As I contemplated the heading for this post I started to wonder what readers would imagine it contained: a household cleaning task? a recall of some sort of bizarre punishment? an attempt at a horror story? a retreat gone wrong? All interesting guesses, but the fact is that I spent most of the last three days in the basement at Reno City Hall, working wardrobe duties for Bandaloop: a vertical dance company out of Oakland, CA, that was in town to kickoff Artown celebrations.
It was great fun even though the green room and sewing space presented a challenge. I set up my work space using a 1960’s vintage couch (looked very similar to the one in my Moorhead State University dorm lounge circa 1969) and a coffee table. My sewing machine was pretty low to the ground and that meant that getting to the foot pedal required me to sit in a modified easy seated yoga pose. (Maybe that’s more plus than minus…) The overhead lights were low-level florescent tubes and I found myself using the flashlight app on my phone for detailed work. But the company – literally, the dance company – was a delight; easy to work with, appreciative, funny, inclusive.
The original wardrobe call indicated that I would be needed for light sewing repairs and then ironing and steaming of costumes to be worn for the main shows. That role expanded significantly, and I ended up doing some major construction: working on 6 out of 7 of the group’s costumes. One costume was entirely redone; 2 needed major overhauls and repairs; 2 needed new pieces made; 1 was just fitting and adjustments.
Fortunately, there were opportunities to go above ground and appreciate the amazing talents of this fabulous troupe.
Gives new meaning to the phrase, “All in a day’s work.”
What better to do in the spring but take a trip back to the Heartland, in this case Nebraska and Missouri; and along with dear friends and fellow quilters, head out to see what delights the area has to offer? Our host and hostess had a full agenda of activities arranged for us: lunch and a walkabout in a revitalized and historically preserved section of downtown Omaha, car trips to local points of interest around Greenwood and Louisville, dinner at a nearby state park, shopping, and of course quilts, quilts, quilts.
In addition to the Ken Burns quilts there were two other galleries for us to enjoy. Singular Fascination had quilts that were based on the use of repetition, the idea being that each quilt was a reflection of a maker’s habits. Each of the quilts was amazing in their own right – so precise and artistically created. Two of my favorites are shown below. The first is squares; the second triangles. And remember, each of these has been created by hand – piece by piece, row by row.
The final gallery was Eiko Okano’s Delectable World. Okano, a quilt artist from Japan, makes viewing quilts a delicious experience.
But just visiting the museum was only the beginning. In the afternoon we went on a behind the scenes tour and had the opportunity to learn about how the center does its care and conservation of quilts. Many of the objects we viewed do not go on display as they are too fragile to be hung or to be out of a controlled environment.
The maker of the crazy quilt that is shown in the next three photos worked on the quilt top throughout much of her lifetime and the quilt never did get finished. Because of that, we were able to see the back side of her work and admire the way she did her piecing. From looking at it you would never guess that she was using a geometric pattern block as her base.
This quilt is a remarkable example of hand embroidery and quilt overlay stitching. The lighter brown/gold areas are actually metallic thread. We couldn’t use a flash (for obvious reasons) so while the colors are lovely they are not fully realized. Seen with direct light the overall effect is dazzling.
Yes, that outing to Lincoln was extraordinary, but now we were ready from some realtime quilting excitement. The next day we jumped into the car for a field trip to Hamilton, Missouri – home of the Missouri Star Quilt Company (MSQC). This little town has been revitalized by MSQC and is pretty much a quilters paradise; some brochures even call it the Disneyland of Quilting. There are eleven quilt shops on the main street, each with an individual theme. It was hard to know where to start. But rest assured, we each came away with a bag (in some cases bags) full of good stuff. I think I hear my sewing machine calling me…
Going through photos and recalling our Mexico adventure via the rear view mirror helped me realize that I had a mixed assortment of images that never made it into a blog post but were still ones that I would like to share. First off, a curiosity of museums: (BTW – there is no collective noun for a group of museums, but I figured “curiosity” would work).
And while on the topic of museums, we did go Diego Rivera’s home. No photos allowed but that was okay as there were not many things that caught our attention. And why so little about Frieda? It was a good stop – but not great, frankly. On the other hand…
New topic. For those of you who remembered that I said I would post a few photos of our house and were wondering when I would get around to it…here goes:
Off on another road trip – this time to Querétaro, about a 2 hour drive from Guanajuato. (FYI: Querérato, like Guanajuato is both a state and a city within that state. This sometimes causes confusion as both the city and state are typically referred to by a single name. If you live here it doesn’t seem to be a problem; people pretty quickly figure which of the two you are talking about. It is the non-locals who have to scratch their heads a bit before getting the distinction.) Querétaro is pretty much the ying to Guanajuato’s yang as it’s modern feel and robust economy (largely based on IT/data centers and aerospace manufacturing and research) provides a young and progressive vibe. But that doesn’t mean it is without a wealth of historical, cultural and artistic opportunities to enjoy. In fact, we found so much to see and do that we extended our stay by one night and still feel like we have barely dipped our toes into the Querétaro waters.
We like to do our initial investigations on foot. Just blocks away from our hotel was Plaza de Armas with its wide variety of dining options. We decided to grab a quick lunch, staying with cuisine typico; Bob had chili relleno and I ordered enchiladas Querétaroan. Next we headed down the way to go to the artisan’s market/shop but found they were closed from 2-4p. Siesta time? So instead we strolled the Portal de Dolores, where we chanced upon Maria, the best known muñecas de trapo (rag doll) in Mexico. The story behind this doll is quite interesting and if you want more you can check out this link: Maria Doll.
But before we get to the pup, I guess it would be best to go back to the start of our great circle route: San Miguel de Allende to Dolores Hidalgo to Santa Rosa. This was going to be our first visit to San Miguel, though we know many folks who regularly visit here and rave about the town. It has quite a large expat population and there is deep history and gorgeous art. Bob and I were both wondering if we would be so taken with the town that we would feel differently about our beloved Guanajuato. We even had prepared a list of places to check out as potential winter lodgings in the coming year.
Back in the car: we drove about town to check out those VRBO sites we had identified. Lots of stone-paved roads, narrow streets, construction (both of homes and of infrastructure), and market areas. Overall, we found it interesting enough, but nothing seemed to draw us like Guanajuato does. I am sure there are things we may have missed or overlooked. I would love to hear from my friends who come to San Miguel and truly enjoy it. Our minds are still open on this…
Oh – the good news is we found information about the procession. We went to a happy hour (mojitos and margaritas down the street from our hotel) and asked our server what the occasion might have been. Between his understanding of my spoken Spanish and my interpretation of his spoken English we determined that we were seeing a sanctification of the saints by Saint Mary. Again – if someone else has anything to add to this – comment away, please.
Saturday in Guanajuato means tourists – lots of them; most from other parts of Mexico coming here to enjoy the historical and cultural offerings of this World Heritage site. And the number of visitors promises lots going on: more street performers, more music, more food stands, more sellers of souvenirs, more opportunities to people-watch. So a plan was hatched: I was off to city center to enjoy the activities and squeeze in a couple of errands. Bob would remain at the house to scout out a place for dinner. We arranged for a meet-up spot for when I was finished and we would try out the restaurant that sounded the most promising.
What follows is mostly pictures. If you are the type that cringes when someone suggests you come over to see their travel photos, you may want to exit now as the first part of this post is pretty much that. Or, if you are someone that rolls their eyes when you realize that you are going to be clicking through food photos, you may want to skip the end portion of this post. Consider yourselves warned…
Paracho: Guitar Capital of Mexico for over 100 hundred years. The home to most of the world’s guitar factories – though this is changing as mass manufacturing has moved to other countries where it can be done cheaper. (Have we heard this story before???) The city is now remaking itself and rather than being the maker of many guitars it is the home of some of the world’s best hand crafted guitars. And so we journey out to find a guitar for Bob. He had purchased a guitar in Paracho just over 30 years ago and loved it. Unfortunately, he loaned it to a friend and it was never seen again. Ever since then he has been hankering to get back and buy another.
Interesting backstory: David Caro is quite a famous and highly-regarded guitar maker. He is no longer making guitars but at one time he made 40 per year and they sold for $600 if purchased in Mexico and $900 if they were sent to the states. The guitar Bob purchased was made by his son, Salomón, who has assumed the family trade.
Other sites that caught our eye while we were in Paracho:
And we are finally on our way back to Guanajuato. It is about a 4 hour drive, and we took different routes down and back so we had lots of time to take in the various cities and expanses of countryside. We drove through Morelia, the capital of Michoacán, on the way down. Morelia is a large city and currently experiencing rapid growth which puts it at odds with its historical roots and there has been controversy about how native forests are being overtaken. We were especially interested in seeing the beautiful Spanish buildings, most made of pink granite, which the area is known for. I believe my favorite building was the Palace of Justice; isn’t that a nice name for courthouse?
León: the largest city in the state of Guanajuato with about 1.5 million people; very industrial; known for leather goods. Also the location of a very good Mac Store which helped me solve my USB port issue so I could use my photo card to get pictures uploaded for the blog – Whew!!!
There are no flat lands in Guanajuato and it has been interesting hiking up and down throughout the neighborhood. We try to get feet on the streets at least once a day and that has meant lots of stair climbing. The rental home’s owner claims we walk up five flights to our entry but it certainly felt like more, so we did a bit of math. The winding road up to the house is pretty much 50:50 steps and ramps. We counted 75 steps. At a rise of 8 inches each (on average) that comes to 600 inches in all, which equals 50 feet. Figuring 12 feet per story that means the steps alone make up 4 stories; add in the ramps and we are probably closer to 8 stories. No wonder we have been feeling exhausted when we get to the top!
And while we are on the subject of math, remember the adage, measure twice; cut once? Seems not to be a guideline for the person who was responsible for the preparing the footers on one of the houses across the way from us.
There is a lot of building going on in our neighborhood right now. We enjoy sitting on our deck watching the crews and marveling at how they get things done.
We imagine what it would have been like to build the home we are staying in. We have admired the construction and craftsmanship and can only wonder at the manpower involved. Interestingly, we have also noted that many of our outdoor walls are still being built as they were way back when Mayans contracted their buildings.
Warm greetings from central and mountainous Mexico. We have been here about 24 hours and are pretty settled into the rental property. It is an architectural delight; totally worth the 5 flights of outdoor stairs and walkways it takes just to get to the front door. Once inside there are three uniquely configured floors (bedrooms on first level, kitchen and living area on second level, outdoor patio/balcony on third level.) Needless to say, we have had to admit to our lack of cardio fitness and are hoping that daily trips into town will soon make it possible for us to go from the street to our kitchen without losing our breath. FYI: For you design types I will be posting some of the features of the house as the blog unfolds.
Today was about practical things: finding a grocery store so we could get staples and a trip to an ATM so we could finally operate using pesos. Our host took us on a car tour so we could get a feel for the layout of our area of the city. She is very familiar with the tunnel system (cars go under, not though the center of the city) so that was a great help, even though we will mostly travel on foot. She also pointed out some good restaurants, parks, and entertainments. Tomorrow we plan to go to Mercado Hidalgo for more local foods and flavors. After that… who knows!?!