Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Moving along

Now that the building process is complete (of course, it's NEVER really complete), I've turned my creative attention to the inside of the house. Follow along at
Straw Cottage.

Hope to see you there!


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

VayCay Part II

Los Angeles, city of many preconceptions, most of them incorrect. The younger son wanted to see DOWNTOWN LA. I did my best to smile through clinched teeth and muttered "OK, Honey-sounds ummm... interesting." Now, I'm a girl from the sticks having grown up in a rural area with the closest town having a population of 20,000. I have visited big cities but never downtown in a big city so didn't know quite what to expect. I was amazed! The number of people, the tall, beautiful buildings (although many were aging and decrepit), the range of time periods from art deco to Gehry's Disney Music Hall. I was captivated. I wish we had planned more time for this foray. Another time, maybe.

My favorite structure-The Central Library. What a jewel built when even public buildings were meant to mean something and bring art to people. When you walked through those doors you knew you were entering something special.

So what have I learned? Take a chance, do something you might not choose. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Photo by Dave Parker Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, July 20, 2008


We went on vacation. We hadn’t had one since before we started the house building and with the boys, or should I say young men, being 15 and nearly 19, our time for family vacations is dwindling. Parenting is full of those bittersweet goodbyes as one stage passes but another one begins.

We let the boys choose the destination and they chose LA!!! What??? After all those years of camping and hiking and campfires and nature they choose a densely populated urban area where all you do is drive! I put on a happy face and we began planning. If this is the apex of their teenage rebellion we can live with it.

Let the planning begin. I set some limits on how many things we could realistically do within our budget and the amount of driving we were willing to do and they then made a list of choices. We then whittled that down and came up with a general idea of the trip.

The list:

Pacific Ocean (seems a no-brainer but we’ve been to SoCal several times and not gone to a beach)

Pacific Coast Highway

Santa Barbara

Aquarium of the Pacific

Downtown Los Angeles (?!?)

Universal Studios

I then entered my bargain-hunter mode. The planning started in February when gas prices were still less than $3.50 but we knew they would rise and we were planning our trip for over Memorial Day, when gas prices traditionally rise to their summer high point. That weighed into our decision of mode of travel. Also, it’s an 8 hour driving trip (at least) across the desert which eats into actual vacation time. I didn’t firm up our dates because I wanted to take advantage of the least expensive days to fly. I started watching Southwest fares and jumped on one that was $49.00 each way. $540 for the 4 of us to fly. It is approximately 850 miles Tucson to LA-that’s about $400 in gas for the trip, not to mention the wear and tear. We did rent a car in LA but more about that later.

As we were spending a week there, I wanted to find a cottage or an apartment to rent. Living in a motel is OK for a night or two but a week with 4 people! No way! An apartment allows you to prepare your own meals, a definite cost savings. Early risers (me) can get up in the morning and have some alone time without disturbing the rest of the group. I quickly narrowed down the general area we wanted to stay to Venice Beach or Santa Monica and then turned to the online vacation rental sites and read and read. We finally decided on this cottage found on VacationRentals.com. It was small, clean, affordable and a 10-minute walk to the beach. And who knew (probably everyone but me) that Santa Monica was packed with cute little bungalows and mid-century moderns. I was in house addict heaven just walking the neighborhood. Around each corner was another “Ohh, that is co cool!” moment. My brain would then flip into fixer-upper mode but you might have heard about house prices in California. $7-800 per square foot for a tear-down! It was fun to look.

Next I researched bargains for attractions. We were going to Universal Studios and the Aquarium, and you can get a discount by buying tickets online.

Now about that rental car, we didn’t really need it, aside from the day we drove to Santa Barbara.
In hindsight I should have researched public transportation in the area and only rented a car for that one day. Again, who knew there was such a good public transportation system? We hear so much about the southern California car culture that I didn’t even think about public transportation; I’m here to tell you it’s alive and well in the LA Metro area. We rode both the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus and the LA Metro and were pleasantly surprised with both. We could have also used the train but it just didn’t work out. Santa Monica is a truly walkable community. From where we stayed it was easy to walk to Albertson’s (grocery), restaurants, parks, the beach, shopping on Main St, movie theatres, the farmer’s market, the library and probably more that I’m not aware of. And Venice is just a bike ride away. We could have stayed in Santa Monica and not even been aware of the rest of the LA area. But we would have missed so much-but let's leave that for another post.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Have You Been Stimulated?

Checking online balances last week I noticed a bump in our account which could only mean one thing. Our gift from the government had arrived! (funny, I didn't feel stimulated) While I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, "free" money makes me a bit nervous. The PF blogs have been discussing the stimulus package ad nauseum over the last months and we have the money earmarked for fattening the IRA so it's pretty much a done deal for us. When Jacob's post at Early Retirement Extreme hit I almost deleted it but was caught by the title: Dear Unborn Grandchildren,
Thank you for the generous $1200 stimulus package gift we just received from you. You know, traditionally it’s been the obligation one generation to help the next generation along. Parents help out their children, even their unborn children, by saving a little start up money so that the next generation has enough to start out when they leave the nest. (Read more)

Thanks, future grandchildren!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Strawbale, Ohio and other Sunday morning thoughts

Blue Rock Station is in Philo, Muskingum Co., OH, not "too fur" from where we're from. Looking at the list of workshops they have a lot going on there, even strawbale building. It's a beautiful area of gently rolling wooded hills and farmland. A wonderful place to spend some time, if it doesn't rain. But, it rains a lot back there and that's how we found ourselves in the desert. But I do like to go back and visit and maybe I should time my next trip home to coincide with one fo their workshops. Lllama Trekking in the Fall sounds fun.

I Love Cob has a post about cob-making with an electric mixer. That would be the only way I would approach it for anything larger than a bench or oven. Dancing in mud is fun for a while, but the charm soon wears off on a large project especially if you have to keep a day job.

I found a page of earthships for sale at Taos Earthships. I like the Finish it Yourself listing cause the tires are already in place.

I've been researching earthen oven ideas for the community here. We may build one at the community garden. I've probably mentioned this before but Kiko Denzer's book is the place for information and instructions on earth ovens.

Scott Calhoun's book Chasing Wildflowers won a GWA book award! Read more about it at his blog. It's a great read, as he describes it: "Chasing Wildflowers... is about botany, gluttony and the open road"

We are fighting Wildfower Wars here in Civano and Simmons Buntin has a great commentary on it at Next American City.

Monday, April 21, 2008


I attended a fantastic Flamenco show in Patagonia, AZ yesterday. It was held at La Mision de San Miguel a wonderful venue for this gypsy dance. My teacher Adair, La Candela danced and was amazing. After seeing her perform, how she tolerates my clumsy attempts is beyond me! The opening performances were by Tesoro and Flamenco Sonora all wonderful artists. It was a great afternoon of music and dance, not to mention delicious tapas and wine.

Here's a video of Flamenco Sonora that doesn't do justice to their energy but gives a flavor of their performance.

Upcoming Flamenco in Tucson
05/03: El Ojito Springs 4th Ave: 3-4pm--tickets $15 in Advance or $20 at Door. (sold at Antigone Books on 4th Ave, Tucson, AZ) Flamenco Mystique--a show by Adair Landborn featuring Daniela y Andres!

05/03: Club Congress @ 10pm Daniela will be a featured Flamenco Dancer with TESORO.

05/05: Cinco de Mayo: Daniela will be a featured Flamenco Dancer @Noche de Fuego with TESORO and Flam Chen.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Rich Luhr Photo

Homeschooling, Unschooling, Common Question: How Do You Know if They're Learning Anything?
When people find out you homeschool your children, you get some really silly questions (including the dreaded SOCIALIZATION question but don't get me started on that). When you try to explain unschooling, they really go nutso on
you. My aunt asked over and over: "How will they learn their ABCs?" To this day, I don't know if they "know their ABCs" but the only clear advantage I see in knowing your ABCs is that when seated alphabetically, usually in school, you know where to find your seat. Since they didn't go to school, this wasn't a problem.

People would ask me all the time how I knew they were learning. This one always gave me pause. How could I NOT know they were learning. Children are sponges, programmed to learn. They will even learn things
you don't know. Scary stuff, learning.

Last weekend we went to the home of friends to bid them an Airstream bon voyage as they take off across country for several months. Rich, publisher of Airstream Life magazine and Tour of America blogger decided to have those in attendance write his blog for the day. After reading the blog, I'm thinking that unschooling may just work.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Check out the beautiful plasters in a Riad posted by Maryam at My Marrakesh.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dooced-How Bad Could it Be?

Today at work I read this post from RV-Dreams. Yes, I do occasionally read websites at work. Sometimes it's the only thing that keeps me there. But today it almost incited an immediate letter of resignation.

It followed on the heels of this post
from the one, the only, Dooce.

Death to the man
Power to the People
Viva la Revolucion
Why be Normal

Remember, remember the 5th of November
Live Free or Die

Find the Open Road

Friday, March 14, 2008

I have been Flamenco-ized!

I love Flamenco! I watch Flamenco movies, I walk around the house practicing arm and hand movements, I listen to Flamenco music and choreograph movements in my head, I love the swishing skirts,I golpe, plante and tacon down hallways (even though I look somewhat spastic), I love the power.
I Love Flamenco!
When I grow up, this is who I will be:

I can't wait for this performance at La Mision Patagonia on April 20.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

More Earthen Plaster Finishing When I repaired the plaster on the south wall back in November, it was better but still not where I wanted it. Being the south wall of course it gets the most sun and that means that any plaster work done will dry very quickly and the thinner the layer, the faster it dries. Not always a good thing for plaster. It dried with some pits and cracks that could cause problems down the road. When I got up Saturday morning it was cloudy but not threatening rain, the perfect day to work on this wall so to work I went. I mixed up a fine clay with a small amount of sand. To that I added water mixed with Acri-Soy purchased at Originate. This is a bit of an experiment to see if it makes the wall more weather-proof. I know some purists out there will say that with a good plaster this wouldn't be necessary but I'm not a professional plasterer so purists, get over it. I will also use this on the west wall. This mixture goes on like a thin latex and application is not a neat process. The stuff flies everywhere. Once it had time firm up a bit, I polished it with a disc cut from a whipped topping container and the finish is smooth and beautiful. The Acri-Soy did not change the color of the clay, which was a concern. We'll see what happens in the summer monsoon.

Friday, March 07, 2008

I've enjoyed watching the progress of some folks building an earthen oven in Cochise Co. It's made me think of how much I enjoyed our oven, both the building and the using. Unfortunately we never got a picture of our oven but it looked very much like this one.

Check out this cool Earthen Oven Video.

Laurie and Co.'s oven

Thursday, March 06, 2008

When I Dream...

this is where I live. Casa de Barro

Sunday, March 02, 2008


A beautiful day in southern Arizona, perfect for plastering. The west wall with the sculpturing has been calling to me and today I responded. The clay bamboo had never been finished and had worn down by our summer storms. It now has a second coat and the whole wall is ready for a final coat. Before and after photos.

Various stages of plaster completion. I had a little trouble with the mix this time and I'm not sure why. It was soft and dusted when touched. Simple fix, old-fashioned paste: water and white flour 1:1, pour into hot water, bring to a boil and cook until thickened. Did the trick!

Now it just needs a final very thin coat to even the color.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Wow, February already!

Not a lot to say this morning, I just wanted to share this very cool video.

Frozen Grand Central

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


"Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.”
~Peter Drucker

This is one of my favorite times of the year because it's new! I love to plan and this is the time to do it. Today we will look over our spending plan for the year, talk about increasing retirement savings, decide what things we want accomplished with the house this year and plan some trips.

Our spending doesn't change much year-to-year so that won't take long, but it's nice to have both members of the team on the same page. W needed to use some of the emergency fund for medical expenses, so the first order of business will be to replace that.

I want to retire sooner rather than later so I need to bump up the savings in that area. I received a bit of a raise in the last quarter and want to move that amount into my IRA.

There are still a couple of "big" things we want to complete on the house: solar panels, shade for the south patio, solatubes in 2 rooms. Today we can figure out in what order and when on those items.

Travel & Trips! My favorite topic. Our vacation times will be within the parameters of school vacations now that both boys will be in school but I'm sure we can still manage to find some interesting, not-too-crowded places to go.

Once this is done I will be ready to face the year.

On the house front:

I did some plaster trim work that really needed to be done. It was one of those things that bugged me every time I looked at it but I kept putting it off. It actually took very little effort and the end result was so worth it.

This is the area way back when...

This is the present view...

The unfinished plaster near the shelf and along the side of the cabinet

...and this is the finish.

I also polished the bumpouts framing the patio door with black soap as the plaster was dusting quite a bit. It needs another couple of coats but that's the perfect job for an afternoon with a good movie in the DVD player.Speaking of good movies, we watched Once last night. What a treat! If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and rent it. Great music, great story.