and faded blue paint that intrigued me. After carefully framing the picture, I noticed myself with my signature wide-brimmed sun hat reflected in the window. I was surprised. I’d managed to insert myself into that Cretan town on that sunny day.
Because mirrors and glass, which are smooth flat surfaces, return light in an organized fashion to produce an exact image, I could include myself in some of the photos. After I first noticed this reality, I began looking for opportunities to include my reflection. I had fun playing with this possibility. I’m still playing at this.

Our photographs are a map of our interests.
Our interests direct what we choose to photograph. Yes, it is a circular proposition. Our photographs indicate what draws our attention or sparks a memory. What images are we collecting? What appeals to our senses? What subjects propel us to seek more information? From Crete, I’ve gathered a collection of animal photos and pictures of lots of simple houses. Others of my photographs illustrate different strong attractions, curiosity, and passions.

The word “photography” comes from Greek meaning “writing with light”. In Crete, I was an illiterate visitor. I could not read or write. I knew little of the customs and history of the island. I was a tall stranger with a big hat who was interested in what I saw each day: from the solar hot water heaters on many rooftops, to the mountains strip-mined for gypsum to make sheetrock, to the thousands of brightly colored beehives that dotted mountainsides. The spotlight of my camera’s lens is a floodlight. I can write with words and ideas, and I can write with photographs. Both can be shared.

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Psarosoupa or Greek Fish Soup, All Part of the Adventure! Crete, Part 2

My first morning in Crete I was up early. I had an assignment. Since I had missed the first full day of the pilgrimage, I had not had time to collect some type of “libation” for our ritual ceremonies. We were leaving the big city of Heraklion for Zaros, a rustic mountain town at 9:30 sharp. I had to shop now. My bags were packed.

I’d called Jeanne at 6:30 AM local time (10:30 PM in Arkansas), then I hurried downstairs for my yogurt breakfast and out the front door of our small hotel into a city waking up for a busy Monday morning. I walked toward this old marble paved market street:

Here you see the narrow marble path of the old city market street where I walked that morning. It was just steps from our hotel at Kornarou Square in Heraklion, the capitol city of Crete.

I’d been told by friends at home not to go out alone in the cities, but the night before when our leader CC gave me this assignment she had assured me it would be safe. I tried to follow her directions to the small market shop, but I took a wrong turn along the narrow street lined with stalls into a busy fish market. The marble paving stones were wet as if someone had just hosed down the area. It was slick. I stepped carefully. The crisp morning air was cool. I’m sure my eyes were wide in wonder and I looked like a tourist. None of the bustling male workers paid much attention to me as I tried not to gawk at the colorful variety of fresh fish packed in ice chips.

This market looks like the one in Heraklion on the early October morning.

Not my photo, but this is what I saw that first morning in Crete as I wandered around.

A multitude of different fish to select for a truly fresh meal.

I’d never been in a real fish market.
It seems the sea was ready to feed the multitudes. But I had to remember my mission. Wine, olive oil, honey or water—any of the four would be acceptable as an offering of gratitude during our rituals. Once I found the tiny crowded shop I was looking for, I selected a small shapely bottle of local Cretan honey. Days later on our road trip I would see the hundreds of beehives used to house the bees and collect the honey.

It is not surprising that on a large island like Crete people would search the 650 miles of coastline for edible foods especially fish. Fish in Greek is psari, pronounced SAH-ree, so fish soup becomes psarisoupa, SAH-ree-soup-a. Island cultures often harvest much of their diet from the sea. Unfortunately, it seems that the Mediterranean has been over-fished since the 1960s making fish more expensive than previously. Fish markets today serve the local population only because there is no excess to export.

The Mediterranean Sea includes all of the other smaller areas like the Cretan Sea and the Libyan Sea. We visited places on both north and south parts of the island. Our two weeks focused on the central and eastern areas of Crete. Crete is 160 miles long and 37 miles wide at the widest point and only 7 miles at the narrow point. Because of all the rugged mountains running across the center of the island from west to east it is bigger than it looks! Agios Nikolaos is located along the north shore at the narrow section of the island. Can you find it?

Some families in Crete keep rabbits or chickens to serve at special dinners. Christina, a Greek woman who prepared a delicious lunch for our group later in the week, did have rabbits she was raising for her large extended family meals on Sunday. The rabbits were housed in a large hutch located at the back of her house in an attached shed. The rich manure was used on her garden which I am sure helped to account for the huge garlic bulbs braided into abundant clusters hanging above the rabbit hutch.

Fish is a delicacy I’ve long enjoyed. As a girl raised in south Florida, I sometimes enjoyed eating fish caught by my father and brother on one of their fishing days. Any fish they caught that was too small to clean and eat, my dad would bury at the base of our trees as an excellent fertilizer.

As a lacto-ovarian vegetarian for decades, I only occasionally ate fish–usually at a restaurant. However, last year when I started chemotherapy to try to shrink the tumor affecting my right arm, I was encouraged to eat more protein especially fish. Consequently, we began to sometimes buy frozen, wild caught salmon at our local food coop. After defrosting, I used olive oil in the bottom of the baking dish and add several pats of butter on top of the fillets. Sprinkled with dill and baked with thick slices of onion for a half hour at 350 degrees, it was a treat.

Until traveling in Crete, I’d not encountered any fish soup. My first taste of a rich fish soup was in a seaside taverna in the bustling city of Agios Nikolaos. That fish soup was a clear broth containing a tender white fish, onions, potatoes, carrots, and spiced with local herbs. Delicious. Enjoyable, especially when combined with the ubiquitous Greek salad of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives and lots of feta cheese all grown or made on the island! I savored this soup and salad combination three times in two days because it was so satisfying. We ate out doors above the seawall with the tang of fresh salty air.

Late afternoon seaside tavernas along the waterfront in Agios Nikolaos on October 6, 2017

Since returning home I’ve discovered that there are many versions of Greek fish soup including some with a tomato base. Jeanne and I have created our own version of a fish soup enhanced with the addition of heavy whipping cream. Yogurt was a common addition to many dishes or meals in Greece, but we are trying a low carb, high fat diet with no sugar in order to starve the tumor of fuel. So, our choice is cream. We’ve used the wild caught frozen cod available at our coop in 10-ounce packages. See our recipe below. Hope you’ll experiment too.

12 c. water
celery, 3 stalks diced
onion, 1 large diced
zucchini, 2 medium diced
mushrooms, 4 large shiitake diced
garlic, 4 cloves diced
fresh parsley leaves, 3-4 stems
olive oil, 2 T
spices: salt, 1 t.
pepper, ½ t.
oregano, 1 ½ t.
turmeric, ½ t.
basil, 1 t.
thyme, 1 t.
cod, 10 oz frozen
cream, heavy whipping-pint or 16 oz (Add after other ingredients have cooked.)
possibly garnish with a feather of dill

We know sauteing the ingredients might be preferable, but we chop all and add to the water. The defrosted cod fillets will flake apart after simmering for an hour or two. Hold the cream until 15 minutes before serving and reheat. A roiling boil is not necessary. This creamy soup stores well in the refrigerator for several days and the flavor only increases.
This is a very flexible ingredient list. One could add lemon, potatoes, carrots and more.

Simplicity and fresh ingredients are the secret to Greek cooking. The island herbs add tangy flavors too.


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Wish it. Dream it. Do it. (Crete, part 1)

By late September I was trip-ready with comfortable clothes and sturdy shoes plus the perfect sun hat.

Wish it. Dream It. Do it. Over a year ago I found this simple sign at a thrift store. At home I placed it on the huge vintage rolltop desk where my computer lives. Because it’s a small room, I see those encouraging words many times every day. Possibly I’ve seen that simple lettering over 1,000 times. Is this where the outrageous idea of flying to Greece for a Goddess Pilgrimage began?

I’ve not been on an airplane for 24 years. I flew over 5 million miles during my 16 years working from 1969 to 1985 as a flight attendant for TWA. I’m quite comfortable on planes. For financial and environmental reasons I have avoided airplanes. I have deep roots on this land we call Cedar Hill located in Madison County, Arkansas. Jeanne and I built our own house here in the mid 1980s and have surrounded it with several gardens which help feed us. We are the caretakers of many acres of hardwood forest.

Perhaps this journey actually began in 1978 when I was one of the five hundred women who attended the Great Goddess Re-Emerging Conference in Santa Cruz, CA. Carol Christ, feminist author and scholar, was the keynote speaker. Ever since that conference, I’ve been quoting the section of her keynote address about how we cannot simply reject a symbol system, but must replace it with a new symbol system! Women need positive images of the female divine to counteract the misogyny of the patriarchy we all swim in every day. Women are hungry for a women honoring society instead of the misogyny and casual daily degradations women and girls experience.

I celebrated my 72nd birthday on August 28th and I’m feeling good. In January, 2017 I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and began treatment. I believe I am feeling good because of good support from those close to me and because I found a hands-on healer who is part of my team of caregivers. A week before my birthday I learned about this Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete where an ancient culture of women honoring, peaceful, artistic people thrived. A place I would have like to have lived!

I discovereed that the keynote speaker I’d been quoting, Carol Christ, was one of the Co-Directors of this goddess tour. After I studied the packed two-week itinerary, I knew I want to experience the pilgrimage while I felt this good. Jeanne opted to not go at this time. The small group of women would explore the archeological remains of the ancient woman-centered world, visit museums, explore caves, climb to hilltop shrines, perform rituals, and swim in the Mediterranean. This sounded like a trip of a lifetime for me!

I had seven weeks to get my passport and to prepare. I pulled money from my retirement fund to afford to go to Crete—a big decision. Jeanne jokes that it became a full-time job to get ready. From acquiring the Greek currency of Euros to choosing the perfect sun hat, I was busy. Learning about the complicated TSA airport regulations was stressful. Packing clothes for hot sunny days and cool mountain evenings within my limit of 50 pounds of luggage was an ongoing challenge. I’ve never been one to pack light and I was certain I’d find things to bring home with me as mementos.

Discovering the right hat was the fun part. We went to a fancy hat shop in Eureka Springs to see what they offered. I tried on at least twenty-five hats before I found the perfect companion to see me through those hot sunny days. I fell in love with the hat you will see me wearing in many of the photos. I was able to fold it flat for packing and it still looked good. And it had a strong chin strap to keep it on my head on windy mountain tops. With my hair thinning hair (chemo induced?), my hat has been a welcome security blanket.

Skoteino cave, one of the ritual sites we would explore has been used to honor the earth goddess for at least 4,000 years including the present day.

I managed to transport myself from my everyday world that day in late August. My wish to explore the ancient goddess civilization which flourished on Crete was deep and strong. This dream was not a new dream, but it was a bold adventure. Flying on my own to a country where I would be illiterate (since I spoke no Greek) required a stubborn desire. My belief in my creative self and my trust in traveling with feminist women convinced me I could do this. I do want to acknowledge how important the support I received from Jeanne and our friend Martha was in making this journey.

Do you have a wish? Or a dream? What is preventing you from doing it? Life is short!

I’ll continue to share my explorations on Crete here–including many photos of people, places, animals and things like our modified recipe for Greek fish soup, also called psarosoupa

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Color in my Garden

The bright fuschia color of a rambling bouganvilla greets me each time I glance out the window over my bed. The bright fuschia color of a rambling bouganvilla greets me each time I glance out the window over my bed.

Spring has slipped away into summer here at Cedar Hill! We have dealt with multiple flooding events and more rain for early summer than we could have imagined. The county has not fixed the road washed out by the flooding except to reinforce the stone and mud damn we and our neighbors put together months ago. Driving in and out to the highway is still hazardous. All this is part of my lack of posts, but here I am. In the past several months I have regained much of the use of my right arm–we have even been able to take out our kayaks to explore Lincoln Lake once again.

All the rain and my limited use of my arm has resulted in an overwhelming supply of weeds in all our gardens and in the nursery of Ozark Native Plants!!! Several friends have come and helped us weed–thank you, you know who you are. I was quite discouraged every time I walked outside. Our lush plantings were now overgrown with undesired additions.

Then I decided to treat the situation like a quilter–I would do a little bit every day. I’d think of it as a block project that would add up to a finished quilt top. Deciding to start weeding on the areas I most often saw or visited was also part of my strategy. I started on my Rusty, Rustic shade garden where you saw the bright fuschia flowers above. This garden is my shady retreat located outside my bedroom window. That tropical bouganvilla plant reminds me of my girlhood growing up in south Florida. This plant lives inside with me all winter in order to brighten my shade garden in the summer.

With all the shades of green I depend on the bright white clusters of hydrangea to brighten the back edge. The accents of blue ceramic planters provide an unexpected note. The small glass topped table doesn’t demand much visual attention, but offers a place to read or snack or visit.

Cleome plants love it hot and dry. These plants volunteered outside the 4' x 9' window on the south side of our house.

Cleome plants love it hot and dry. These plants volunteered outside the 4′ x 9′ window on the south side of our house.

Next I shifted my attention to the area outside the front window and near our front door. This area, too, is quite shady, but these cleome plants self seeded here this year and now grace the area with tall stalks and fountain of flowers ranging in color from white to pink to purple. Without our hardwood mulch I would not be able to keep the weeds in check once I have cleared a section.

Last evening I was weeding out front at dusk even though this can be risky because dusk is when the copperhead snakes appear in the cooler air to hunt for their dinner. I was working near another clump of cleome and first heard, then saw, the fluttering bodies of several hummingbird moths. Each is equipped with a long beak to explore the beckoning cleome flowers. I stopped focusing of weed removal and stared at these amazing creatures seeking their own nourishment. These small brown moths bring their own excitement to my garden. Not colorful, but full of life energy. The lust for life flows through nature including ourselves. Color adds to our pleasure, but is only one segment of our enjoyment of our surroundings.

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“Altered books”–A Creative Possibility

I’ve been forced to slow down. Now I’m attempting to embrace this new reality. I’ve started a “Gratitude” scrapbook–actually an “altered book” to please my collage/artist self and to escape into my “right brain” as often as possible. Quilting and gardening previously allowed me to play as my collage/artist self.

What is an “Altered book”? I use an oversize hard back book with lots of photos to become the canvas supporting my alterations. I alter the book by adding bits and pieces of paper, graphics, fabric, and usually favorite quotes. Most of the original photos and all the text is obscured by my additions. Lila Rostenberg, my talented artist friend, introduced me to the idea in fall of 2009. To start, I found a decades old, 11″ x 11″ book by the artist Flavia for $.99 at the used bookstore. It took me several months to fill the pages with quirky, Paula-pleasing bits and pieces. As I collaged my way through the pages I created a one-of-a-kind scrapbook for myself. It is now one of my most prized possessions!

Later, Lila and I did a shared book by passing it back and forth between us as each of us added a variety of elements. It was great fun, and without pressure!

This is the dust cover of the hardback book I chose for my "Altered book".

This is the dust cover of the hardback book I chose for my “Altered book”.

Current cover of my "Gratitude" book. This cover, too, is subject to be changed....

Current cover of my “Gratitude” book. This cover, too, is subject to be changed….

Two weeks ago I started with a 10″ x 11″ found book by a different artist. I decided to make a “Gratitude” book so I could play and to remind me of everything and everyone I have to be thankful for. All of your messages to me, whether by email or otherwise, are now in my “Gratitude” book. Each of your words to me has been translated from cyberspace into letters on a page, then pasted into this oversized, recycled book. My book is filled with scraps and textures, graphics and colors that please me. My left handed scissors assist, but often I prefer the ragged edges of torn paper.

Here are a few examples of the interior pages I collaged:



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Color Study

Color Study is a recent
Treasures are waiting for us around every corner! Browsing an upscale local flea market, The French Door, with my friend Joan, I found this fabulously simple (and elegant) creation. Each of the rectangular centers appears to be silk–some are solid colors and some are multi-colored. This is a log cabin block variation, size 28″ x 32″. The rich black background makes the colors glow. The quilter attached a sleeve, but there is no clue about the maker (no label), except that she hand quilted it using a metallic thread. That woman spent many hours sewing this lovely piece. How did it end up here with a price tag of $9?

My own sewing has reached a roadblock. So I have this piece on my design wall. Different days I notice different vibrant color combinations that this talented quilter pulled together. I’ve named it Color Study and will sew a label on the back giving the date and location I found it once I can hand sew again. Color Study is a recent “found treasure” pieced with silk rectangles in the center of each 2 1/2″ x 3 1/4″ block. Maker unknown, but it now has an appreciative new home with me.

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Creating Diagonal Designs in the Classroom

Nineteen quilters spent six hours playing with fabric and creating another layer of community with each other. We had a large bright sewing space with plenty of room for all of us to set up our sewing stations. Our Super Saturday Sew-in produced original designs based on the three different blocks I brought as samples. Here are several pictures of our day Lila Rostenberg snapped as we worked and played.

Paula and friends enjoy the light, the space and each other.

Paula and friends enjoy the light, the space and each other.

Working on a design wall, Dierdre used bright batiks to enliven the traditional Broken Dishes pattern of many triangles. She did a good job of "keeping the eye moving".

Working on a design wall, Dierdre used bright batiks to enliven the traditional Broken Dishes pattern of many triangles. She did a good job of “keeping the eye moving”.

Suzanne used a modified version of the Split Nine Patch block to create a secondary pattern.

Suzanne used a modified version of the Split Nine Patch block to create a secondary pattern.

Lila took her inspiration from a project she viewed on Pinterest for this pattern of triangles featuring solids and prints.

Lila took her inspiration from a project she viewed on Pinterest for this pattern of triangles featuring solids and prints.

Two women brought sweet treats to share with the group. Lila baked these carrot cake cupcakes (my favorite) as a surprise for my birthday the following day. And the group surprised me with an overflowing bag of batik fat quarters for my birthday. It was  a great day all around!

Two women brought sweet treats to share with the group. Lila baked these carrot cake cupcakes (my favorite) as a surprise for my 71st birthday the following day. And the group surprised me with an overflowing bag of batik fat quarters for my birthday. It was a great day all around!

I’m encouraging everyone who was in class to send me a photo of their work-in-progress and I will post it here. Dierdre was the first to respond. She has sent a photo of her work-in-progress as seen on her design wall. She used the very simple Broken Dishes of arranging triangles. About her top Dierdre wrote, “I’m still deciding on borders and finishes, but the top is sewn. I loved this creative process–there was no planning involved, just playing with color and patterns.”

Broken Dishes, composed of a single size of half square triangles, can make a dynamic diagonal design!

Broken Dishes, composed of a single size of half square triangles, can make a dynamic diagonal design!

Amy used bright colors to enliven Shaded Nine Patch block as seen on her design wall.

Shadred Nine Patch block by Amy created diamonds of color.

Shadred Nine Patch block by Amy created diamonds of color.

Velina used two beautiful William Morris fabrics for her Split Nine Patch and chose to “fussy cut” gold flowers for the centers. With just eight blocks she designed this piece to fit a cut out spot in her dining room hutch.

Velina designed a small piece to use in her dining room.

Velina designed a small piece to use in her dining room.

Sharon had assistance from a family friend as she designs her Broken Dishes project.

Quilters have many challenges to finishing our projects. Sharon has an opinionated cat trying to add new design elements.

Quilters have many challenges to finishing our projects. Sharon has an opinionated cat trying to add new design elements.

Maria experimented with her blocks by choosing different center fabrics. Then she proceeded to explore a variety of arrangements available with the strong diagonal slash of the block. Here is one design possibility that recalls Flying Geese.

Maria turned her Split Nine Patch blocks into large, vibrant Flying Geese in this possible arrangement.

Maria turned her Split Nine Patch blocks into large, vibrant Flying Geese in this possible arrangement.

Jan just sent this photo of her quilt top using the Shaded Four Patch block (the one I called Three triangles and a Square until I learned this easier name). She explained that she chose to work on our Queen’s challenge starting with a fat quarter of chickens from Queen Kathy and that little cat block someone left on the give-away table at Guild. Her working title for this piece is “Queenie’s Farm” or “For the Guild Show, Don’t Run Around Like A Chicken with Its Head Chopped Off!” Jan took the basic idea of using diagonal blocks and added her own twist.

Jan added her own creative ideas in designing this wallhanging.

Jan added her own creative ideas in designing this wallhanging.

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Diagonal Designs Make Dynamic Quilts

The Split Nine Patch block with its strong diagonal of light and dark allows you to use the variety of settings usually associated with the log cabin block. I added a unusual border treatment here to give a three dimensional feel. 36" x 36"

The Split Nine Patch block with its strong diagonal of light and dark allows you to use the variety of settings usually associated with the log cabin block. I added a unusual border treatment here to give a three dimensional feel. 36″ x 36″

In conjunction with my program “Diagonal Designs Make Dynamic Quilts” at QUILT on August 25, I’m teaching a Super Saturday Sew-in class on the same subject on August 27 from 9-3:00. The cost is $10 and you can pick from three different options. I will have the instructions for all three blocks. We will make blocks and then play with arrangements allowing you to design you own quilt. Sign up with Amy at guild.

I've called this block Three Triangles and a Square because I cannot find another name. Can you? Quilt title is Poppies and Sunflowers and measures 46" x 45".

I’ve called this block Three Triangles and a Square because I cannot find another name. Can you? Quilt title is Poppies and Sunflowers and measures 46″ x 45″.

Supply List for Diagonal Designs Make Dynamic Quilts

Choose one for the Super Saturday Sew-in on August 27
You can decide in class after looking at the samples—this supply list works for all the options.
Split Nine Patch: This nine patch block is loaded with design possibilities! The diagonal split in color or shading gives you lots of creative options. The basic color scheme is light, medium and a dark center. All the options available for putting together a log cabin quilt are here. Make it scrappy or sophisticated, you will enjoy creating with this block. Block size: 4 ½ x 4 1/2:”

Three Triangles and a Square: This diagonal block features a large triangle on one side and a square wedged between two smaller triangles on the other side. Again, all the options available for putting together a log cabin quilt are here. Block size: 5” x 5”.

Broken Dishes: This traditional block is composes entirely of triangles. Cut thirty or forty triangles and then start arranging them on your design wall. Cut more of the ones that you like or that you find useful in creating an interesting design. Tip: If you want a particular size block for your finished square of two triangles sewn together, add 7/8” instead of the usual ½” seam allowance as you cut the original squares to create those triangles to place on your design wall. Example: For a 6” finished block size, cut the squares 6 7/8” x 6 7/8”. Block size: your choice depending on the scale of the pattern in the fabrics you choose.

What to bring to class:

Fabric—As always, bring lots of options for yourself. Pack a tote bag or a suitcase if you do not know exactly what you want to use. The basic Split Nine Patch block calls for a light (or medium) for one side and a dark for the other side with a zinger for the center. You will not need much fabric to cut those zingers, but it has to have good contrast with the other two fabrics. If you choose to make it scrappy, you will have more of a challenge, but it adds personality to use a variety of fabrics. It will probably take more time to create this version.

Sewing machine in good working order

Extra needles–Good sharp needles make the sewing easier. I prefer Schmetz Microtex needles, 70/10 are a good size. Bring what you have.

Cotton thread Size 50 any color. I use a neutral gray or ivory for most of my piecing.

Rotary cutter, mat and long ruler

Scissors, pins, pin cushion, etc (Extra fine, glass head pins are terrific tools!)

Glasses if necessary

***Design Wall—any version of a flannel covered frame or flannel covered cardboard. We will use it to arrange and rearrange our blocks.

Optional: Pictures of any log cabin-type settings that you think might work for this project.

Important! Please take the time before our class to check your ¼” seam markings. Piecing with a too narrow or a too wide ¼” seam makes all your blocks measure too small or too large. Bonding with your machine is a central part of quilting. Your efforts will be rewarded when you can complete you own quilts from start to finish with a minimum of roadblocks!

Call or email me with questions or concerns: Paula Mariedaughter

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