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Sunday, January 7, 2018

Dying to Dye

  Ice dyeing became a new passion about a year ago. I learned it during a brief workshop with my Creative Endeavors group, and I loved how unpredictable the outcome was. The powdered colors bleed through ice creating Monet-type patterns on silk and other natural fibers. 
  The process takes at least two days. First, all the fabric needs to be washed in a specific detergent--I use Synthrapol--to release all the oils and dirt from the material. Then everything is soaked in soda ash, sodium carbonate, which allows the dye to permanently adhere to the material. Cotton can be soaked longer; silk and rayon can break down in the soda ash, so keeping it timed for about 30 minutes is important.
   While these are soaking, I set up 6-8 tubs and lay out which colors I want for each. 
  Once it soaks and is squeezed of excess liquid, it's laid in a tub on something that keeps it off the bottom of the tub, like a cookie rack. I have used aluminum baking dishes with holes cut into the bottom, though I am unsure if the aluminum changes the coloration of the dyes. 
Ice is then poured over the material to thoroughly cover it; crushed ice is best. I believe snow was originally used for this process, but of course, that's not always available.

Procion dyes are sprinkled over the top of the ice in any color or pattern. They are in powder form; I use a plastic spoon to lightly sprinkle over the ice. I usually use about 2-3 colors per tub, and sometimes as many as 5. 
The powder falls through the ice leaving it clear once again. Even if the ice melts early, it should be left for 24 hours to allow the dyes to settle and set. 

  After the ice melts, the vibrant colors show through. The fun is bringing them outside and pulling out each piece to see how it looks before washing. After I have added them to the tubs, I generally forget what's in which tub unless I'm specifically doing a piece or pieces for someone, so part of my surprise is seeing what I have dyed which color.

  The next part of the process is eliminating excess dye. I use a hose, filling the tub and rinsing over and over while hang-wringing each piece. When they run clear, I hang them temporarily on a clothes rack, then bring them all in for machine washing in hot water. Some more delicate silk pieces are hand washed.
  Mostly I dye scarves in silk or cotton and silk. One day on my way to Sonora last summer, I stopped at the outlets and Chico's had a cotton shirt on sale in my size. I bought it and dyed it for myself. It turned out great, so I wore it for the shows I did at the end of the year.

  I had quite a few compliments on my shirt and one woman said I had to do more and sell them. She wanted one in any color combination. So the next season, I bought more of the same shirts--they not only dye well, but they do not wrinkle and are 100% cotton. Unfortunately, they're not inexpensive, so I have to take that into consideration and only buy them on sale. 
  That got me started on dyeing clothing, and have now done several styles in different sizes.

And then I went a little overboard:

  Women's clothing can be a challenge--we are so many sizes and shapes. I doubt I'll continue to dye clothes because I end up with too large an inventory, much of which needs to be stored at home between shows. Fortunately, some of these pieces and many of my dyed scarves are in a local store--Silk & Stone--that sells artist-made clothing and jewelry.  Of course, if women start buying them like hotcakes, I'll be encouraged to do more...
  One of my art goals this year is to become more proficient in art I already do, like weaving and dyeing, rather than flit from one thing to another. I'm sure I'll still try new projects and art forms, but it's time to concentrate on what I know and perfect or tweak it. I wonder how long this idea will last...

Friday, January 5, 2018

Medically Boring


 According to ophthalmologist, everyone will eventually have cataracts and need surgery. This was my day.
 Last month, I learned about the different types of lenses one can get and hoped I'd "qualify" for multi-focal which would correct both near and far and eliminate the need for glasses. These are paid out-of-pocket because they're elective over choosing near or far sight lenses only. Unfortunately, I did not, so opted for the far distance lens. I have been excited about getting this done because my sight has been affected, especially when driving. 
 But having any kind of surgery, even one considered "easy," isn't so easy. First, I learned I'd be using 2 eye drops twice the morning of the surgery and then 4 times a day every day for a week, then 1 drop 3 times, then 2, until the fourth week, which is only once a day. Yikes! I hate putting anything into my eyes! The nurse suggested I practice with saline first. I did that the weekend before and the first drop went in without a problem. Yay! Then after 6 tries of getting my face all wet, I finally found my left eye. This could be a problem.
 Timing was also going to be interesting since most patients don't live 40-60 min. away depending on traffic. We had to leave early, around 7:45 with directions to use the drops 30 min. before leaving the house and again just as we were about to leave--2 sets with 5 min. apart for each. So I did get the first set done, but should have allowed a little extra time for nerves and misses. I did all right though. But to get them done 30 min before arriving, we had to pull off the road so I could do the second set (those who do drops regularly might have been able to do it in a moving vehicle, but not this girl...hard enough sitting still).  It actually helped having Matthew tell me how far away I was from my target, so they went in more easily. 
 I arrived a little early--surprisingly light traffic--with my eyes dilated ready to get this over with. They didn't mention my blood pressure, but I'm sure it was higher than normal. Surgery wasn't scheduled until 10:30, so I had a long wait, but they took me immediately to start my prep. The nurse had me change with fast directions, which I found hard to process due to nerves and Matthew standing behind her looking like he wanted to say something. He just wanted to kiss me good-bye since he was heading to the waiting room. I had to ask her to repeat what to do with the foot covers, then took everything off and put on the gown open completely in the back, which I did hear her say. I came out to the busy room and asked if this was right--should I have taken everything off?, she should have said just waist up. Back I go to gladly put on my pants. She was distracted because she was covering for another nurse who was busy with an older woman who was also having cataract surgery. 
 I was seated in a chair awaiting a bed, where they took my vitals, asked me  questions I'd already answered--when did I last eat, drink, etc. the nurse started my IV, but my veins are often hard to find, and I should have told her to use a small needle because she said she got some blood, but then the vein blew and she had to try elsewhere. I have never been good with needles and blood, so even hearing this made me go dizzy. I obviously must have paled because she asked if I was okay, and I said no, I was feeling light-headed and dizzy. I was close to passing out--everything was white, and I was sweating. She managed to get the smaller needle in another vein, and I started feeling better. 
 They had a bed for me, so we walked to the end of the room and got me horizontal. Nurses came and went and the anesthesiologist also checked in to see me. Two nurses discussed me--no allergies, no metal plates, no implants--and commented I am "medically boring," and I said I'd like to keep it that way. I loved that phrase--whoever thought being called boring would be something good to hear.
 I thought the overall care was very good at Kaiser Redwood City. I am happy I had both done in one day so I don't have to repeat the experience. 
 The surgery itself didn't take too long--they told me it would be about 55 min. The doctor has a great, calm voice and as soon as he spoke, I relaxed. I was given an anesthesia, but could still hear and see everything. Well, not exactly see everything, but my eye was propped open. He didn't give me the blow-by-blow of what was going on--probably good so I didn't go white again--but the second eye, my right, felt pressure and some discomfort when he worked on it. And even though its cataract was smaller, the left eye was the clearer one in the evening.
 The best part of the day was getting home around 1 pm and heading back to bed. Farwell, our sweet old kitty, joined me and spent the afternoon sleeping on my chest. We didn't move for almost 3 hours. He apparently was not freaked by the goggles I have to wear for the day and evening. 
 I am happy to start 2018 with better eyesight. 

 I went for the post-op appointment and while waiting to go in, texted a friend and realized I was wearing the googles and not my glasses and could see very well. The eye test showed my vision as 20/20! I had also noticed how clear signs and buildings were on my way down the highway.
 We don't realize how our vision is changing because it's gradual. Then suddenly, we notice everything is blurry. But when that's corrected, we do realize how out of sync our vision had become. Looking at our view, I thought it looked like our windows had been very dirty and now were suddenly cleaned. Buildings had sharp edges, and I was mesmerized by the cloud formations. I could see the delineation between the clouds that were not there the day before.
 I did have one minor worry. The second night, I turned out the living room light and could not see a shadows of furniture, etc. I tried not to worry, figuring it's probably a side-effect and the eyes would adjust and dilate naturally eventually. Even so, I emailed the doctor to ask because I couldn't find anything on the Internet stating it was normal. He did assure me it's fine and I'll see the shadows again within the week. I was even able to drive 48 hours after surgery!
 Needless to say, doing the eye drops has improved dramatically. I rarely miss and should be an expert by the time this is over in 4 weeks. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Colors of Mexico Inspire Me

 Today I realized I've neglected my blog since February, when we were in Ajijic the first time. We returned in Sept, but I didn't write even though I took pictures and wanted to do a Colors of Mexico blog.
 We stayed in a neighborhood on the east side of town called La Floresta, which was lovely large private homes. We were in a casita, small apartment, above a home there. The one-bedroom apartment was perfect for us and in walking distance of good restaurants and the Wed. market.
 Best of all, I managed to walk on those awful cobbled streets without hurting myself this time. In January, my toe missed a small curb and I fell, not realizing I'd broken my foot for 2 months. I've joked that in Sept, I was so cautious, I never looked up when walking and burned the back of my neck! But the truth is, I often stopped and shot photos because the colors of Mexico are the most vibrant and beautiful. I think they inspire my art:

A house from the neighborhood--even in an upscale area, houses can have great colors. 

A favorite from a walk--house had every color imaginable on it. Somehow it works here.

I started ice-dyeing silk and other natural fibers about a year ago.
Color color color...

Friday, February 3, 2017

Restaurant & Cemetery Art

Ajijic is a very artsy community, which is obvious because so many of the outer walls are painted and every restaurant displays beautiful murals and framed works. Some are for sale, but most are personal collections.  
 I showed the outside where we had lunch at Yves...with the pool (with 3 fountains in it) and the burros. We returned for breakfast, which was very good. I hate omelettes but ordered a spinach, mushroom, and cheese one and liked it so much, came back for another the next day.
Yves has many white burro paintings inside and out, plus more framed pieces on all the walls.
We sat outside the second to the last day after hearing it was raining at home and would be for 6 days. Thought we'd better enjoy this weather while we can.

 Don Pedro's, which has few customers and great food. I posted pictures of my pasta dinner and made people drool. We've been telling everyone about them so they'll have more business. The staff here recommended another place for our first night that was pretty, but the food wasn't nearly as good. Don Pedro's had these huge murals on the walls...the hands are above the doorway. Amazing.
                                                      Empanada and pasta at Don Pedro.

 This is also a local establishment right around the corner from the hotel called Armando's. The staff didn't seem to know they exist, which is odd. They don't make it a habit of knowing much. This giant mural is on the wall in one of the dining rooms. They have many small rooms, which could mean this was once someone's house.
 They're known for preparing flambĂ© in the center area where everyone can watch. I ordered mustard steak, similar to steak Diane and we shared peach flambĂ© for dessert, both prepared almost table-side.

 One of the main attractions that comes up for Ajijic is their cemetery. We caught the bus in front of it, so spent some time walking around and through to see why. It's very impressive--well-tended and each grave is marked with huge displays. Very few had fresh flowers, but it looks like people do keep their loved one's area decorated.

We both look like the walking wounded at this point--my foot and finger still hurt and are swollen, my skinned knee is still open and hurting, Matthew's face is swollen from the dental work, but that's normal for what he had done and the dentist says everything looks great...BUT he has a wheeze and something going on with his upper respiratory system, so hopefully we'll both feel better at home tomorrow.
Yeah, we always say how we love to travel, yet every trip has some kind of trial. I've written a pretty scathing review of our hotel for Tripadvisor because so many earlier reviews fooled us.  I think I'll post it here as well as a reminder.

 I feel sorry for the hotel staff because they must field daily complaints. We are well-traveled and generally can roll with the punches, but we were moved into 4 different rooms due to a series of problems. The first one we landed in was downstairs, which was not only dark but smelled moldy. We didn’t last more than a few minutes, returned to reception and asked to move. They gave us the key to the one directly above us, so we moved our luggage ourselves. That room was brighter and didn’t smell, so we stayed 4 nights.  The rooms are  not actually ready to use when you arrive, as the pilot lights for the water heaters and stove are not lit and you have to call reception to do that after discovering there is no hot water; the sizes and efficiency of the heaters also vary greatly. The refrigerators also are not on and won’t turn on unless you locate and flip the correct circuit breaker, or else call staff again. There is no room heat though it does get into the low 40s F at night.
We were at the end of the complex near the street (though we couldn’t see it because the complex is walled all around). At night, usually around 2 am, dogs started barking and one in particular, sounded as if he was right outside our door. Barking lasted much of the night, and even though I wore ear plugs, it still woke me.
After 4 sleepless nights, we finally decided we had to move rooms. Alfonso moved us to a room that is in the middle of the complex, down several flights of stairs to the lowest level. Although it was dark, it felt quiet and protected from the outside world of barking dogs. My husband’s dental surgery was that afternoon, so I returned to the room and after spending about 30 minutes there, realized this also had a moldy smell and before my headache got any worse, I asked to move to our fourth room. This room was on same level as reception, down a few doors from our first one, but somewhat quieter. We can still hear the worst of the dogs, but it’s not as loud. 
I have mentioned the barking to people at reception and the handyman, and none have responded with any comment. I think management has trained them not to remark. They were very accommodating about moving us and making calls for taxis or reservations and the like. 
The ‘bones’ of Danza del Sol are good—nice-sized rooms, kitchens, interesting floor plans, though some are very dark because there aren’t outside windows. However, everything is dated or limited in some way. The kitchens have the bare basics with plastic dishes and often dirty pots and glasses. This is almost understandable since no soap is provided and not even a kitchen towel. We bought paper towels so we’d have something to use for cleaning, drying, napkins…
After talking to other guests, I am wondering if many of the rooms are uninhabitable. We have all been circulating through the same set of rooms.
I think if they got a major overhaul here, it could be a great place, but right now, it’s just sad. Typically in Mexico, the outside of a place looks run-down and beaten up, but the inside can be pristine and lush. At Hotel Danza del Sol, it’s just the opposite.