Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Green Christmas of Eva

My sister knows of my love for all things green, so she sent me a few photos of an incredible Christmas tree that her good friend, Eva, created with the help of her students.

Eva Márquez is a high-school art teacher in the city of Écija, near my hometown. She proposed to her senior class the creation of a Christmas tree made with a variety of recycled materials. To begin with, they built the frame with long wooden beams

After the frame was ready, they covered it with greenhouse mesh

They gathered a bizzillion plastic bottles, cut them vertically, punched a couple of holes on the top, and threaded them with strong fishing line

The long threads of bottles were attached to the mesh like ruffles on a dress

Once the tree was completely covered in bottles, it was spray-painted in green and splashed in many different colors, in Jackson Pollock-fashion

Meanwhile, they decorated the tree topper

This styrofoam head was a dumpster find!

The tree was crowned with the head

Final touches to the masterpiece

 A nice closeup of the bottles

This lady-tree is so cool!  When I was in high-school, we never did anything remotely similar.  I can't even remember what we did in art class, which means it surely was lame and boring

A project like this has tremendous value.  I am sure that before this, many never saw a plastic bottle beyond its function as a carrier of soda or water.  This tree opened the eyes and the minds of a lot of people!

 And here are the proud artists!

My sincere thanks to Eva Márquez for allowing me to share her story, her tree, and her wonderful photos!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hello and Housewarming card


I'm not ready to mothball my blog quite yet.  I did promise to post occasionally, so this is one of those moments...

For a winemaker in the northern hemisphere, the months of September and October are the hardest, because of the grape harvest.  There are vineyards to visit, picking decisions to be made, fermentations to monitor...  Apart from all these duties, life back at the winery goes on: the last quarter of the year (what we call OND) is when most of the wine sales are made.  So on top of everything I had bottling blends to coordinate, assemble, test and refine, and it was insane.  The good news is, if you like California wine, vintage 2013 will be one to seek.  The wines are going to be spectacular, but yours truly earned a few white hairs in the process!

So now life has finally slowed down, and I can decompress by playing with paper, glue, corks and brushes.  It is amazing how much I relax when I have the opportunity to create.  This happens to all of us, don't you agree?

One of the things in my embarrassingly long to-do list was to send wine to our dear friends Ashley and Brian.  They recently purchased a new home, and with the holidays coming near, we thought they could use some wine for the many parties they will surely have.  Why, oh why did you have to move to Texas?!?!?!  We miss you so!!!

Some time ago I pinned this cute image, made with coffee sleeves.  I thought it would make a good housewarming card to go with the wine.  Check out my version.

I still like the original better.  There's something Picassian about it.

I defrayed the cost of one or two Starbucks mochas by not having to buy a Hallmark card.  True savings!

Thank you for reading, and if you're in the US, Happy Halloween!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Valentine Exchange 2013

I am making it a tradition to participate in Aunt Peaches' Annual Valentine Exchange.  This is the second year in a row that I have joined, so that's all I need for a tradition, I guess!

Since I was a little girl I have loved exchanging mail.  It perhaps started with my mother's postcard collection.  All those beautiful images from far away locations, the beaches, the monuments, the "I wish you were here" sentiments...  I was a girl with a vivid imagination and a notorious daydreamer.  These postcards were windows into possible dreams.

One year while in junior high, our entire class got pen-pals, and oh boy, I embraced that with such energy that rare was the week I didn't get a letter.  Somewhere I have a huge box of postcards from all over the world.  I really should unearth it one of these days.

So when I come across things like this fabulous handmade Valentine card exchange, it is impossible for me to resist.

I love to use recycled materials in my crafts, and for this year's Valentines I grabbed my old financial statements and turned them into colorful hearts with the help of watercolors.

Inside, I wrote a fitting quote

The Valentines are on their way, and I really hope they make someone happy.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Yes, I'm back! (maybe, perhaps)


You can see there has been a huge gap between my last post and the one I just published yesterday.  Like nine months.  Really.  My blog has become yet another tombstone in the abandoned blog graveyard.  So many of us start with the greatest intentions, and then life gets in the way and there you have it: what was once a lovely blog is now a ghost town, abandoned, cobwebby and forgotten.

Much has happened in these last nine months.  I got a full-time, grown-up job.  I became a winemaker, and my free time went whoooooosh!  I love the paychecks, and the structure this job gives to my life.  The responsibility is very gratifying to my ego.  However, I miss the play time I had for myself.  Time, one of the greatest commodities of life.

That said, I did want to follow up on the wonderful Christmas tree that the earth-conscious folks in El Granado were planning for 2012.  I contacted their spokesperson, like last year, and got some photos and information.  At first, I thought it would be weird to publish the article here, dusty and lonely as this blog was, so I pitched the idea to another, very popular, eco-centric blog.  They agreed, but due partly to circumstances and partly to poor planning, they flaked.  With December 25 gone, it became important to put forth the article, because there is such a thing as an expiration date on Christmas.  I took a broom and a mop to attack the cobwebs, and decided to revive the blog, if nothing else to fulfill the commitment I made to El Granado (one of these years I really must stop by).

So this is what happened.  I am not sure how involved I will be with this blog in the future.  It is NOT part of my 2013 resolutions.  But if I find something worth sharing, I shall reopen it, dust and all. 

Here's something worth sharing:

My husband works by this tire shop, and he took this photo to show me.  I love that the orange lights are not lights.  They are puffs of fluorescent spray paint. Brilliant!!!

I want to wish anyone reading this my best wishes for a wonderful 2013.  May your resolutions stick, may your loved ones be happy and healthy, may you spread good cheer around!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Green Christmas of El Granado - 2012

A year ago I wrote about a small town in the south of Spain, El Granado, and their recycled Christmas tree tradition.  They are at it again, and for the fourth year in a row, El Granado citizens have decorated their town for Christmas in a very original and eco-friendly manner. In the center square, this year's 26-ft tall Christmas tree was made with 1,200 flowers made from plastic bottles

 The main flower chosen for the tree was the brown-eyed rockrose (Cistus ladanifer), a native species of the region. These flowers were made from the bottoms of 5-L water bottles

Among the rock roses you can also find other colorful flowers, made from plastic soda bottles

This project has been a true collective effort. The citizens of El Granado helped with the gathering, cutting, painting and installation of the flowers.

I am looking forward to seeing what they come up for Christmas 2013! I wish more towns and cities had the initiative to do something similar. With a little bit of ingenuity, it is amazing the beauty that can be created. Projects like these bring people together, and raise the collective awareness of how precious and how finite our resources are.

My sincere thanks to Maite Barroso, spokesperson for the town of El Granado, for her help and her wonderful photographs.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Waxing poetic

A couple of years ago I discovered Leafcutter Designs, run by Lea Redmond. Lea has an amazing imagination, and she likes to create collaborative projects. I'm a sucker for these types of things, so I signed up for Waxing Poetic, where we were asked to come up with alternative names for crayons. Lea recently contacted all her "lovely crayon poets", and sent us a box.

The box itself is beautiful, delicate, old-fashioned and perfect.

I can't exactly remember what I named my crayons. Only a couple stand in my mind. A pink one was "Aunt Connie's bathroom tiles". Another one was "Travis Denimore", paired with "What could have been and wasn't", in honor of a failed love story. None of them were in my box. The ones I got were amazing.

What a fantastic project! This little box made my day. Thank you, Lea.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bitter Oranges in Sevilla

The streets of Sevilla are lined with Bitter Orange trees, some 45,000 of them.   These trees are so emblematic of the city that they are also known as Seville Oranges.

In late winter the city begins to pick the oranges.  We happened to be in Sevilla when a crew worked on the trees behind my mother's house.

They worked pretty fast.  The trees were cleaned up in a matter of minutes.

Probably more time was spent looking for stranded oranges under cars than pulling them from the tree!

These oranges are too bitter to be eaten fresh.  Instead, they will be shipped to the UK and France, where they will become marmalade.  Their bitterness plays well against the sweetness of jam.  They also happen to have a higher pectin content than regular oranges, so it all works out in the end.

The peel is very fragrant, and it also gets used to make essential oils for the perfume and food industries.

When I was little, I remember boys rolling oranges into the path of incoming vehicles, timing their throws so that the oranges became road kill.  I didn't see any of those games this time.  Maybe there is a PlayStation version already?

I don't know how heavy this bag may be, but poking around in the net I saw that in 2010 about six million kilos were picked in the city (that's over 13 million pounds, or 6,600 US tons).  That's a lot of marmalade!

Note the row of orange trees on the left side of the street.  Pretty soon these trees will be covered in orange blossoms, shrouding the city in one of the most exquisite perfumes ever found in nature. 

My mom and some handsome dude wanted to pose in this picture.  I want to take this opportunity to introduce him to the world.  His name is Ron.  He will be making an occasional appearance in this blog, and I want to call him by his name, not by "my husband", "the husband", "husband", or God forbid, "the mister" (yes, I saw that in a blog once...)

Do you like marmalade?  How do you eat it?  One of my easy go-to appetizers is a crostini with Manchego cheese topped with a dollop of marmalade.  This is a variation of the classic Manchego-quince paste combo, which one of these days we should explore.