Monday, April 27, 2009

In Bloom this Week!

This morning, I went out and took pictures of plants just now blooming in my yard.

These poeticus daffodils represent the grand finale of the daffodil season. Generally among the last to bloom, they are lovely to look at and smell fantastic.

This triandrus daffodil smells good too.

Primroses bloom among the sweet woodruff leaves.

Tulip season is almost over, these two are among my last to bloom.

Trillium or wake robin blooms in the wooded backyard.

I don't know the name of this wee, little woodland Iris. It was given to me by my friend Marty. This plant has become comfortable in the site, blooming the best it ever has.

Primarily Chinese in origin, epimediums are more frequently cultivated in the Far East. They grow well in shade, with handsome foliage and often twice yearly sprays of flowers. Many species are alleged to have aphrodisiac properties, hence the nicknames horny goat weed and rowdy lamb herb.

Bleeding Heart

Variegated Solomon's Seal

These lily of the valley originally came from my mother's yard in Wisconsin. It was one of her favorite flowers. Finally, they have spread enough, that some can be cut and taken inside to appreciate the sweet fragrance.


And a pirate enjoying a well deserved rest, after pruning the butterfly bushes. Apparently, he needs to be slightly more careful with his cutting implement or those bushes put up one heck of a fight.


Sunday, April 19, 2009


This post has had a long incubation period. Significant quantities of research about the retailer Uwajimaya were required. This would only be understandable to anyone sharing my deep antipathy to the superstore paradigm that derives from the WalMart model of doing business.
As far as I can tell, those problems are not an issue at Uwajimaya, perhaps due to the fact that this company remains a family operated business and the traditional Japanese strong loyalty to employees has been retained.

Uwajimaya has been on my radar since my first trip to Seattle in 2005. Lots of people rave about this store. It is 60,000 square feet of Asian retail, with a core business of Pan-Asian groceries. Everything from Hawaiian to Thai, Filipino to Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and beyond.

The portion of an aisle you see here, is nothing but soy sauce.

Produce in varieties you know and some you can only guess at are on display.

You can select fish as fresh as it comes.

Or slightly less fresh fish to compose a soup or broth.

Uwajimaya Village

There is a food court with multiple service areas and a plethora of offerings. I had the steamed BBQ pork hom bow and some hot and sour soup.



Saturday, April 18, 2009

Blueberry Blossoms and Bumblebees - Subtitled She Works Hard for the Honey

Here a brief interuption in my travelogue of the Pacific Northwest announces the initial spring appearance of bumblebees in my yard. Now, I am fully aware that most people find this less than exciting, but perhaps, this can convince you to give the next spring bumblebee you encounter a second glance.

Spring bumblebees are the largest you will observe until late this next fall. They are the newly awakened hibernating queens, the only surviving members of the previous years colony. The task of creating a new colony falls entirely to this one bee.

Awakening is dependent on ground temperature and timing is crucial. The bee has minimal reserve and there must be blossoms available to fuel her and to allow her to gather resources to start the new colony. Start out too late and all the best nesting sites are taken.

Bumblebees prefer to nest in abandoned mouse homes. They are not able to dig their own holes, so competition for sites is fierce.

Bumblebees are the predominant pollinators of certain flowers, including blueberries, cranberries and certain types of clover. Tomato blossoms and chili peppers also respond well to the bumblebees unique ability to buzz pollinate or perform sonification. Bumblebees rapidly contract their flight muscles producing a high-pitched, intense buzz that is transmitted inside pollen containing hollow structures within the flowers. Like a living tuning fork, the bees discharge the pollen as an explosive cloud. This act both disperses pollen benefiting the plant and furnishes the bee with protein rich pollen. Plants that rely on buzz pollination produce little or no floral nectar, so honeybees do not visit regularly.

A bumblebee, though an insect, is by ingenious design essentially
warm-blooded. By “shivering” her massive flight muscles, she can create heat in her thorax.
Then, by contracting her muscles, she circulates the warmth into her abdomen. Bumblebee body
temperatures can vary between 40 and 104 F, regardless of the ambient temperature. Due to the bumblebee's ability to thermoregulate, she is able to fly and work at lower outdoor temperatures than honeybees. Bumblebees can start earlier in the day and stay out later in the afternoon.

As the owner of several blueberry bushes, I appreciate the services bumblebees provide, but I also just like watching them. Hopefully, you will now regard them with greater appreciation too.

(Thanks to the Flickr site for some of the bee photos)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Visiting the Center of the Universe - Where there be a troll under the bridge

Based in Scandinavian folk mythology, the troll won the 1990 design competition sponsored by the Fremont Arts council and was built under the Aurora Bridge.

I sought out the troll on my first visit to Seattle and for some unfathomable reason end up visiting him every time I get to town. It may be some odd feeling of kinship, but more likely is rooted in his proximity to the Fremont Sunday Market.

His vital statistics include a height of 18 feet and he might drop some weight off that 2 ton frame if he quit his constant snacking on Fahrvergn├╝gen. In his left hand, he clutches an actual Volkswagen beetle.

As you may be able to tell by his even gray complexion, the troll is constructed of concrete over steel rebar and wire. Apparently, a recent visitor has attempted to enhance his lip line with the application of some pink chalk. Perhaps a darker shade would be more becoming.

My sister and I pose perched atop his left hand.

The clouds parted and the sun peeped out just in time to shop the Fremont Sunday Market. Established in 1990, (suspiciously the same year as the troll was built - merely coincidence?) the Fremont Sunday Market is two city blocks of vegetables, secondhand furniture, handcrafted jewelry, buskers, bakers, and candlestick makers.

Here, my sister Eva-Lisa tries on and models an altered coat.

Lets ask Lisa to twirl, so we can check out the tails on that coat.

Look at the appliqued Tesla pattern and the fake fur detail.
What fun!

The milliner's wire in this hat helps the brim acquire and keep a specific shape. The lady behind my sister would be the designer of both hat and coat. She had plenty of other funky designs on her clothes racks.

To the north, as you enter the market, there is an underground parking garage where vendors sell all manner of odd goodies. An accurate description is difficult, but one might call it deluxe junk or creme de la garage sale.

During this portion of our excursion we met up with an internet buddy and fellow Charmster trading partner, Janet Wilson. She helped me figure out that the charms on a bracelet I purchased represented the 10 commandments.

Should you visit the market, I recommend trying the wood-fired pizza and catching the tunes. The day we were there, a three man band played lively and melodic ditties, combining guitar, accordion and a quite skillfully played washtub bass.


P.S. Fremont is a Seattle neighborhood that considers itself "The Center of the Universe", with the slogan appended to their welcome sign. "De Libertas Quirkas" (Freedom to be Peculiar) is the unofficial motto.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Seattle - Rainy Days and Flying Fish

On this, my fourth trip to the Pacific Northwest, Seattle finally demonstrated why it has a reputation for rain. Based on my previous visits, I was beginning to think it was just an elaborate ploy to prevent more Californians from moving to the city.

Joining me in the adventure this year, my sister arrived at the Seattle airport - traveling from Wisconsin - about 45 minutes before my flight came in. She met me at my baggage carousel and we hoisted our suitcases aboard a city bus. Next, we made our way to our initial lodgings at the Green Tortoise Hostel, which is located downtown on Pike Street, adjacent to the Pike Place Market.

In operation since 1907, Pike Place Market is the oldest continually operated farmers' market in the U.S. The market is built into a steep hill on the Elliot Bay waterfront, with several levels located below the main level that you enter from Pike Street. These levels are indoors and make the market an entertaining playground on a rainy day.

Here in Post Alley, the photographer in the dark foreground is taking marketplace pictures of a wedding couple.The bride must be freezing her knickers off in the shoulder-less gown, but she appears to be a Seattle native, as she had the foresight to complete her ensemble with rubber rain boots. In the sunlit background, three people examine the 'Gum Wall.'

Here, the wedding couple heads upstairs for warmer digs.

A Seattle landmark that will have germaphobes pulling out their hand sanitizer, the Gum Wall had its beginnings in the early 1990s. Patrons waiting in line to buy tickets at the Market Theatre affixed their used chewing gum to the outside walls. Two complete gum removals were performed before the theater gave up and the wall grew into a de facto public art installation.

If you search out and photograph graffiti as I do, Post Alley promises to entertain.

The market's upper street level contains fresh flower and produce stands, fishmongers and craft stalls. Local farmers and craftspeople sell their wares year-round in the arcades off of the rented tables they lease from the Market on a daily basis. This tradition is in accordance with the Market's mission and founding goal: it allows consumers to "meet the producer."

All I can register in regard to this photo is disappointment... Hey, I thought bakers were supposed to wake up earlier than I do!

Arguably, the most famous stall in the market belongs to the fellows at Pike Place Fish Market.

The Pike Place Fish Market is known for its habit of hurling customers' orders across the shopping area. A typical routine will start with a customer ordering a fish. Then the fishmongers, wearing orange rubber overalls and boots, call out the order, which is loudly shouted back by all the other staff. At this point, the original fishmonger will throw the customer's fish behind the counter for wrapping. While working, the staff continually yell to each other and chant in unison as they toss around various fish.

Above the areas in which they throw fish, the market hangs a sign that reads, "Caution: Low Flying Fish."

Observe carefully the monkfish, packed in ice. Hidden below the ice, a rope is tied to his tail. When customers step in close... just a little closer now... to observe his handsome features, a tug on that rope makes him move alarmingly, giving those customers a delicious little scare.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Styling with hog gut

Dear friends in the blogosphere, I have returned from my most recent travels in the states of Washington and Oregon.

In order to explain of the photograph on the previous post, a little background is needed.

For two years, I've been trying to snag an Artfest class with Melissa Manley, a skilled metal smith and jewelery designer from North Carolina who also has experience working with hog gut, aka sausage casings.

To register for Artfest classes, you submit your choices by mail, postmarked on the Tuesday after Labor Day. You indicate your first, second and third choices. Class assignment is dependent upon in which sequence envelopes are opened and choices of preceding applicants. I spoke with Melissa on vendor night the first time she offered this class. She had been unsure about even offering such a class, thinking few would actually be interested. Clearly this turned out to be an underestimation of the artfest penchant for the weird and offbeat.

This year I got into her Class Insecta.
Her course description and photos are below.

Class Photo Big

Using iron wire and sausage casings we will metaphorically lift log, leaf and stone to uncover the minibeasts deep in our creative unconscious. If you love creepy crawlies and don’t mind working with hog gut, this is just the type of trailblazing you’ll love. If you have experience with wire all the better, but if not, don’t be intimidated! Beginners welcome! We’ll have you forming and twisting wire in no time. Will your insects be whimsical, somewhat realistic or complete fabrications? We’ll cover our wirereations with natural hog sausage casing. It dries to a taut, translucent skin and can be colored or written on! So if you think you have the guts come make funky BUGS with us!

Class Photo Big

After making a bug in class, I wanted to play with the jewelry potential of this medium, and thus made the necklace pendant in the previous post. it is slightly colored with a drop of Golden brand interference paints. The black beads suspended on wire function as bell clappers, striking the taut back membrane of the pendant.

The different reactions people express upon learning what the pendant is composed of has been interesting.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Guest Post

Hi Everyone, this is Andrenne, Carina's daughter, posting a quick note for Carina.

She's in Seattle, Washington at the moment, with her sister (my aunt) Lisa, doing ArtFest and just travelling around and being silly together.

But, her commitment to the blog shall never die! She wanted me to post this photo for you, loyal reader, to see. She didn't give me much background, so she will have to tell you all about it when she gets back.

She wishes you all the best.