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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Documenting my ArtPrize progress on Instagram

My friend Michelle noticed I hadn't been posting much on my Instagram account lately. I told her I was too busy working on my ArtPrize entry! She suggested documenting the process via Instagram. It was a brilliant suggestion. If you'd like to see what I've been up to lately (and get some garden updates) just take a peek at my Instagram profile.

I'll continue to post update images as I finish the mobile structures and begin hanging 4000 miniature origami cranes for ArtPrize, the world's largest cash prize open art competition. It kicks off in Grand Rapids, MI on September 24th and ends October 12, 2014.

OK back to work! Have to finish my spring and winter mobiles! Hopefully I'll begin hanging cranes sometime tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I found a frog!

Today I went out to my garden to check on how the pumpkins were coming along and chase grasshoppers out of the enclosure when I spotted a frog! I'm pretty sure it's a Pickerel Frog after consulting with Google and the Michigan DNR (Department of Natural Resources) website. It made me soooooooo happy! I'd seen him before outside the garden tucked under the framing but today there he was, just hanging out under the beet greens.

Seeds planted late, but not too late, on July 1st

By the way if you were to ask me "How does your garden grow?" I'd reply "Bonkers!" I'll do a post soon with pictures of veggies and things I've made with them but for today I took a break from my ArtPrize project to share this little guy with you.

Radish, beets, beans, parsley, and Hokaido pumpkin.

Do you see him? He's on the top edge of the side board in the center of the picture  under the beet greens. Can I tell you I'm over the moon happy with all of the beet greens I've been harvesting? I actually enjoy eating the greens more than the beets!

I ran in the house, grabbed my camera with its zoom and macro lens and raced back out to get these shots.

I didn't have to hurry. This little frog was perfectly happy to sit and pose, even for close ups. Another day, another frog. Michigan makes me smile so much :)

The toads and frogs are just one of the reasons why I am set on keeping an organic garden. Pesticides would definitely have an adverse effect on them and they're two of nature's best pest control methods if you're lucky enough to have them come live in your garden.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Attending the IRG tiny travel trailer rally

I had to have bunting. I'd seen photos of European and Australian "caravans" with bunting and wondered why precious few American trailers ever use it as a glamping accessory. So, I found some fabric and bias tape, studied tutorials online, and put together a strand just in time to outfit The Glampette for the IRG (International Redwoods Gathering) at the Pamplin Grove campground in Carlotta, CA (just south of Eureka) back in the first week of July.

I mentioned in a previous post that my friend Fred flew out to WA to help me drive back to MI but on the way we stopped for two nights at the IRG. It was a 14 hour detour and a very fun stop. Fred has been a member of the tnttt.com forum for nine years but hadn't ever met in person a lot of the people he'd befriended during that time.

The event started a few days before we got there but we made it in time for the group picture and potluck dinner.

While we we took turns driving during the day the funny part was we had to be able to fit into the trailer together at night. The trailer with an interior length of 5'10" long, was never designed to hold two people, least of all her builder who is 5'9" tall. But, where there's a will there's a way. I tested sleeping on my 17" wide countertop as a top bunk using a 20" wide self-inflating camping mattress while planning to let Fred use my 30" wide "guest" bed below.

When I told him I'd made the garland of bunting in pink, aqua, and yellow Fred only had one thing to say: "I better bring a tent." He did bring his own sleeping bag and his tent as a back up in case things didn't work out.

A comfy, cozy, mini sleeper for two!

He was kind of long for the trailer but, as you can see, things worked out just fine! I never even almost rolled off the counter. LOL. We discovered if he slept diagonally he did fit inside with the door closed. He's kind of camera shy so this was the best picture I could get of us in trailer at the same time to prove it could be done. I did have to sleep with my head near the door because there wasn't enough clearance for it to fit under the lower front shelves.

Arriving at the Van Duzen County Park Pamplin Grove campsite we followed the signs and in no time were in the midst of 100 tiny trailers.

The campground has three basic areas: The meadow, in the redwood grove in the upper section, and in the grove in a lower section which is where we parked The Glampette. The woody in the foreground of the lower picture is my friend's Debbie and Randy's homebuilt trailer "Monstro" that I got to park next to at the Treasure Island Meet & Greet last fall.

I am slowly building up my glamping accoutrement. I put the bunting up during the day but took it down at night so it wouldn't get wet and dewy in the morning.

The event was hosted by "The Fog Crawler" and "The Teardrop Nanny." Those are the forum names for Dean and Joanie. They host their own Youtube channel "Outdoor Cast Iron Cooking" where you can learn to make things like Humboldt Dungeness Crab, their Legendary Bigfoot Burger, Waffle Dogs, and their version of Mountain Man Breakfast all made in Dutch Ovens while out camping.

And then there were the trailers. The one I was most looking forward to seeing was "Miss Piggy" designed and built by forum member Brian Woods (aka "Vedette") from British Columbia. You can read all about how Brian created Miss Piggy in this back issue of Cool Tears magazine beginning on page 14. When I saw the pictures of her I was hooked but when I read in the article all of the parts she's comprised of I was fascinated by Brian's build:

Miss Piggy is made up of parts from the following cars, trucks and motorcycles:
  • 1959 Simca Vedette - Main body, chrome moldings, and hood on roof.
  • 1951 Studebaker – Roof, door tops, nose, grill, bullet, interior moldings, and parts of under belly.
  • 1950 Studebaker – Roof, rear window, and door tops. Interior lights.
  • 1946 Chev PU – Rear cab used for front sheet metal and front window.
  • 1942 Chev PU – running lights.
  • 1954 Ford PU - Hood was used on under belly and front corners.
  • 1955 Merc PU – Hood was used for cheeks on nose.
  • 1936 Ford - Interior door pulls.
  • 1937 Ford – Taillight lenses and rings.
  • 1947 Ford – Park light Rings with Red Lenses.
  • 1961 Studebaker - Rocker panels and heater blower fan and assembly.
  • 1955 Chrysler 300 – Hubcaps
  • 1979 Acura – Air Conditioning fan & switches
  • 1993 Toyota Trecel – Jacks for rear
  • 1972 Honda Trail – Wheel used for shoreline holder.
  • 1965 BSA – Reflector for tail light.

Equally mesmerizing was Doug Hodder's American Voyager. I'd have to say Doug is one of the top builders in the country after seeing the impeccable craftsmanship he uses in building and finishing his trailers. The AV was simply stunning! My favorite thing I saw at the entire rally were the tiny, striped, metal, snap-on awnings over each window of the trailer.

I also took a liking to the Road Rocket. With tiny rocket taillights and a rear fin that also lights up it was a great example of a homebuilt, lightweight trailer weighing in at a mere 682 lbs.

And for pure novelty nobody could beat Roly Nelson's F-117 Stealth Fighter Teardrop Camper. When I saw it all I could wonder was how many accidents did he almost cause driving it up to the gathering because I'm sure everyone who saw him on the highway not only did a double take but tried to get a picture of his creative camper while they were driving.

These were the trailers I had time to see upon our arrival. There are lots more later in the post.

For starters no sooner did we arrive it was time to head up for the group picture. Best efforts were made with a McGyver'ed camera attached to helium balloons, a cord, and a fishing pole to get an arial group shot. Unfortunately the camera wasn't facing the right direction so I grabbed this shot from a video Pinecone (aka Greg Pang) put together. Dean did get a great arial shot from high in the redwoods included at the beginning of his video coming up later in the post.

Before dinner there was a raffle to enter. Each day attendees receive a strand of raffle tickets. You walk up and down the lines of prizes and drop them in the bags of the ones you want to win. I put almost all of my tickets into the bag for this vintage Coleman picnic stove. Fred knew I wanted it so he put some of his tickets in too. LOL I think we put in 94% of the tickets in that particular bag so it wasn't a huge surprise I won it!

Now, the only problem is I found out the liquid propane fuel tanks it needs are obsolete so unless I can find a conversion kit to a current fuel source I'll have to think of a way to use it for something else.

The community picnic area is under the canopy of redwoods and includes a large kitchen.

Saturday night was a potluck dinner. I think at every tiny trailer rally Saturday night is always the potluck dinner. Fred and I were so busy socializing we barely had time to put together our fruit salad (pictured in the upper right corner) and make it up there in time for dinner. The cast iron cooks were busy that day. There were Dutch ovens lined along the tables full of steaming hot, oven baked goodness. I really want to find a vintage oven or two and start learning how to cook with them in Fred's backyard fire pit.

Dinner was served. And it was delicious!

Speaking of cooking, the next day for breakfast I made hash brown potatoes, Prather Ranch bacon, and eggs.

After making a good (but not very pretty) breakfast the first day I realized the proper order is to make your eggs first, then the potatoes, then the bacon. I kept the eggs and potatoes warm by putting them on a plate and flipping another plate over them as a lid then put them back in the fry pan after spooning out as much of the bacon grease as I could.

I also hardboiled a few eggs so we could have them as snacks.

I was kind of tickled to see my Acura Integra wasn't the only passenger car acting as a tow vehicle. While most folks use large pick ups and SUV's there were a few others who have found they are able to tow with less traditional vehicles.

There were so many trailers and so little time I wasn't able to photograph all of them. Dean did manage to include all but 20 in his video below along with that arial shot I mentioned earlier.

by Dean of Cast Iron Cooking

Here are a few I did shoot. The trailer in the top left corner with the yellow fenders and round door is one that inspired me greatly to pursue getting a trailer of my own. Way back when Vacations In a Can was featured in Sunset magazine. Based near Petaluma, CA they put the whole concept of teardropping within reach for me. I'd planned to rent a trailer to test out if I wanted one but soon found that unnecessary as I'd successfully talked myself into wanting one without ever having stayed in one before. LOL

Beneath it was the trailer of Grant Whipp, another member/builder I was looking forward to meeting in person. Grant owns Li'l Bear Tag Alongs a business that sells teardrop trailer partsplans, and custom built trailers. His website also lists upcoming gatherings and offers a nationwide classified ads section for those who want to buy local rather than build a trailer to come out to CA to pick up one of Grant's trailers.

And this is Greg Pang known as "Pinecone" on the forum. He was someone I'd become friends with online and got to meet in person. Like me, he's a huge advocate of the teardrop lifestyle when traveling. He also made this great recap video that shows what the rally was like including the days I missed. . . Take a peek:

by Pinecone (aka Greg Pang)

Another member I knew from the forum who I got to meet in person was Ted (aka "Gudmund") who had dropped into a thread I started about the DIY rain shield I made for my roof vent last winter. He recommended a Maxair II plastic vent cover that fits over the vent that shields the open vent from rain coming into the cabin and allows you to leave the vent cover open while in transit. He uses one on his teardrop "Wanderin' Aimlessly" and loves it. While I did like the idea I just couldn't imagine it looking cute or unobtrusive enough to be on The Glampette.

So he found me and brought his over and let me set it down on top of my trailer so I could see for myself what it would look like. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. From the side it kind of looked like a shark fin. LOL. And the plastic was translucent, not opaque, which made it more attractive than I thought it would be. I will say I'm more open to the thought now than I was before but still not ready to make the leap just yet :)

I also spotted a few canned ham trailers. The one on top is called a Grasshopper and looks like a teeny tiny Winnebago. The lower blue and white Sero Scotty is a classic canned ham (look a the shape).

The Glampette was much more styling by the end of the rally than at the beginning. Debbie brought over some fresh roses when she left Sunday morning so I set them on The Glampette's tongue box beside a bottle of wine Fred won for me at the raffle on Saturday night. He reads my blog so he knows I love my wine.

A big thank you to Fred for coming out to help me drive back to MI and for being such a good sport and sleeping in a trailer that was just a few inches too short and even worse, glamped out in girly colors and bunting :P

And a huge thank you to Dean and Joanie for hosting such a great event. We couldn't have felt more welcome. It was a lot of fun and I hope to make it back to the redwoods and the IRG in years to come, hopefully so I can be there from start to finish one year and see all of the trailers, not just the ones closest to where I parked.

The IRG is held every other year and has limited space so if you want to attend be sure to join tnttt.com and watch for a new thread and updates to register on time for the IRG 2016.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

ArtPrize update: 3000 down, 1000 cranes to go

Folding 4000 cranes is just the start of my ArtPrize entry. Actually, before I could even begin folding miniature cranes I had to cut standard squares and large fancy sheets of origami paper into 1.5" x 1.5" squares to fold into 3/4" cranes. Four thousand tiny squares to be exact.

I also had to think about the mobile base or bases I would hang the cranes from. This is what I've come up with. Three kinds of vines and one type of branches to represent the four seasons. In the top left corner is spring, the top right will be summer, the lower left is fall, and the bottom right is winter.

Spring and summer I'll use as they are to fabricate small wreaths the cranes will hang from.

Fall will be trickier. Not only do I need to trim some of the branches away, I also need to combine four of them and stain them a darker color to represent the color of autumn.

Winter will also be tricky mostly because it's the perfect color for fall. This is a kiwi vine base I made from fresh cut kiwi vine I found at the Soquel Farmers' Market back when I was living in Santa Cruz earlier this winter. I love the texture and woven form but the color is all wrong necessitating darkening it . . . Somehow. I have a few ideas and some extra vine to test them out on.

And the folding continues. I've completed spring, autumn, and winter and am working on summer. Because (to me) the cranes represent peace and kindness I've been finding inspiration as I fold by listening to world news. With all of the war, strife, and violence taking place in seemingly every country in the world I fold each crane with the thought of the wish for world peace and peaceful lives for all individuals at the forefront of my mind.

I also fold while sitting on the couch watching and listening to the rain come down. Rain. Having come from drought plagued California I'm simply blown away by how often and how heavily it rains here in Michigan. It's a beautiful thing to behold, as are the Sandhill cranes. Not that I've seen them lately but yesterday I awoke to the sound of them calling from the nearby marsh. I did see a pair a week or so ago calling and flying by the house in the morning while I was standing outside. Someday I hope to get a photo of them.

I did try walking down to the marsh the other day (during the middle of the day) hoping to see and photograph them. For my efforts I was rewarded with around 9 mosquito bites within the space of 15 minutes. I never even got close enough to see if there were any cranes there. The weird thing is I have much worse reactions to Michigan mosquitos than I ever did to California or Washington mosquitos. Some of the welts are huge! I'm used to bites swelling to about the size of my fingernail. . . Not my whole freaking finger!

Here's a sampling of random bites I've received in the past month.

The mosquitos are winning by the way. I guess you could say "I found the place" where I can't stop scratching. But that's a blog post for another day. I did purchase a ThermaCELL and will update you on how that's working out in a future post.

For now you can imagine me sitting in Michigan happily folding cranes while trying not to scratch my mosquito bites. I have had two bite-free days since arriving four weeks ago. LOL. Hoping for more.

Friday, July 25, 2014

I'm Michiganese!

LOL that's one of the lesser known of the many demonyms people who live in Michigan use to distinguish themselves. Most people call themselves Michiganders or Michiganites. . . But being of Japanese ancestry Michiganese feels like a better fit for me. To be more precise I'm a Michiganese Troll because that's what they call people who live below the Upper Peninsula :P

I have to say a huge THANK YOU to my friends in nine states (and several countries) and many in CA who, when they heard I was interested in relocating, offered me their guest rooms, driveways, backyards, and acreages to come stay as long as I needed to to decide if where they live is somewhere I'd like to live.

One of the first to offer was my friend Fred, aka Fred the trailer builder, who I met in person last June when I went to pick up The Glampette.

800+ spring cranes in progress

A lot of people have asked me "Why Michigan?" Well, I loved it from my first visit and found more to enjoy on each subsequent visit. Being invited to compete in ArtPrize sealed the deal. Instead of making my entry from afar then figure out how to transport it safely to Grand Rapids, it made more sense to simply do the production of my piece just a half hour away to lessen the likelihood it would be damaged or lost in transport.

Even though I did the drive to MI twice last year I have to say I was feeling so burned out and exhausted this year that I wasn't looking forward to making any more long drives on my own, anywhere.

So, after some negotiating (like how were we both going to fit in The Glampette since it's only 4'x6') and before leaving Washington, I picked Fred up at the airport. We took a slight (14 hour) detour south back to CA to attend the IRG (International Redwoods Gathering tiny trailer rally) in Carlotta just south of Eureka so we could meet a lot of our tiny trailer forum friends and see 99 other teardrop and tiny travel trailers up close and personal. I'll be doing a blog post all about the IRG in the near future. Honestly, the funniest part of the rally (to me) was that I gave Fred my "guest" bed, the 31" wide, 3" thick latex foam mattress (but he had to sleep diagonally to fit). And I slept up on my 17" wide counter, bunk bed style, on a 20" wide self-inflating camping mattress. It worked! I swear, I didn't even almost fall off. . . Not even once! I'll have a picture to show how it worked in a future post but Fred probably won't be in the shot. He's camera shy that way.

After the rally we headed east to Michigan.

And this is me in Michigan. I feel happier and healthier than I have in ages. I'm sleeping 8+ hours a night (unheard of for me), have lost about 10 pounds since my arrival, and am always full of vegetables.

Part of the reason I'm full of veggies is because a lot of my new neighbors have gardens that are currently overflowing with squash, cucumber, beans, and even some beautiful shelled garden peas. Since arriving it's been like I'm a member of a free CSA that never ends! I've been cooking up a storm and use as many veggies in each meal as possible. I also keep one or two tupperware containers full of fresh sliced and some boiled veggies (like beans and asparagus) in the fridge at all times. I pull them out with each meal and we nosh on them consuming an incredible amount of produce in just a day or two.

And this, this is my garden! Squeeeeeeeee! Once I decided I'd move to MI Fred (the builder) offered to make me a deer/rabbit/mole/vole proof garden to plant my seeds in. He'd read my blog post about The Seed Bank in Petaluma and knew that I needed a home for my seeds too, not just myself. I sent them ahead and he planted them before he left for WA so when I got here it was like *Poof* I have a garden!

In the mornings I wake up, make a cup of hot tea then wander out to weed, dig, or do whatever needs to be done that day. The plants are thriving to the point of too many seeds came up so I have to either thin and cull or thin and transplant the overflow. So far I've been transplanting because I don't want to waste a single plant.

I have to say there is no better therapy for a nature lover like me than to garden. I love getting my hands in the dirt and knowing I can cook and eat what I'm growing makes me happy beyond measure.

One of my favorite things about the garden is that it's full of tiny baby toads. They're sooooooo cute! They're itty bitty right now, some are smaller than a 25¢ piece and the rest are just a little bit bigger. The top picture gives you a sense of scale that the fly is about 1/3 the size of the little toad on the rock. I love them even more than I loved the garden snails in California :D

And though beautiful, this Japanese Beetle that came to greet me one day is bad news for any garden. I photographed him then reached out to pick him up and move him away but he started waving his hind legs at me to warn me off. I guess I was harassing him just enough. He finally flew away on his own. Good thing.

Even worse than the Japanese Beetle? Deer flies! Look at its mouth in the upper picture. Its chompers consists of two knife like apparatuses called mandibles and maxillae that cut into your skin so the females can drink your blood. I hadn't seen any and hadn't ever been bitten by one, until I was.

Not the best picture quality but here was my left shoulder and back after being bitten twice by deer flies. The first picture was taken in the bathroom before I was about to take a shower so that's why the lighting is so yellow. I wanted to be able to document how solid red the one spot was when I first noticed them that night.

The odd thing is that despite reading the bites are known to be excruciatingly painful I didn't feel them when they happened. By the next morning the red had begun to dissipate leaving a central red area ringed in pink. Lucky me that for days they remained flat, weren't sore, and didn't itch. Eventually they did begin to itch mildly. Compared to mosquito bites they weren't bad at all.

Fortunately there are lots of dragonflies around the yard since Fred's property has a marsh behind it. They're gorgeous and quite photogenic coming in or sitting pretty in the backyard for close ups. One even landed on my toe one day! I wish I'd had a camera with me to take a picture but I didn't.

One of the first mosquito bites I received minutes after arriving at Fred's house.

Speaking of mosquitos. They love to eat me too. Apparently I am very tasty. To combat them I've been using my DIY citronella/lemongrass essential oil repellant I made a few months ago, got a citronella candle, and two live citronella plants that I keep me beside me on the back deck. The spray works really well as long as I remember to use it and spray every last inch of me down with it. Miss a spot and I end up with bites on my face, sides of my hands, or wherever I missed.

But I refuse to let the bugs get me down. It's summertime and gorgeous here. The backyard is full of wildflowers, the temperatures are usually in the 70's to 80's and it rains a lot. There are night time thunder and lightening storms and short showers during the day every few days. Everywhere I look I see green. It's an emerald state. I think Michigan is like Oz but with mosquitos instead of flying monkeys. LOL

The other night we went to dinner at the Turk Lake Restaurant & Bar. It's located on Turk Lake where my friend Judy is going to have to come and go ice fishing this winter because she's always wanted to ice fish in MI in the winter :)

We went because it was Taco Tuesday! Tacos for $1 each? Sounded like a good deal. I have to say the tacos exceeded my expectation. They weren't chintzy little tacos made with cheap ingredients. They were big, tasty, full of fresh ingredients, and for 50¢ extra came with a nice container of salsa full of veggie chunks and some well chilled sour cream.

Turk Lake's sunfish are colorful, beautiful, and friendly

An added bonus was walking out back on the patio after dinner. The lake is full of fish, particularly Pumpkin Seed Sunfish that swarm around the dock. I was amazed. There were dozens of them! Later I learned it's because kids take the popcorn and bread ends from inside the restaurant and feed the fish. LOL. I'll definitely be returning to try more dishes. I read in an online review they make excellent onion rings.

The trip itself out to MI was, thankfully, uneventful. No large hailstorms like last June. It was lots of stops at gas stations and meals mostly at sandwich and coffee shops.

I still get a kick out of seeing different parts of the country. Some are so unique like the salt lakes and flats just outside of Salt Lake City, UT. Since Fred was with me I was able to take pictures from the passenger seat while he drove.

The best food I had this time out? Was definitely the fresh salad at Whole Foods in Park City, UT. The worst (delicious but least healthy) for me had to be the garlic toast covered with mashed potatoes, slathered in gravy, and topped with fried chicken at the Iron Skillet in Laramie, WY. But it tasted so good!

I also got suckered into stopping for a soft serve ice cream cone at a Little America travel center. They post billboards along the interstate to let you know how many miles away you are from enjoying a cool, refreshing ice cream cone. I had to stop. It was worth it. It was the best, or it just seemed like the best after days on the road, but it was an excellent soft serve cone. I wish I had another one right now!

I also found a bull somewhere in Nebraska. He was lying in a parking lot so I adopted him and may use him as a mascot in future travels.

The least expensive gas was also somewhere in Nebraska. . . Or maybe it was Iowa? I honestly can't remember anymore. The corn fields. . . They just blend together. I do know the most expensive gas I paid for on the whole trip was in Eureka, CA at $4.27 a gallon, and that was cheap! Well, cheaper. The first place I stopped at was charging $4.29.

But for now the travel is behind me as I fold cranes and learn how to be a farmer. My radishes are almost ready to harvest! I'll be doing a full post all about how my garden grows and start sharing some fun new recipes I've been cooking up.

And in case you were wondering. . . Wine O'clock was in the garden one evening.

For now I feel like I found the place where my I can be happy, healthy, and creative.

And how can I not be content watching fireflies light up the meadow each evening?

Future posts will detail the IRG, my new garden, and living full time from The Glampette for over six months until I was able to leave CA. I am so grateful for all of my friends and family who have been supportive beyond imagination since learning of my change of circumstance. But a special thank you to friends Carl and Kim Mindling for allowing me to park on their property since January while at the same time welcoming me to use their home as needed while I moved out of my former residence, watched Kitai decline and pass away, and for helping me find my way out of my despair enough to enter ArtPrize. If it weren't for Kim's nurturing kindness and friendship and Carl's dedicated friendship and amazing culinary skills I honestly don't know how I would have made it through those dark days and months. But that's for another day and another post with a very happy ending :)

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