Sunday, January 17, 2010

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Paul Klee Center in Bern

Gavin and I went up to Bern this afternoon, to see the (relatively) new Paul Klee Zentrum. It was completed in 2006, and houses a huge collection of Paul Klee's works left by the heirs of his estate. The building itself is quite a work of art:

The center has an excellent website which gives a brief history of the artist, the story of the building of the museum, and overviews of the current exhibits including a thumbnail of each artwork on display. Gavin and I saw the «Paul Klee. Life, Work and Responses» exhibition, which was excellent. So wonderful to see (finally) the originals of so many works I'd admired in books during my art studies!

Even Gavin was rather interested in some of the art.
I found him in an area watching the delightful animated video Taking a Line for a Walk: A Homage to the Work of Paul Klee (1983), which otherwise I'd have completely missed. Unfortunately, I'm not able to find anything out on-line (yet) about this wonderful work, done by a U.K. team.

Such colors, lines and shapes in Klee's paintings! They made me want to break out my paints, pastels, brushes, and the rest of my art materials
immediately. To my surprise, he also created more than 50 hand puppets - the first ones were made for his young son, then he kept on creating them. Several were in the exhibit. They were both very charming and crudely made: papier-mache heads, painted, with simple textile clothing. Another inspiration to create.

The museum owns so much Klee artwork, and it is all so fragile, that they only display a tiny fraction of the collection for 6 months at a time. This means that there is always something new to see. 

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Newport Aquarium

These are the best of my test photos using my new (to me) Canon camera, taken at the Newport Aquarium. I'm a bit embarrassed that I didn't note any specific information about these marvelous creatures beyond the obvious...

The jellyfish tanks were the most magical of all - I could watch them flutter and waft around all day.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Several weeks ago, I found the cutest little Yorkshire terrier in Chambesy, after dropping off Dana, my carpool sister, at her home. He seemed to be lost, no tags on him. So I scooped him up, thinking I'd leave him at the police and they'd find his owner by scanning his implanted ID chip.

Wrong. There are no police in Chambesy; the nearest are in Versoix (about 6 km away). I drove to Versoix, pulled up to the police station which looked entirely dark. Got to the door with the dog, only to read that the station is open M-F from 16h - 18h only. This is Switzerland, after all. So the dog had to come home with me, until I could figure out what to do. At least the Co-op supermarket next door was still open, and I grabbed a small sack of kibbles.

He was remarkably camera shy for such an outgoing little pup (taken with cell phone - Nikon battery was dead):

So well mannered, too (at least compared to Entei, my late Labrador), so dainty and polite, though a little too doggie-smelling. He weighed next to nothing. I scrounged up a makeshift leash and took him for a couple brief walkies. I called him "Skippy", after a little joke Gavin and I had had the previous weekend, and fantasized about being able to keep him...

I did draw the line at letting him sleep in my bed, though - jumping down would have been a kamikazi leap for the little thing, and I didn't want to find puddles or other disasters in my bed the next morning. Plus, he needed a bath before any prolonged snuggling. Don't know where he ended up sleeping, but he was quiet all night.

The next morning (Friday), I took Skippy for a brief walk. Then I shut him in the kitchen with food and water, leaving the door to the balcony open. Skippy was yapping his adorable little head off as I got in the elevator. Uh oh. I silently apologized to my neighbors on the descent to the garage. By now, my fantasies about the joys of keeping him were fading rapidly.

I made up a little poster at work with his photos. Dana helped with the translation into French, and printed off a dozen copies to post around Chambesy over the weekend. I had decided to take Skippy to the SPA (animal protection) on Saturday to be scanned in case he had an ID chip.

Later that evening, right after I dropped Dana off, I saw a woman walking some kind of tiny little dog. I stopped, rolled down my window, and asked her if she knew anyone with a Yorkie (showing her the poster we'd made). As luck would have it, she pointed to a house the other side of the street, saying that a Yorkie lived there.

I parked, got out, went up to the aforementioned house, and rang the bell. A woman with a very sad expression opened the door. I showed her the poster, and she brightened up immediately. Yes, it was her dog. What a relief for both of us.

We agreed she would follow me in her car to my apartment. Once there, while handing Skippy to his owner, I told her she should really get a tag for him in case he got lost again. She said that his left ear was tattooed with his ID number, as if that was enough. Hmmmm. Well, she was the one who had endured a sleepless night worrying about him, when he could have been returned that same day if he'd had a tag. Not to mention that if I hadn't chanced upon that woman walking her tiny dog on the street, several more days could have passed before Skippy got back home.

It was with a twinge of regret that I patted ol' Skip goodbye, and watched his mistress drive off with him. I forgot to ask her what she called him. Yet I was glad for the experience, which showed me that I'm not ready yet to have the responsibilities of a pet again. Someday, but not right now.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Shabby Chic - shabby, anyway

Just finished abusing this cute little table, "shabby chic"-style. My goal was to give the $10 flea market find a new look without spending any more money on the project. Since I have other pieces in my living room that are light neutral distressed tones, I wanted something coordinating.

But.... I only had white paint, and all the how-tos I consulted recommended two colors of paint to layer in coats. I decided on a bruised mushroom color. If you're chic, you call it taupe, which is French for "bruised mushroom". (Actually, une taupe is a mole, the little burrowing beast). Ahem. A trip to the DIY store yielded two mini pots of paint (half-price!) which, when mixed, I hoped would produce the desired shade. They did, with a lot of white added in. There went 4 francs. Oh well.

I sanded the old finish down to what I hoped was an acceptable level, since I have not ever had good luck with stripping and am scared of the toxic chemicals involved. Not to mention their cost - lots more than the table price. So sanding would have to do. Then I painted it with one coat of primer for "difficult surfaces" (hoping to counteract any deficiencies in my sanding job). Two coats of bruised mushroom came next.

Already the table looked vastly better, but it was still a bit boring. Time for the white paint. The pros all recommend using glazes, but as far as I can tell, paint glaze does not exist here in Switzerland. So I just watered down the white paint a bit, and applied a thin coat. Ack! What streaks! After about 5 minutes, though, I decided maybe it would be OK. Repainting is always an option. I let it all dry a week.

Today, I got the sandpaper and steel wool, and set to work. I sanded the edges non-uniformly, where wear would occur over a long period, and even some of the surfaces on the legs where they protrude the most. Then I sanded the flat surfaces to tone down the streakiness and create "worn" patches. Et voila! A coat of paste wax, et c'est fini!

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Merry Christmas

Of the many little details that went into making Christmas day a very pleasant day, finishing my Opal socks was one. A pair of sock perfection:

Too bad my photography skills aren't up to letting you see both socks :-( Trust me, the other sock is practically identical, down to the placement of the stripes. (Click photo for a bigger-than-life closeup.) Cozy woolly hugs for me feetsies.

And today is an ABSOLUTELY beautiful day here in Geneva - totally cloudless, essentially haze-free, and of course, sunny. A stiff wind is blowing up little whitecaps on the lake. The sort of day that gets me all pumped up with energy. Bring on 2009!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pardon Me (I Didn't Knit That for You)

too perfect...

Birthday Prezzie for Jane

Just finished this today - will get it and everything else for Dad and Jane boxed up and sent tomorrow or Tuesday. This quilt is for Janie's 60th birthday. As I was making it, for some reason I wanted to call it Red Hot Chili Baby. Maybe Jane would like that name?!

The colors look so washed out here - believe me, it's much more intense in the live fabric. There are a couple of firsts for me with this quilt - free-motion quilting in something other than a stipple (there are lightning bolts on the orange borders, and echo quilting around the animals and hunters on the bottom), and a beaded fringe (!). It measures about 18 x 24". I hope she likes it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Coming up on 1000 Etsy sales

Only 12 more patterns to sell, and I will have hit the 1000 sales mark in my Etsy shop.

woo hoo! :-)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Under the influenza

Who knew that one day I'd be blogging about cytokines, of all things? Indeed. It began with my being hit broadside by an ordinary, if debilitating, case of influenza several days ago.

I turned to the net to learn more about this bug, and more to the point, how I might hasten its departure from my life. Wikipedia told me that the overwhelming fatigue that is a hallmark of the flu is due to pro-inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines are signalling compounds that instruct immune cells to travel to the site of infection, a sort of cellular SMS. Don't ask me why, but this word just stuck with me.

A bit later, I listened to a fascinating story on the NPR website about the "fever effect" -- a phenomenon known to parents of young autistic children. These parents have often noticed a startling reduction in autistic behaviors while their autistic child runs a high fever. As soon as the fever abates, the autistic behavior returns. That this is more than just anecdotal has now been confirmed by a recent study, in which it was theorized that the elevated levels of cytokines in the brain during fever may have a key role.

John and I had also noticed a similar effect in Gavin. When Gavin ran a high fever, his mood and temperament seemed more "normal", more stable. When the fever broke, this change disappeared. When we asked the professionals, we were told that our observations were likely true. But for now, there's no known way to use this knowledge to help Gavin over the long term.

In the dozy, dopey, dreary state that is flu, my dreams are incredibly strange... harkening back to childhood, in ways that my own never was... vivid animations of the inanimate... bizarre interactions of people I have known, but who will never know each other. Through all of them runs a curious aesthetic, very pronounced -- painterly, minimalistic, with touches of riotous color. Quite inspiring, actually. Perhaps those cytokines are signalling to more than just my immune cells...