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Friday, May 20, 2011

Remodel...Adding a little Lustre

I have a nice curved stairway I felt needed a little gussying up.  The previous owners had part of it carpeted but since I ripped out all the carpet upstairs and replaced it with hardwoods (piso flotantes) I figured why have the stairwell be the only place with carpet?  Besides, it was old and dirty.

Under the carpet is thick 2" planks.  I stained the planks with a dark reddish/brown color which turned out to be darn near the same color as the bannister.  Purely by accident.  Problem is...as I've told this story many times before...when you paint one room, the room next to it looks like sh_t.  So, you end up painting that room, too.   And, on it goes.

Staining the steps didn't end there because then the railings and all 108 spindles looked like sh_t.  Then, there's all the wood trim facing on the opening of the stairwell.  Oh my, the old wooden doors downstairs leading to the office and powder bath now look dreary, too.  Now that I look at them, so does the front door, and those swinging wood saloon-type doors leading into the kitchen, too.    Well, might as well do them, too.   Oh geez....when I go outside to the maids room, maids bath, and laundry, all 3 of those wood doors look pretty weathered and need a good sprucing up as well.  I'm sure I'm gonna lose a few brain cells during this process as this stain smells mighty toxic!!!  

But, I think the end result looks pretty good, dont'cha thin?  I'm not done yet, but at least I can show you what I have done thus far.

Stairwell - As I bought the house

Stairwell - with carpet removed

Stairwell - faces newly painted and steps re-stained

Front Door - Before

Front Door - After re-staining
(GRACIE!!  Get outa the picture!!)

Office door - before being re-stained

Powder Bath Door - After being re-stained
(pic of office door afterwards showed too much flash)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bonus Round!!

Two, TWO posts in ONE day!!

Thought I'd publish a few other interesting photos, sans any story behind them.

A religious school of some sort in Cuenca.  I really focus on details, don't I?


Dozen roses I bought at the flower market for $4.

This is a disco (nightclub)!!  The building connected to the airplane houses most of the disco, but the airplane itself is a bar.




Inside 'California Kitchen'.  A restaurant situated in the center of an old colonial building.  CK is owned by a couple from San Diego (where I lived for 14 years) and their son and daughter.  The ferns are REAL and you can't find ONE brown leaf on those things!!

A huuuuge magnificent chandelier dangling from the center skylight over the restaurant.  Due to the brightness, I couldn't capture the detail, but I think you get the point.

What a Pain

I'm in pain. Burnt the crap outa myself yesterday while hanging out at Piedra de Agua, a volcanic spa of mineral pools, mud baths, turkish sauna, etc. Fell asleep on a lounger but didn't feel burned...until later....than OWWWWWWWW!!!! With the thin air at our altitude of 8,200 feet the suns rays are intense. For some reason, I put sunscreen on my face and shoulders but nowhere else.  So, from the upper chest down, I'm almost a cabernet red. What a dumbass.  Hurts to touch myself. (ok, don't go there).

But, let's back up a bit.  Our 'rainy season' is technically over.  Our seasons are not classified as Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall 'all you got to do is call!!'....sorry, broke into song there.  We have 2 seasons....rainy (or wet) and dry.  Rainy is from Nov thru April.  Dry is, well if you can't figure it out.  It doesn't mean it rains all the time from Nov to April, it just means it's wetter than normal. 

So, yesterday it was nice and sunny and very warm.  So, I thought why not head to the town of Banos that has several small mineral spa resorts.  It's just a few minutes out of town and I really enjoyed it when I was there the first time last November.

Since I now have a car, I explored the village a little bit more before stopping at the spa.  It's situated on a steep hill, and at the top stands a majestic cathedral.  The vistas are stunning.  I can't repeat enough just how beautiful the topography is here.  I'm from an area (Pacific Northwest, Washington) where I was surrounded by mountains, hills, valleys, rivers, etc.  But, there's something very different here.  Reminds me a lot of Switzerland.

So, enjoy these pics I took before I burnt myself to a crisp.


The town of Banos

The Hills are Alive!!

Cathedral at the top of the hill overlooking Banos below and Cuenca in the distance.


I always feel guilty taking pics inside the sanctuary.

Do you get the feeling they're religious around here???

Farmers market outside the cathedral.

This thing burned me!!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hitting the Motherlode

I'm gonna freak your freak!!!

Well, if you read my previous post, you'll know the answer to the following question.  Where did I go at 9am this morning (Friday)?

BINGO!!!   I was at Artesa at 9am precisely so I could be one of the first people to get into the 2nds room...where all the pottery/dishes exist that have some minor flaw that didn't pass inspection, but are perfectly fine for the non-discerning person.  I expected there to be several people waiting for the same thing and I didn't want someone to get something I wanted ahead of me.  Sounds like a 50% off ladies lingerie sale at Macy's, huh?  And, I envisioned this to be just a room with a small assortment of items to choose from...a room that remains unaccessible all but for 3 hours on Fridays only.

I was wrong.  Maria, the sole person who runs the front store said 'follow me'.  Out the door we went, Maria locking the store behind her, then into an adjacent large warehouse where all the pottery is made.  Thousands of items were stacked on pallets, all white, waiting to be hand-painted, and cooked in huge kilns.  A handful of artists were at their workstations dutifully painting.  Artesa exports their art all over the world, so maybe you've seen some in stores?  No, you can order anything online.  Through some doors, and more doors, we finally came to the 2nds 'room'.   It must've been 50 ft long and stuffed with hundreds and hundreds of items of all shapes, sizes, and colors.  Mugs, vases, plates, coffee cups, salt/pepper shakers, platters, bowls, tureens, pitchers, creamers...the list goes on and on.   Maria informed me most of the items were 70% of retail price.  For example, she said, a coffee cup normally going for $5 would be $2.   I thought about her math later and realized it was neither 70% of retail, nor 70% discounted.  Oh well.

I arrived at 9am.  I left at 10:30am!!   I shared this vast room with a couple pouring over the shelves over and over and over....each time spotting something new.  The couple was there before I was, and was still ensconced when I left.

I gradually eliminated the items I didn't want and styles I wasn't crazy about.  That narrowed the choices down from a thousand to, ohhh, several hundred.   There were stacks of dishes everywhere and it was quite a tight space.  I kept fearing my big ass was going to hit something and the whole thing would go down like dominos!!!  Finally, I picked my pattern and rummaged through all the stacks to find a complete set of 6 matching plates, for example.  Some had a chip or the color wasn't as vibrant, etc and those were rejected.  When I was done I had TWENTY SIX items!!!   I called Maria in to give me the total price so I could tell whether I was over/under budget (like I had one!).  We took everything into the shipping room where she wrote down the items and went back to her office to run the totals.   While she was gone, a packer was packing everything up and boxing it for me.  I thought...great...what if I don't want to pay the price and want to put something back on the shelf?  And, during this time, I was crunching numbers in my head.   Let's figure $10 per plate, so much for this, $30 for the tureen, and so on until I roughly guestimated $300 retail price.  70% of $300 is $210.    Hmmmm....not great....but okay.   I only had $150 cash on me.  I asked Maria if she took debit cards?  No...cash only.   But, she said, don't worry...it'll be cheap!!!

Maria returned.  The time had come.  She showed me the invoice.   WHAT!!!!!

.....
...........
..................
............................
...........................................

$69.38

You gotta be kidding me!!!  Maria speaks broken English, so when she said 70% of retail price...she meant 70% OFF retail price!!!  OMG!!!

I felt like rushing back in to get some more!!  But, there's always next Friday!!

Christmas orders anyone?  

Enjoy the pics.
The factory.

Waiting to be painted.

Darn!!  My camera lense must've been dirty.

Welcome to the 2nds Room!!!

Young man wrapping up my stash...even before I knew what it was going to cost.

One of my favorite tables in the retail store.


My stash laid out at home!   Includes 6 dinner plates and 6 bowls.  I paid less for all this than I did for one mural plaque shown in a previous post!!!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Artesan Finds

Now that I have everything painted, the furniture in place, and plants galore, it's time to add some accents and spruce up those blank walls.   I've been looking for authentic local-made Ecuadorian art, not Made in China.   It's not as easy as it might sound.  There's plenty of ticky-tacky stuff around here and I'm picky (big surprise).  I heard of a local artesan factory and went to check it out.  It's actually very close to my house.   WOW....what beautiful stuff they make and have for sale in their storefront.  Everything is hand molded, fired, painted, right down to the finish product in this one building. 

Here's some pics of the place and a few of the items I purchased.   They have a 'seconds' room where (supposedly) flawed items that didn't pass inspection are available for discounted prices on Fridays only, from 9am-12pm only.  Guess where I'll be on Friday?

Lamps, wall plaques, murals, vases, bowls, coffee cups, plates, salt/peppers....it's all here.

Each piece is signed and stamped 'made in Cuenca, Ecuador'.

My favorite design.  Really like the bright, bold colors.   I bought the large, tallest vase ($30) and 2 sets of large coffee cups w/saucers ($12).

I purchased this ceramic mural.  It's about 14" x 18".

Wrapping up my purchases.

My vase.  Cobalt blue (hard to see).  That's Sydney in the background (RIP Babycakes).

Large coffee cups.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Day Trip - Gualaceo

Now that I have a car, I decided to take a little day drive outside of Cuenca, to Gualaceo (Wall A Say Oh) and Paute (Pow ooo Teh).   In the photos below, you'll see just how beautiful the topography is.  Large looming hills make dots of peoples' homes.  Of course, every town has its church anchored around the main square.  And, there seems to always be rivers. 

The central church of Gualaceo


Close-up shot of the details on the front door.  Look back at the picture before this and take note just how large these doors are..see the people approaching on the right??

Inside this quaint little chapel.  HA!!


I'm actually high up on one of the hillsides looking down at the river below, but this picture doesn't quite capture the height.


Again, look at the size of the buildings in relation to the drama of the hills.

Paute.  Those are greenhouses below, growing roses, orchids, and zillions of tomatos amongst many other things I'm sure.


Purty, ain't it?


You see this all the time around here....houses dotting the hillsides.  You wonder how people get up there as there are few roads to be found.  Sometimes, just trails or dirt tracks.


Arts/Crafts I've Purchased...so far

3D rendering in ceramic of the Cathedral in Cuenca

3D rendering in ceramic


Two small plaques of indigenous women

Ceramic Vase
Stained glass showing an indigenous woman in ponytails, carrying her baby and pots she made to the market to sell.

About Me

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Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Cuenca and greater Ecuador. I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live here.

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