26 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone! Joel and I stayed in Portland this year for Christmas which ended up being really fun. We certainly missed our friends and families that we would have seen if we were able to travel but in spite of that we had a really great couple of days. On Christmas Eve Joel and I went on a bike ride to a Presbyterian church for their candlelight service. Not just any bike ride to any Presbyterian church, no. The bike ride was a bike pulled sleigh ride! I was a reindeer, there were four of us hooked up together by bike inner tubes (2 x 2 reindeer) which pulled a two mountain bike sleigh. I really wish I had thought to bring my camera but I had no idea we were going to do this! Joel found out about the ride from a Portland bike newsletter so we decided to go, not knowing we'd be pulling a sleigh. Joel was the lookout man telling us if it was alright to turn or to get in a lane.

Then when we got to the church Joel and I realized we'd passed it plenty of times. Its a large old (1887) stone building as grandiose as any German cathedral. The inside was bedecked in hand-fashioned wood friezes and panelling, it was one of the most beautiful churches I've ever seen! (You can check it out here )

Then Joel and I rode with the group to a Catholic church by our old house and then took off for home (it was getting really late at that point) and stopped by our old house on the way home. It was fun to ride in downtown on Christmas Eve because no one was out (or almost no one) and in spite of being a big 12-wheeled creature we were able to maneuver with no problem.

Christmas morning Joel and I opened up Christmas presents and then went to our friend Kelley's new apartment. This is our little tree that we got last year and we brought in for a second Christmas.

Joel's grandfather made us the cute reindeer in the back there. And his grandmother made us ornaments (a Grindstaff family tradition). Grandma made me the cat and the snowman was Joel's.

Unwrapping Christmas gifts!

Joel gave me this book which was later reinforced by my telling him that when a child, I always got the biggest/fattest children's books out of the library. Because not only did I want to be a know-it-all, I wanted to look like a know-it-all.

Orson got a bag of Pounce cat treats and stripy orange and yellow balls from his grandma (Joel's mom). He liked the Pounce so much, he tried to open it himself while we were at Kelley's! Sneaky cat.

Here he is jumping for a treat. (Sorry about the blurriness.)

We didn't have real stockings but this is what would have gone into them if we had (thanks Linda!).

Joel bought himself a front wheel for his bike with some of his Christmas money.

And I'm going to buy myself a ticket to see Muse in concert in April (yay!!).

I had every plan in the world to make stollen Christmas bread (a delicious German fruit bread) but didn't get to do it. However I did make some cherry chocolate bread. And it was delicious!

Prior to Christmas we had solstice party to welcome back the sun (I can't wait for long days again!). It was also a Christmas party and an end-of-the-semester party all rolled into one. It also started off as a knitting party. Wow, so many things! It was a lot of fun and probably the most people we've ever had at our house all at once.

Also, Joel has a hard time keeping his eyes open for pictures, for whatever reason, neither of us will knows -- so just to be ornery (when I was little I thought this word was the British way of spelling "honorary") he closed his eyes while I took the picture. Yes, on purpose!

Kelley and Brady brought over dirty Christmas cookies. (Viewer discretion advised!)

A good time was had by all and it was probably the most successful potluck/party we've ever had at this house except for maybe Kellam's going away party.

In other news, the chickens are still laying eggs. Beautiful brown eggs! I'm hoping next summer we can get some chickens that lay dark brown eggs because that would be very exciting, but we'll see how it goes.

And lastly, I've been working on crafty things lately. I made Kelley this little bear for Christmas. He stands maybe 2 1/2" tall and 4" long. I felted him with wool.

I've also been learning how to make socks (and learning how to follow a knitting pattern for that matter). I feel so accomplished!

And that is our Christmas in a nutshell. I'm not sure what we'll be doing for New Years but we may be going up to Seattle or the coast, we'll see what happens and I'll be sure to bring my camera with me this time!

13 December 2009

Big Long Post

A couple weeks ago my dear friend Gina had to leave Portland to go back to Utah. For all those of you who pray, please pray for Gina! She's going to have a brain tumor removed on Tuesday in Salt Lake City, UT. She came to Portland to go to PNCA and then found out two weeks ago that she had a tumor and had to leave to have the surgery close to home.

She's a really cool girl and I know that everything is going to be fine (my mom had a brain tumor and she's fine) but I can imagine that it is scary. Actually, I can't imagine how scary it would be cause I'm a big wuss when it comes to medical things and brain surgery sounds particularly terrifying. Good luck Gina!

So, what a lot of you may not know is that I've been going to a West African dance class at our local community center. We're nearing the end of our classes and a bunch of us from class went out to Ethiopian food (which is not at all West African, but its the most popular African cuisine in our area) then to watch our teacher (and his wife) perform in Sebe Kan. It was like a musical but more traditional (like an opera, but with dancing and drums).

Our dance teacher is also a world-renowned drummer. Here he is in all his Guinean drummer glory.

The story was about a girl's right of passage into womanhood. It started out in the girl's village.

Then she gets lured into the jungle by a marimba-playing spirit.

Then she gets reprimanded by another spirit. It was a beautiful dance that was also pretty scary. All the dancers wore grey straggly wigs and ripped up dark clothing that swayed with in rhythm with their dancing and made them seem truly menacing. I wanted to photograph this dance but there was unfortunately so little light that all I'd come out with is a lot of grey swirls.

After this dance she is found by her mother and reprimands her then she goes through the rite of passage into womanhood putting away girlish things (like being lured into the forest by a spirit).

There was a dance that was part of Sebe Kan that we learned in class, however it looked so different when professionals did it that no one in the class recognized it. The dancing was, all in all, completely astounding. The drums were also equally amazing.

The next day Joel, Kevin and I went to the Oregon Zoo to see Rama, the elephant, paint. I'll admit I was skeptical at first since it sounds like such a human projection but they've been doing studies and all paintings that get sold go to the elephants (they're trying to get a bigger facility for an all-male pack). Here Jebb, the trainer, is talking to Rama before he paints. Rama responds to commands that Jebb says and when he does well Jebb tosses him an alfalfa cube.

Here Rama is blowing red paint out of his trunk. Jebb has big syringes full of [the equivalent of] finger paint that he squirts into Rama's nose then on command Rama blows them out of his trunk.

Then after two or three different colours Rama cleans out his nose with the hose. That's the beak of his trunk splashing in the water.

When Jebb tells Rama "trunk" Rama lifts his trunk and rests his beak on his forehead. He also opens his mouth because this is usually how and when he gets a treat.

This is Rama lowering his trunk from the "trunk" position to the "beak" position. This is where he places the beak of his trunk in Jebb's hand and Jebb fills the base of his trunk with paint or hands him a paint brush (as in here) which Rama grasps with his beak.

Jebb whispering sweet nothings to Rama. I think Rama was also cleaning out his trunk with the water.

This is what Rama's forehead looks like after a painting session. Everytime Jebb would say "beak" Rama also, inadvertently, dash some paint on his head.

After the painting session Joel, Kevin, I and Kevin's friend (who gave us the heads up on Rama painting that morning) got to go behind the scenes and see the animals closer, albeit it was still behind bars but it was at least without glass. We got to hear from the elephant director (I'm pretty sure this wasn't his real title, I just can't remember) Bob who told us all about training Rama and how he'd been raised in captivity so he reached sexual maturity (i.e., aggressiveness) at a slower rate and they thought he wasn't going to be trainable but he, in fact, was a rather tractable animal after they got over a learning hump. They also told us about the all-male facility that they want to have eventually but it sounds like a long term goal. I think the Oregon Zoo is a pretty prominent elephant studying zoo. That was worded terribly but I'm having a hard time articulating what I mean.

At any rate, after we went to the zoo Joel helped me set up my tent (my sculpture final) in Hoyt Arboretum. This was a guerilla installation that didn't last too long. We took it down after documenting it -- I learned my lesson last time, plus I wanted to show it in class the next day along with these photos.

The tent is based upon a fictional post-cataclysm (post apocalypse) world where people live in communities and live a life akin to a mixture of western native American nations (Navajo is the biggest influence). The tent is meant to be a portable summer tent that keeps the bugs out but lets the breeze through and offers camouflage. It was made of wool (the dark portion at the top is black Welsh wool), silk organza (the lighter brown portion) which was dyed with black walnuts. No part of this was made of synthetic materials. Ideally this would be made of deer hide or woven wool or cotton. But with the time constraints of school, I'm pretty pleased with it as is.

Then for my Art: Ethics & Transgressions class on wednesday I made a memorial cloth for a child that passed (from the society mentioned above) that was killed by a killer whale while he was swimming in the ocean. Dramatic I know, a little tongue in cheek perhaps. This is the full memorial cloth.

And this is how I made it! I needle felted the wine-dyed cotton (two-buck Chuck!) into the cotton cloth with a felting needle.

The characters are the eulogy psalm for the child and are not from any real language. They are heavily influenced by kanji (a form of Japanese) but technically are not "real", however I wrote out the translation for the eulogy psalm and if ever anyone wants to read it I'd be more than happy to send it along. Its just a bit long for a blog. My class, unbeknownst to them, will be saying the eulogy along with me on wednesday. At any rate, this is a close-up of one of the characters.

I attached three of the whale's teeth to the bottom of the eulogy.

The eulogy is surrounded by undyed cotton circles that symbolize the heavens (stars or moons, I'm not sure yet), and the raspberry/blackberry dyed cloth is dyed as such because that is the color of transition from night to day and vice versa.

Then the other night I took a break from finals work made some delicious pea/lentil soup and pumpkin spice cake. I thought the batter for the cake looked especially lovely. Before the addition of pumpkin.

After the addition of pumpkin (this was left over from the pumpkin I purèed for thanksgiving).

And the delicious meal! The cake turned out really crispy on the top and bottom and very light and fluffy in the middle. And the soup was made with a ham bone, it was very hearty and welcoming after a really cold rough week. Cooking/baking is a really necessary creative outlet for me and lets me let go of stress easily.

Now I will leave you with this cute chubby perky-eared red squirrel hanging out in our tree lawn.