Desert Days

Living in the middle of Los Angles during this coronavirus pandemic has been, for lack of a better word: interesting. We are surrounded by millions of other people, yet our apartment faces a cement wall that abuts the Interstate 5 freeway. Through fences and gates, I can see another road, but it hasn’t been busy in months. Two months ago, hardly anyone crossed in front of our space, but now it’s become a walkway to the climbing gym next door. It’s been lonely, then weirdly busy.

It’s quieter than it was last year at this time, but with the freeway right there and a train yard within throwing distance, there’s always noise. Always. I hadn’t realized how much it was wearing on me until my partner Hawke and I took off for a desert weekend.

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Filming for The Quilt Show

One thing I never expected to happen in my life:

  • film an episode of The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims.

But that’s exactly what I did on Saturday afternoon.

The craziness began at Quilt Market in the spring when Alex came by the Shannon Fabrics booth, excited to share the Wyatt Wolf quilt with her audience. I’d made it with a bunch of Luxe Cuddle, Cuddle Suede and Kona Cotton –which is kinda crazy in and of itself– and used a paper piecing pattern from Violet Craft to do it.  She invited me to come on the show and I did.

We talked about the Wolf Abstractions quilt, as well as the Ascension quilt I’d made with Hawke, a denim quilt I’ve been working on as a commission and the Freewheelin’ Single Girl quilt I made for myself.  All include fabrics/materials that are atypical in quilting: plush fabrics, denim, knits, used clothing, silver lame and more.

I have watched a dozen or so episodes of the show and have always enjoyed it, but I wasn’t expecting the level of production or kindness that I got.  Ricky is incredibly talented and his quilts left my mouth gaping. Alex is a pro at making people comfortable. Everyone behind the scenes was happy to answer questions, fetch waters, help carry samples and be there when I needed them.

The best part, though, was that my daughter was able to join me and play personal assistant/cheerleader. It made the entire weekend so much better to have her there, supporting my work and calming my nerves.

The show will air sometime later this year or early 2019.

Christmas in SoCal

Finished exterior bottome of the bag

This was a weird Christmas for us: the first when our trio wasn’t together and our first as a duo in Southern California. So we did something new and different.

I’m lucky enough to have my sister live just down the street, so on Christmas Eve, we went to her (bigger and nicer) home and made goodies together. I used my trusty old Good Housekeeping cookbook for the ginger snaps and the recipe Grandma Coates used every Christmas to make butterhorns. 20131227-194426.jpg

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Getting to Cali Day #1

With three days to make it from Portland, Oregon to Los Angeles, California, I decided to take the long route. All the guys, friend and family alike, thought I should take I-5 all the way to L.A., but the girls all agreed: take the pretty route.

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The daughter and I headed west from my parents’ house, driving along until we hit Lincoln City. We had to stock up on some sweets for the ride, including  a bit of taffy (but not the butter flavor–ew!) and sea foam, my very favorite.

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The clouds rolled in even more once we headed south toward Newport and stayed with us for the rest of the day. 20130630-121410.jpg

 

I love road trips and always want to stop and take pictures, but usually I’m not the one in control. This time I was in the driver’s seat, literally, and stopped whenever it suited me. See a funky old building? Pull over. 20130630-121430.jpg

 

Amazed at the heavy fog? Take a picture. Catch s20130630-121442.jpg

 

Catch sight of a dinosaur peeking out from the fog?! Stop and take a slew of pics! (This was seriously the coolest thing we saw along the way and you, too, can visit if you head down U.S. 101: Oregon Prehistoric Gardens near Gold Beach, Oregon.)20130630-121457.jpg

 

We didn’t make it much further that night. The fog was heavy, the windows were making it hard to see and my contacts were bugging my eyes. With a quick search through Yelp, we found a hotel in Brookings and crashed for the night…just the two of us on an adventure.

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Free to Be

Sometimes you just need a day where you are free to be and do whatever makes you happy.

With the daughter out of town (in Hawai’i, to be specific), I had a child-free weekend, a rarity indeed, and I wanted to make the most of it. I’d planned to spend Friday night and all day Sunday sewing, then a day-trip with my friend on Saturday. Well, as usual, plans went awry and both sewing days had to be cancelled (thank you, crappy little car o’ mine).

Despite me giving him the freedom to bail on poor little me, plans with my buddy Prado were kept and not only was he willing to take me out of the city, he also made sure the day was spent without the slightest worry about food, gas or entertainment. He is pretty stellar like that.

With an early start, he asked which way I wanted to go and, like my pioneer ancestors, I said “Westward, please.”

After a slight diversion onto I-5, we headed out on Hwy. 26 toward the Oregon coast, stopping near the top of the Coast range to admire the amazing view.  And the snow!
Snow on the Cascade Range
I stomped around in the snow for a bit and smiled for the first time in days. Blue skies, snow, podcasts and a good friend made everything seem alright again.
Teresa Coates_happy and cold
We drove onward and he gave me the choice: Tillamook or Cannon Beach. As much as I love pretty much anything the company Tillamook makes (cheese! yogurt! ice cream!), I’ve been to their hometown plenty of times. And somehow, despite having lived in Oregon for 36 years now, I don’t remember ever having been to Cannon Beach.

Now I understand why people ooh and ahh over the place. The beach is flat; the rock formations are awesome and, though I’m sure it’s not the norm, the skies were blue and the wind wasn’t gusting. It was astonishingly beautiful and I lost it briefly as I stood taking it all in. {wipes happy tears away}
Cannon Beach in Oregon

We walked around and I admired the beach debris. I have no idea why I like it because honestly it always stinks. But I do.
beach debris at Oregon coast
After basking in the sun and Prado taking lots of sand/water/rocks/logs pics, we headed north  along 101 toward Astoria.

Along the way, I noticed a sign for Fort Stevens and was adamant that we go. It had been Ft. Stevens that I’d spent a week camping with my best friend in middle school, biking the trails for hours. I have fond memories of the place and I really (really) wanted Prado to see the crazy bunkers and the shipwreck. It’s the Peter Iredale, stuck into the sand there more than a hundred years ago. It really is beautiful in its destruction.
Peter Iredale shipwreck at Fort Stevens
We drove on to Battery Russell, built to fight off the Japanese attacks during WWII. It’s incredibly creepy and well worth the visit, but one of these times I will have to go with a guidebook. With no signage it’s just an austere cement shell. Even so, he got some pretty awesome shots of the place and I took pics of him taking pics.
Prado taking photos at Battery Russell

It was mid-afternoon by the time we started heading back toward Portland and dinner time when we arrived. I didn’t want to cook. He didn’t want to cook. So what are we to do? Try out that new restaurant.

So Tabor Tavern isn’t really new, but it’s new to us (and it hasn’t been there that long).  Portlanders, if you haven’t been here yet, it’s high time you gave it a try. Everything was delicious, but the smoked/grilled tofu was out of this world.

Afterward we caught a showing of Skyfall, the newish Bond flick. Despite my aversion to ridiculous displays of testosterone, I actually quite enjoyed it. It kept my mind off my troubles and that was the whole point of the day.

Sometimes that’s all we really need–a good friend and just one day free from worry.

Mother-Daughter Time in Sisters

The quilt show in Sisters, Oregon is one of those events I have long planned on attending, yet never managed to make happen. This year would have likely been another missed opportunity if it hadn’t fallen on my mom’s birthday. I’d promised we would go, but the month’s spending money was already gone. My dad was kind enough to fork over the cost of gas and we were able to carpool with another first-timer in her car. (I’m continually grateful for the generosity of others.)

We had a spontaneous sleepover at my folks’ house, then the three of us headed out at a quarter to seven. Nearly three hours later, we rolled into Sisters and saw this:

The 1300 quilts that had been submitted to the show hung everywhere. Inside. Outside. Off second story railings and from the catwalks below.

I realized how much I love white and bright quilts, yet I never make them. I think it’s time to remedy that. Maybe with a version of this string quilt with scraps?

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The Portland Modern Quilt Guild had a special exhibit area where we got to meet up with fellow area quilters. I ran into Monica and Elizabeth, then Scott from Gen Q and finally met Emily of Carolina Patchworks.

I saw a version of one of the few quilts that I absolutely must make: Denyse Schmidt’s Single Girl quilt.

All in all, we had a marvelous time, strolling among the quilts for more than five hours. We left just after the thunder and rain started, a first in the show’s history.

If you haven’t had the chance to go, try to make it. I’ll be there next year. Maybe with a quilt to submit.

This year, though, was special. It was all in celebration of my mom’s 63rd birthday.

What I Did On Summer Break: Belize

My first grown-up vacation, spent without herding kids or worrying about them at all. Just me and the GuyFriend walking, driving, and biking our way around Belize for two weeks. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer vacation, especially amid the months of unemployment gloom. I’d paid for my flight months before and the Guy made sure it was a real vacation. He’s always the one to be credited for the lovely photos. Thank you. Gracias. Mesi.

Finding Peace and Quiet

I’d had brilliant plans to return to Vietnam this year–go with a group of girlfriends, show off my favorite cities, visit with my beloved orphan friends (oh, how I still miss Lan and Tu!)–but one job loss after another thwarted those plans. It was too much money, too much time away from my kids. I couldn’t justify it. Luckily for me, the GuyFriend was being asked to take some of that vacation time he’s been accruing. He did, and I got to come along for a visit to Belize in Central America.

While the vacation sat in the future, I ignored it, didn’t really plan for it. There was hope that some job or another would come along and I didn’t want to get all excited for a vacation that might not happen. Months longer than I expected to be looking for a job, I still am…so, as the date approached for our departure, I figured “Why not?” The job search has been overwhelmingly frustrating, money is running low, my son can’t find work, the kids are arguing and I’ve never had a real vacation as an adult. The travels with the kids have been work related, except for the week or two at the end of each visit to Southeast Asia. But as I found out, traveling with kids and traveling with another adult are vastly different propositions. I gave all the planning to him–one, so I didn’t have to stress about that,t too; two, he was the one paying for it anyway.

From all the crazy, frustrating, suffocating stress of life, we flew away and landed here, in Bullet Falls. And this is how I started my first grown-up vacation. It couldn’t have been a better escape, for both of us.

And now in book form: Sharing Housing

If you know me at all, you know that I’ve been sharing housing for years now. Literally. Our trio had our own place until 2006 when I decided that having exchange students staying with us would be a nice introduction to both Asian culture and house-sharing. That summer we shared our place with five students, one at a time, from Japan, China and South Korea.

And it worked just as well as I could have hoped. The kids acclimated to having strangers in our space and having to repeat themselves slowly again and again. When we finally got to Vietnam and lived with a rotating array of fellow foreigners, they did fine. It worked well enough that when we returned seven months later, I started looking for someone to share a home with Stateside. Craigslist became a close friend.

One day I stumbled onto an ad for a child-friendly housemate and I figured if anyone was child-friendly, it was me. Granted it was only one bedroom and the three of us would have to share, but I figured we could make it work. We’d spent the last seven months sleeping in the same room while in Vietnam; it wasn’t going to be something new. I convinced her it would work, too, and a week later the three of us moved in with Jennifer and her son, Ryan.

Three and a half years later, we’re still living together, though in a new house (after some crazy house-hunting). The kids are older and act more like siblings much of the time. We make it work, all of us together.

I’ve always thought this was a great mode of living for solo mamas, not just the young urbanites who want to split rent. It gives us someone to depend on, to help us out with kids and someone to vent to with ex-husband issues need to be aired. I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but I think it’s worth trying.

Annamarie Pluhar agrees and wrote a book to tell you about it–she included us in her telling–with a new release from Bauhan Publishing: Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates.

If you’ve wondered about it before, from either the landlord or renter perspective, the book is full of great info, advice and personal anecdotes (like mine) about what makes and breaks this shared housing mode of living.

Day Eight: Los Angeles or Bust

Odometer Reading: 1025

I’d hoped to take the Pacific Coast Highway down to my sister’s, but after talking to Uncle Dennis and my brother-in-law Will, they convinced me that it was foolhardy to think we could make it down there in one day. It would slow-going and expensive, two things I didn’t really want. So, instead, we rose early and got back onto my least favorite highway: I-5.

Eight hours later, we rolled into Los Angeles swarming with people and pollution. Just being in LA makes me a little insane and I’m sure the kids were completely baffled by the dramatic rise in my stress level, but the highways just mix and mingle and get all backed up and I feel like I might just lose my mind. I’m sure it has to do with the fact that I’m the driver; I didn’t stress out in Bangkok, Hanoi, Boston or New York City, but I never had to drive there. In LA, I really feel like I’m gonna blow my top. Music turns off. Kids keep quiet and my knuckles turn white on the steering wheel.

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