Wednesday, September 30, 2009


It's done. It's done!

I can't believe it's done. 120 pages.

Oh, the things I missed when I was writing! Look at the cuteness.

Tonight, for the first time in three weeks, I came home, and I didn't have any student work to analyze... no research to summarize.... no deadline hanging over my head...

I came home tonight and (you know what's coming) went into the garden. Our pumpkins are doing spectacularly! I always thought Tommy picked pumpkins to plant because he wanted to make jack-o-lanterns at Halloween. When we checked on their progress he got very excited about several that are BIG and turning ORANGE. As you might expect, from a pumpkin. Anyway, he was going on about how great, and when would they all be orange, and just when I was about to say how great it will be to have our own pumpkin patch at Halloween, he shouted over the greenery, "How many pumpkin pies do you think you'll make?!?"

Hmmmm.... was not expecting that. Here's what I know about making pumpkin pie from actual pumpkins: . Yes, that's absolutely nothing. But I like a challenge, so we'll see how it goes.

And then I came into the house, set down my harvest, and made a double-batch of pesto. I packed up several thousand pages of math and put it in the garage for a little timeout. I'll want to look again, always curious, but right now I need a recess from dealing with it. A box in the garage works for me.

Then a slow and quiet tour of the house... my feet sticking to the kitchen flour; toys and blankets and unmade beds mixed with stacks of notes, rough drafts, and crumbs. Dishes sprinkled throughout the house. Towels on the bathroom floor. How long had I been asleep?

No worries. The nesting has already begun, and it feels oh so sweet.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Boy

Tommy was a late reader, so this makes me very, very, very happy! When he was in Kindergarten, his teacher was assessing him on his letter-sound recognition, and after pointing at a few, with nothing but puzzlement and denials from Tommy, he finally looked are her and said, "I don't know any of these noises!" That just tickled her to death. I was....less gleeful.

But she was right. It's impossible not to giggle when that kid gets going. He so original, I just love it. The other night I looked at him, and I just had to ask, "Did you go to school like that?"

"Yep," he said, walking away, completely non-plussed. He was wearing, for the record, a pair of brown pants that had been cut (and subsequently frayed, a la Huck Finn) by me in preparation for turning them into shorts. The raw edge hit him at about mid-calf. The rest of his ensemble included shoes without socks, a cowlick, and an inside-out striped polo shirt. I asked if he had noticed that his shirt was inside out. Did not notice. Also, did not care. We're lucky the school didn't call the police.

He also has been telling me lately that when he grows up, he's going to have 6 kids...5 boys and 1 girl, named Mia. This, I actually believe. He LOVES kids. Always has. Wanted us to have about six, actually, but that' Yesterday, on the way to school, he asked me where babies come from. I'm sure there's some technical response I should have prepared (he's nine now, and bound to ask) but instead, I just told him that you have to grow up, and fall in love, and then you get married (couldn't resist!) and put all of your love in one place. That's called a "baby".

He looked down and said, "Well, then you had to take half that love to make Scotty."

"Oh, never!" I said. "When we made you, it made even MORE love. Loving you made so much extra love, we had enough to make a whole other person. That's how we got Scotty." That seeemed to satsify.

I've always thought he would make a great teacher, too. Math, I think, as he is a math genius, I do not exaggerate, but he also leans toward history. Good for you, son, can't stand it myself. Here he is teaching me to read music and play drums. Apparently, I need to practice this section.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I'm one of these people who likes to read scary stories and watch scary movies. A lot. I'm not talking Saw or Hostile or any of the slasher stuff (don't get me wrong, though, I've watched parts of them, they just don't hold my interest). I'm mostly talking about those movies that make you jump out of your seat, or hide behind your fingers.

Do you know, when I was very young (6? 7?), my mom took my brother and I to the drive-in theater and we saw Rosemary's Baby? Clearly, I've got some sort of gene for this. My mom also saw The Exorcist, right around that same time, I think. Good sense prevailed, apparently, because I don't remember watching it myself until I was much older, but I do remember very clearly the after-effects of the movie at our house. How my mom would lie awake at night, listening to a mouse rattling around in the attic, imagining that it was....well, I didn't know what she thought it was, because I hadn't seen the movie, but I knew it was very not good, whatever it was.

Just like my mom, I read scary books and watch scary movies, and just like my mom, I freak myself out when I'm alone, long after the last page is turned or credits roll. Just last night, I had to walk to my own bed in the dark, and I just could not bring myself to stand next to the bed. I jumped at it from a distance of 3 feet. Nearly took out Scotty and my husband's ankle, but I won't apologize for having a survival instinct.

Anyway, the point is, I'm totally addicted to both True Blood and Dexter. And, no surprise, so is my mom. So, just a couple of months ago, my mom starts talking about the "Twilight" series. I understand it's quite the phenomena! Me? I've never read the books. But Erik, of all people, saw it on NetFlix and added it to our queue. He's not even the horror fan that I am, but he appreciates a pop-culture smackdown as much as anyone I know.

Here's my mom's review of the books: First half, sucks. Second half, great.

Here's my review of the movie: Huh?

Seriously. What is the hubbub all about? I don't know, maybe I just like my vampires half-clothed and violent. What can I say? I'm old-school. All this teen-angst vampire stuff? Do not get it. Halfway through the movie (and shortly after the LAST TIME I could possibly watch Kristin Stewart go for 'sultry' in her method acting) Erik and I looked at each other and started laughing.

We even, at one point, started checking around for online reviews of this movie, wondering how it got past our radar with no indication that it was total crap, and we came across what is easily the best review of any movie, bar none, in the history of Hollywood. A true fan, a serious buff of the books, who was fairly disappointed in certain aspects of the adaptation, started her review with, "Edward's sparkle failed to dazzle."

I cannot tell you how often I've thought of this exact phrase in the last couple of months. It completely sums up a surprising variety of situations! It pops into my head whenever I think of just the ultimate in nitpicking. I mean, come on... the acting was laughable, the plot was haphazard, the ending was abrupt...then drawn out beyond reason...the list of things wrong with this movie was spectacular but, no, the assault, in her mind, was the lack of dazzle in Edward's sparkle when he was exposed to the sun. It still makes me laugh!
Currently, it combined with the comments from this post (from both Betty and Patty) to make me rethink how critical I've been with my sewing projects. Honestly, I've sewed more in the last year than in my entire life combined. I took a class last year to learn how to make a pillow, and I've just fooled around and read and got some tutoring from my friend Monica, and who am I to critique such a new hobby?

Patty's comment, particularly, reminded me of something that happened when I first showed Monica the quilt top I got back from the round robin I just finished. There was a spot, in the blue border, where a small tag of fabric didn't catch in the seam, and it was protruding a bit from the join. She smiled and ran her hand over it. "You can fix this, if you want to..."

"Absolutely not!" I huffed, snatching away my quilt. She laughed and said she wouldn't fix it either. She said that the Amish purposely put at least one mistake in every quilt, because they say "only God is perfect". I've always told people, when handing off my less-than-perfect creations, that "the love is in the mistakes".

So, I present you with the latest additions to my botanically-themed applique. Their sparkle no longer fails to dazzle me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Autumn Harvest

It's hot this week! I'm really grateful...I think this mini heatwave is just what the garden needs. You should see our pumpkins! Tommy is very excited, as he tends to think of them as 'his'. Because he picked out the start at the store, when I first started working on the garden.'s an interesting lesson, really. If you buy it, and pick it when it's ripe, what did you learn about tending it? Not so much, really. Scotty is the one who loves to work in the garden. More specifically, he loves to water it. Between the two of them, I have one wee-farmer.

On Sunday, I took a break from my writing project (oh, deadline, you taunt me so) and headed out to the veggies. I do hope these garden posts aren't getting boring! I just can't get enough of the garden, so I apologize if I drone on.

On many days, the most time I get to spend in the garden is the few minutes spent watering it. I can see the raised beds from the kitchen table, and also through my bedroom window (a longtime favorite spot for daydreaming, for me). So I often admire from a distance the far-reaching arms of the pumpkin plant ~ they are almost to the pond on one side, far up and across the patio out the back, and running roughshod through the tomato patch on the other side! ~ or the towering heights of the eggplants, and the proliferation of yellow flowers on the tomato plants.

But there is something so mesmerizing about really getting out there, about standing in the garden, with all of the garden on you and about you. Today I watched ladybugs and bumble bees, and, goodness even yellowjackets, and oh my gosh the ants! There is so much life in the garden. And, when I really got in there and rearranged some foppish limbs, and pulled the white flowers off the basil (which, btw, I just this year learned is the key to an ever-expanding basil plant!), and cut off any damaged leaves from a variety of was in there, with the creatures and the fresh smell of basil and tangle of plants that I found so much goodness! Yellow crook-necked squash, freshly turned tomatoes, a half dozen lemon cucumbers, and four gorgeous eggplants (my first of the season!) came inside with me!

I have more and more pumpkins; it seems daily that I find another in a different spot. I'll have to get some pictures next time, as the size differences in these things is astounding. I only planted one pumpkin plant, but they are all over the block...I guess I thought they'd grow more uniformly? Also, there are dozens of lemon cucumbers that are very close to ready, and a half-dozen (at least!) eggplant that will be picked by the end of this week. And a couple of surprises, which I've got to get figured out, so I know when to harvest them! I'll post some pictures later this week, and perhaps you can set me straight?

As for today, my favorite tomato and cucumber salad is coming to work with me. Heavenly!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Final Block

Maia sent me this adorable picture of my favorite pup, Miss Chula! Chula loves the blanket I made for Maia and Lenny....just look at her all cozied up and adorable. Oh, this dog, she is so unbelievably cute! She's called a Maltese, I think, but I can tell you from experience that not every Maltese is this cute. During the time that they were planning their wedding, Maia was living here and Lenny was already living in London, so we got to spend many a Friday night with Chulita chasing our boys and curled up for movie time.

Too much cuteness!

That picture cheered me up so much! Yesterday was hard, and today was long, but look at that face! I think I finally have the emotional strength to share the final block of our running-themed round robin.

This is Jessica's finished block. I mailed it out on Tuesday, which means she'll probably have it by this weekend. I'm so nervous!

I thought I was done here, with three bigger feet on the bottom, and three smaller pairs on the top. I hung it up and passed by it a dozen times, from every angle, and I decided it couldn't possibly be done until I added a fourth foot on the bottom.

I really like the way the 'folded ribbon' looks going down the side, but it was never my intention to do the folded ribbon on all four sides. I had originally thought that the folded ribbons would fade into 'rolling paths' across the top and bottom, and I was going to put the feet on top of the path, running along. In the end, the path didn't work. Though I still think that could have been great.

Jessica's original block used turquoises, white, and red. It had two feet in the center. I really wanted to pull in some of the original colors, and use the feet again to tie it all together. I think picking the colors for the feet was the hardest part. In addition to trying to use fabric she had sent with the block, I added purple, because of the border ribbons.

I just don't know. Erik was very critical of my choices. He kept saying I was 'ruining' it. OMG. Seriously? I'm already a nervous wreck!!! (He's not a jerk, though this makes him sound like a jackass! I can't explain was partly funny, and partly horrifying, the way he kept saying it.) So the center feet and red border was Jessica, the flower embroidery and striped-flowers fabric was added by Brit, and Juls did the green and purple window-panes on the bottom, with a red border. I had to cut the red border down, since it was the same size as the final border I was adding. My addition is the green boarder with purple folded-ribbons down two sides and running feet along two sides.

I guess I was torn because I wanted to bring back some of the design elements that she had started with...things like the turquoise, and the feet. But what I'm second-guessing is, I don't know if that worked with the other additions. Should I have just done something totally different? I mean, my block didn't look anything like what I would have imagined. (Largely because 'my' contribution was not the center block! It was, in fact, Jessica who made the brilliant creative decision to add on a second block, rather than a border around the block I made.) (Does that mean she would approve of divergent creative decisions?) (I have my fingers crossed that it means exactly that!)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I love when he falls asleep and I count his little freckles. I love the freckles that 'run together', two or three freckles becoming one big smudge of a freckle.

Freckle. That's a weird word.

Scotty got hurt at school on Monday. About 10 minutes before I picked him up, he slipped on some tanbark and landed, face first, into the concrete passway. He bit his lip, and although it appears that his teeth have suffered no permanent damage, the gums around his two front teeth were black and blue bruised.

They iced it, and made an incident report, but when he woke up yesterday morning his lip was HUGE. HUGE I say! It totally changed the way he looked. I kept looking at him, and thinking, that doesn't look like him. Not at all. He kind of looked like a character in the Planet of the Apes movies.

He woke up this morning, and went to school. Erik dropped him off, and 20 minutes later I got a call on my cell, asking me what happened to Scotty's mouth. Um....he fell. He fell at school.

Well, he doesn't go to school on Tuesdays, he hangs out with Grandma, and there's different people in the afternoon than in the morning, and boy was I glad they had bothered to fill out an incident report! Did they think we had caused this fat lip?!?

By the time I got home tonight**, he was looking very close to "Scotty-like" to me. Oh, thankfully!

** I shouldn't even be talking right now, because I'm such a grump that I have nothing nice to say about my very bad, no good, rotten and horrible day. When it takes 90 minutes to go 25 miles, AND it makes me so late that I can't pick up my kids in time, SO my husband has to pick up the kids, WHICH I know won't kill anyone, BUT I don't want my kids to have to be the last ones in day care, NOT that there's anything wrong with that if that's how you have to do it, BUT I don't usually have to do it, so it was causing me, frankly, quite a bit of anxiety. It turns out this anxiety morphed into general unease and disappointment for the evening. I keep seeing things I want to do...need to do. And I keep not having time to do it. *sigh* It's this writing project, which is really a lot of work, and late meetings, and working all day at a job that's really pretty hard, and all I want to do is make three loaves of banana nut bread, wrap a new warp, patch my couch, and make pesto for preserving. So, all week, I've been poking and prodding along at small small chores, trying to ground myself in my home, with my family, but'm left feeling pretty fragmented.

So, I'm going to go count some freckles.


Some cotton yarn I purchased came in the mail yesterday. I LOVE the blue, persimmon, green, and yellow, and I love them all together. I bought them to go with the orange, which is too flourescent for my tastes. I'm going to try it in small doses for a project I've had on my mind for some time now (hence, the online spree), but I have my doubts! The charcoal and chocolate and black with the camel color in the back row are much closer to my personal palate aesthetic, so who knows how this other thing will turn out?

The sun was back yesterday, a beautiful autumn day with a high sun and a low breeze and I enjoyed every moment of it. When I headed out back to check the garden, I found some actual storm damage! It was so exciting! Like a real farm! A whole section of one of the tomato plants and an entire arm of the biggest basil bush had snapped off and were laying in the dirt.

I pulled the green cherry tomatoes and stripped the basil leaves off their stems. I've had no time to deal with much in the kitchen. I have banana nut bread I need to make, salsa I want to make before my few tomatoes go bad, and now I'd like to make some pesto with this basil. Hopefully the green tomatoes will turn red on the counter. I don't usually do it that way, but I know people do.

Have you seen this TV Guide channel? There's usually an info-mercial or some celebrity gossip thing running in the background, while a channel guide scrolls very slowly at the bottom?

When we went to see Gram on Sunday, Tommy was trying to find a cartoon channel. They don't have our cable system in her rehab room, so he couldn't just flip through a menu like we do at home. I showed him this channel, and how he could see what was on by watching the scroll at the bottom. If you catch the scroll when it's showing you channel 3 or 4, and are hoping to see what's on a channel in, say, the fifties, it can seem like an eternity to wait for it to scroll through. Especially if you are nine years old! As I watched him, he put his right index finger on the screen, and started 'flicking' it up, and away from him.

I watched him do this two or three times, and then I realized that he was trying to change the screen like you do on an iPhone, or anything with a touchscreen, where you can see what's on the bottom of the page by moving your finger around on the screen! Oh, it just tickled me!

I did some work for a district in my area, training some teachers in, what else, math, and they had a keynote speaker that day from Apple. I enjoyed her stories quite a bit, and one thing that she said in particular stuck with me. Now, she's talking to about 500 teachers. Teachers are sort of notoriously low-tech, or tech-resistant.

[Example: I work at schools where you can't send staff updates or bulletins by email because, despite the fact that the schools are all fitted with wireless internet connections and the district provides both web-based and machine-based email options, there is a good percentage of teachers on staff who "don't know how" to check their email. To check email! Imagine!]

This thing that the keynote speaker said, was that technology is something that didn't exist (or, more precisely, the technologies weren't popularly available) when you were born. interesting! That means to kids, even a kindergartener, computers aren't technology! Internet access is not technology! Isn't that a funny way to see things? For my mom, ATMs are technology. For me, remote controls are technology. But for my kids, it's things like touch-screens and embedded multimedia, 3G networks...

Tommy had an idea the other day on how to use air harnessed from windmills to make a hovercraft. Holy cow.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lucky, I Tell You!

I am one lucky sap. You wouldn't believe it, seriously. I'm lucky in love, lucky that I found work that inspires me, lucky to have so many riches...lucky to believe that none of them are as important as how I treat others and the wouldn't believe how wonderful my friends are.

So then, on top of just supreme happiness (hate me, if you must, I would understand) once in a while something ridiculously over the top happens. Like, remember the time I entered that giveaway and won that adorable package from Kim at Daisy Cottage?

You won't believe it, but I entered another giveaway over at one of my very favorites, Rosehip...and I won! Shut. Up. It's true! What are the chances?

It's an embarrassment of riches, really.

This giveaway was for nearly six yards of fabric. Swoon! And not just any fabric, but vintage and new pieces that make me so happy! Having sweated and labored through the fabric shop more than once, for many a project, I can tell you sincerely, this is a gift. I'm not sure if I'll have this eye for color and design, but I happily soak it up from those who do!

Beata is so dang talented. Her craftsmanship just shames me, I assure you. When you get a chance, check out these adorable heart pillows and these super sweet babushkas. You can visit her Etsy Shop to find your own treasures, but they move fast, I must warn you.

The credit for this photo goes to Beata herself (you can tell it's not mine because it's, you know, pretty) to go with the many bundles of fabric she both gaveaway and sold in her Etsy Shop. When anything is made from these adorable fabric packs, it can be added to the Blueberry Patchwork flickr pool or the Strawberry Patchwork flickr pool (which can be found in her sidebar). If you can believe it, there is more than enough fabric in this bundle to make this beautiful patchwork quilt top...

Oh the pressure! I only hope I can do justice to all this deliciousness! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Beata, from the bottom of my heart!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Thunder and Lightning!

Tommy and I went to see Gram today. He insists. I'm glad.

When we got there, she was at physical therapy. She used a walker to stroll back to her room for lunch. She is amazing! And her teeth were in this time, so Tommy was generally less alarmed. You can't tell, because I refuse to emoticon here, but I'm cracking up when I write that. Everything is sunnier when you've got your choppers on!

Here she is graciously accepting the gift of some Yugi-Oh cards from Tommy. He thought she might be in the mood to duel, but was easily convinced that getting to push her around in the wheelchair is, like, way better.

As I write this, I am listening to the rain. Oh, yes, the rain! Thunder and lightning and everything, this whole weekend! I'm feeling so schizophrenic about the weather...on the one hand, I'm bummed about the rain, because I wasn't prepared for it and I've left some tools out and certainly the patio furniture hasn't been battened down in the least. I'm also hoping for several more weeks of fairly warm ~ hot would be even better! ~ weather so my garden has as much opportunity to 'turn' as possible. (Though I swear, I peaked outside tonight using the porch light, and I believe all plants have grown about a foot taller since the rain started!)

On the other hand, despite this strong desire for more heat, I can't deny that fall is my most favorite time of the year. I love the turning of the weather, the long sleeves, the hot chocolate, the pumpkins, the clouds, and, yes, the first rains. I love it just like it is tonight, with all of us toasty and cozy and the sound of the rain pittering and pattering away. Heavenly!

I spent the weekend mostly inside (besides being gone most of the day, today...not complaining, though, because I really only have the weekends to see my grandma. Did I mention how happy I am that Tommy doesn't just deign to go, but happily, merrily, insistently tags along? So happy.) I worked on my applique project while we visited. I don't have much to report on that at the moment, but I will confess that the orange trio is shaping up to be my very favorite!

And I worked on a baby quilt. I'm really just designing it right now, but I moved from all-out patchwork to being inspired by pi. We'll see! I'm sure it will change a dozen more times before I really get down to it.

And I sewed up some (very simple) curtains for my dear friend Dana's son's bedroom. He'll be two in February, and he just got a "Cars" themed bedroom makeover. Oh, he's happy! Scotty was also very excited...'Are you making me a flag, Mommy?!?' Uh. Well....I am now! Just give me a minute, son.

And I finished my contribution to Jessica's block for the Running Round Robin. I'm sending it out in the mail tomorrow, and a proper update will follow, no doubt. I need to sit with this one for a few days, though, as Erik has made many, many comments about it this weekend, culminating last night (as I put the finishing touches on) with, "Huh. It's not nearly as bad as I thought it would be."

I should add that that positive comment was a compromise, after many coaching sessions, based off of what not to say to me when I'm already way over my head in a project I'm already scared to death I may possibly be ruining.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Happy Happy!

Today is my mom's birthday! Happy birthday, Mom!

In honor of my mom, I will share with you Crazy, in three acts.

Act One

Email I got from my mom, while I was in Oregon:

ia went to hang a picture that i had taken out of the :guest" bathroom and i cant find it, have you seen it it;s a picture of pots of geraniums. hope you are having better weather than we are!
My response:

I can kind of picture it, but I haven't seen it. I don't have it, but I wouldn't mind if I did! haha
The weather is hot! It's been in the low 90s, but it sounds like that should break to high 70s by tomorrow or Friday. What about you? In the 200s? I miss you!
Note the punctuation. And the capital letters.

Then I got this email from her, the next morning:

i'm sorry but i won't be able to watch scotty anymore, they are coming to take me away. i found the picture, hanging exactly where i wasnted to hang it. so sad to lose your mind.

That's right. My mother, who is crazy, was looking for a picture, which she subsequently found, in the place she wanted to hang the picture.

Act Two

It was about a week later that I was walking by a bird cage in the backyard, when I saw a dove with IT'S HEAD ON UPSIDE DOWN. I couldn't make this up.

"Oh my god! Mom! There is something wrong with this bird!" I yelled from the yard, panic-stricken. I had my fingers wrapped into the wire of the cage, trying to see if an animal had somehow forced it's way through and hurt this poor creature.

She appeared on the back porch, standing at the door. Sighing. "No," she said, "It's okay. I really didn't want you to see that."

"What do you mean? What's wrong with this thing?"

"Well, Bev called me, and she was really upset because she had this dove that has neurological problems... [there was more here, but I couldn't hear it over my laughing] ... It's not funny! And anyway... Stop laughing! ... Oh forget it, I know you're going to blog about this. Just. He's going to live, he just has problems!"

Just like every other animal on her farm.


Act Three

I am taking my mom to see Gram, who is in the hospital in Sacramento. It's about 100 degrees in the shade, we're in the mini-van, and we're by ourselves. I type the hospital's address into the gps, and we head off.

My mom is the type of person who doesn't understand 'direction'. Like, if you tell her to head south on a freeway, she loses her mind. "Is that toward Walnut Creek or San Jose?" It's just south, ma, go south.

My dad drives. Unless he's not there, then I drive. If I can't be there, we put Scotty in charge.

As I'm getting off the freeway, at the exit prescribed by the gps, she starts to panic. "This isn't the exit your dad used...he took that one, where the arena is..." She's suddenly sitting upright, pawing at the window.

"It's okay, ma, it's just one exit down, it doesn't matter which one we use."

"Yes...yes, it does matter, we have to go by the arena!" She's decombusting now, and her voice is getting louder and shriller.

"It's fine. Look," I say, merging into the street traffic after exiting per the gps instructions, "The arena is, like, right over there, somewhere, we're just further up the same street."

"No! No it's not, Mia! The arena is NOT right there, I don't see anything, Idon'tseeanythingatall! Where are we? This is wrong! This is wrong!! This is wrong!!!"

Now I'm getting pissed, because O.M.G., lady, you have lost your mind. "Mom! Stop it! Stop it right now, we are just fine!"

"We're NOT fine, we're nowhere near where we are supposed to be! It's all...wait. There's the hotel we stayed at....oh...okay, there's the Target we stopped at.... I think I recognize that movie theater."

Now she's all better, melting back into the seat, and checking her email on her phone. Me? I'm about to burst a blood vessel in my eye.

The End

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


So much to do! I've got a writing deadline for the end of this month. I contribute to a project that analyzes student work (math, of course!) and makes 'tools for teachers' to help us look at how students are approaching problem solving situations, and how we can create experiences that improve student understanding.

I'm a ludite when it comes to looking at student work. I use paper and tally marks and I insist on looking at every paper they write on. There are so many scantron/standardized/multiple choice hey-can't-the-computer-sort-that-for-me kind of options that it may seem pathetically old-school to do it the way I do, but you can't beat it for really getting your head around what is happening in a seven year old kid's mind.

In the picture above, you can see the one nod to new iPhone! A completely necessary tool for writing, as it allows me to listen to the This American Life podcast. Nothing would happen without it!

Tonight I took a break from writing to force myself to make a decision about the round robin block I'm working on. The last one! Don't let it end! Jessica doesn't read this, so I feel assured that this won't ruin any surprises. Besides, all the steps leading up to mine have been documented.

Here's my new sewing nook. LOVE having the ironing table right next to the sewing machine, with this silly swivel chair! The table is long enough for the cutting mat, too, so I just wheel around, from place to place, measuring and cutting/sewing/ironing. I can't recommend this set up enough!

You would not believe me if I told how lucky I got with the measurements on this border. I was supposed to measure for repeats and there was some talk about 'coping strips', but in the end, after staring at it for three days, I just started cutting and sewing.

The borders? Fit like a glove. It's truly unbelievable. I'm not EVEN done, there is a major design element I haven't even touched yet, but I was just so pleased with how this 'folded ribbon' border came together...I love it! It's my first crack at a pieced border. I'm a fan.

And, for your listening pleasure, I present Babysitting, which is easily one of the funniest things I've ever heard. If you've ever been babysat by an older sibling (or Honie, who lived with Gram), then you'll love the first story. I can remember being left with Honie, and he had a 'three strikes you're out policy'. He lined us up like suspects on Gram's scratchy green couch in East Oakland, and if you talked, fidgeted, or breathed wrong, you'd get two warnings and then, on the third one, he'd whip you with a wet handtowel. The last story on this segment is truly mesmerizing. It's old, like a few years old, but I go back and listen to it a couple times a year.

Don't you just love a good story? Me too!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Every night, I tuck My Boys into their beds. Just about every night, by the time I make my way back to go to sleep, I stumble upon this. In my bed. Make yourself comfy, son.

Last night, I finally crawled into bed around 2 am. Don't ask. I then tossed and turned and fidgeted. I tried counting sheep, I tried reading. I could hear Scotty tossing and turning in the next room.

At 3:30, I went into his room, crawled into his bed, and waited for him to curl into me. Worked like a charm. Two hours of sleep, by the way? Not enough.

On days like today, where I'm working hard, on little sleep, with no end in sight, I am so grateful to have some infrastructure in place. It just saves me! Truthfully, it saves all of us.

This basil plant is my first successful foray into basil. I've tried to grow it three times, and it sucks every time. This time, I planted 4 basil starts. By far, this is my go-to-gal, my Super Star. But, I didn't even need this one for the pesto I made Sunday...I used my second-stringers, and still made enough for my favorite pasta dish, and had a pint leftover. I'll tackle this one when I have time to bust out some pesto for preserving...that should be...uh...I'll keep you posted.

When I stumbled, bleary-eyed, from Scotty's bedroom just before sun-up this morning, I was happy to find some leftovers that quickly went into my portable pyrex for the day. I have absolutely no idea where this recipe came from, originally. It's possible I made it up. Largely because it's so simple. My favorite kind.

You can use a jar of pesto from the store, or make your own. Pesto is so easy to make, but if you're counting calories, I say buy it pre-made. See, this way, you remain unaware of exactly how much oil it takes to make this simple paste. By keeping yourself uninformed, you are excused from the accountability of eating it in copious amounts. You're welcome!

To make pesto you will need basil, walnuts, extra virgin olive oil, fresh shredded parmesan, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Using a food processor, pulse 1/2 cup of walnut pieces. "Classic" pesto uses pine nuts, but they are expensive, and require a 'special trip'. Hello, walnuts.

Take a bunch of store-bought basil, or collect some from your garden...I use one of those glass, two-cup measuring cups, and it's plenty. Break off most of the stems, rinse it well. Pulse it in with the walnuts.

Add minced garlic. Your call, I use three cloves. (Okay. Look. I'll just say it. The clove is one of the pieces, not the whole bulb, which is made up of many cloves. Wish somebody had been this explicit with me, the first time I made gaspacho, when I was 17. Just saying.) Keeping the food processor running, steadily pour in the extra virgin olive oil. I use 1/3 cup. (After adding the oil, I always have to use a silicon spatula here, turning off the food processor first, to scrape down the sides and get it all pushed in to mix correctly. Pulse a few times.) Add about 1/3 cup of the parmesan. Then another pinch. Then another pinch.

Taste it...if it's too 'green-y' (I don't know how else to describe it! You'll know if it's too...much) start adding salt and pepper until tastes good. Pinch of salt, sprinkle of pepper usually does it for me.

That's it! Now, for the easiest pesto-based meal ever:

Boil a pound of bow tie pasta, according to package. Drain and rinse. Toss with the pesto to coat. (I use about half of the recipe above.)
Take a bunch of grape tomatoes, cut into halves, and cook in a frying pan in balsamic vinegar and salt until the skins split and they are softening (but don't go into mushy territory!).
Toss the tomatoes into the pasta.

To eat as a pasta 'salad', chill the whole thing. Sprinkle with feta cheese when you're ready to eat.

To eat as a hot dish, heat a sweet or spicy sausage, dice it up, mix it in. Sprinkle with feta cheese when you're ready to eat.

Tastes good for lunch, then dinner, then lunch, then dinner, and, today, lunch again. Enjoy!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Weekend

What a lovely weekend. mmmmm....that extra day! On Saturday, Tommy and I took a roadtrip up to see Gram. He loves her so. They have a very special bond, and they are so sweet together. He was really upset when he first saw her, because he could tell she was in pain, and he's certainly not used to seeing her bed-bound. But within just a few minutes, he was chatting her up and they had a grand visit. He asked if he could go back today, but scheduling didn't work, so I promised to take him back next Saturday morning.

Oh, I love that kid. And that woman.

The rest of the weekend was a funny mix! On Saturday, Erik and Scotty had a wonderful time, and Tommy and I had a wonderful time too! Tommy's friend came over, and all the boys played so well together. At one point, two boys visiting our neighbor also came over, and I was stunned when all five boys were playing together so nicely, and so quietly, that I was actually sorry to see 3/5 of them go. Sort of. haha That night was cold ~ rain would not have surprised me! ~ and we cuddled up.

Sunday was sunny, but we had just about a polar opposite mood in the house. Tommy woke up on the wrong side of the bed, Scotty was whiney, and I was extremely grumpy. Erik took the boys to the movies, I adjusted my brat-itude, and we were all grateful for a long weekend Monday do-over.

Before heading over to my mom's for a bbq (without Erik, :( because he had to work for a few hours and then he had band practice) we spent some time in the garden.

I hardly recognize it! The cucumbers and pumpkins are migrating to all corners of the yard.

From the patio side, it's just a mass of jumbling green!

But if you go in closer, you can see the prolific lemon cucumbers (I've already pulled a couple, and I'm happy to report that they are delicious!).

There are many pumpkins beginning to grow, but this guy is currently the largest.

I guess I didn't think any of the yellow squash I planted had actually survived, so he's a pleasant surprise. He's also sitting on my kitchen sink right now! We'll eat it tomorrow. (See how the squash went from 'him' in the garden to 'it' in my tummy?)

I also noticed (too late for a picture) that we have several eggplants that are finally growing, and at least one red tomato in among the dozens of green ones. The eggplants are funny. Kind of like the beans last winter, where I've been waiting and checking the flowers, waiting for them to sprout fruit. But when I was just about to give up, I noticed that the fruit is actually growing separately from the blooms.

I just love the way the cucumbers grow! See them hugging the pole in there? They've been grabbing onto anything they can get a hold of. It makes me wince when I see them strangling the tomatoes or the eggplants, but when I see them embracing the pole, they make me giggle. So much sweetness!

Here's a happy accident. I had planted two barrels of flowers next to the vegetable beds. I just liked the way it looked. But I noticed (again) today that there are tons of bees in the flowers, and the cucumber blooms too. This year, for the first time I've had volunteer veggies. I mean, it happens all the time with flowers (especially poppies) but this time I got two tomato plants, and three cucumber plants. Out of nowhere! I'm sure it's due to the bees and their pollination activities. I think I'll always do this from now on.

I love surprises!

Thursday, September 3, 2009


I'm trying something very new for the final round robin block I'm working on. It involves reading and calculating and, frankly, sweating. I am not interested in screwing this up! I already scrapped what I was working on earlier this week. Time to man up.

You might remember these purple flowers that I appliqued. I'm making...well, it's not clear what I'm making. Right now? I'm making either twelve or fifteen flower-themed blocks. What they eventually become? We'll all be surprised together!

The next set of three that I just finished is blue. I didn't love this one when I first started it; I declare that it is still the weak link of the three blue blocks.

This one here is probably my favorite of this three. It's just... the orientation is really the horizontal one, but see here, how the correct view is the one on the tilt? Bummer.

The last of the blues. I like the stems on this one the least. They seem...stilted. Not very graceful, the way real stems would move.

And, now that I've gone over in excruciating detail just how wrong each and every block is, I present them as a trio. My original theory was that once you see them all together, all the mistakes in execution and color choice would be minimized, and the whole would be greater than the sum of the parts.

So far, I still think that's true! I think the next set will be orange flowers. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Man, if you've heard me complain about my camera for taking pictures of gardens, crochet projects, or anything to do with sewing... it's like the complaint olympics when I try to take a picture of food.


But these are too good not to share.

I made these breakfast burritos. I made two dozen of them, froze them, and in the morning I unwrap one, wrap it in a paper towel, and microwave it...two minutes if I forgot to take them out of the freezer, 45 seconds if they thawed in the refrigerator overnight. You could also cook them at 350 degrees in an oven (10 mins...ish), but I don't like to heat my huge oven for such a wee little morsel.

For years I've eaten oatmeal for breakfast. But these are my new favorites, for sure. First of all, I like a savory meal before work. By the time I add brown sugar and raisins to my oatmeal, it can get a bit sweet. Yes, I see you, and your snappy ideas, but I just don't eat oatmeal without the add-ons. Also, they are completely portable. I often eat breakfast in the car, on the way to dropping off kids. This way, there are no bowls/spoons with bits of oatmeal slowly turning into concrete on the floorboards of the van.

Here's my no-fail, cook once, eat often, process:

To scramble two dozen eggs, I just beat them with a fork (beat them well), add a pinch of salt and some milk (I just pour it in...half a cup maybe?). Put in a casserole dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Cook at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. When you pull them out, they may be a little runny in spots, but you're going to let them cool, during which time they set nicely, so don't overcook them.

Then, I put a whole package of bacon on a baking sheet (yes, I spray the sheet) and bake that at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Again, don't worry if it looks a little're going to microwave it for 1/2 to 2 minutes when you eat it, and that will be plenty to finish the job. Press between a couple of paper towels.

When that's all cooked, I shred some medium cheddar cheese.

Then, cut the eggs into rectangles (you'll need 24 from your dish...they may look slim, but they are pretty thick. It's plenty, don't worry!) Put the egg, a piece of bacon (ration it out if you don't get 24 strips from your package), and a sprinkle of cheese. Wrap it like a burrito. Your call, I fold in both ends then fold over both sides.

Wrap in plastic or foil (I use foil because I re-use it, plus it's ready to go if you decide to heat it in the oven) and freeze. I guess you could add all kinds of stuff ~ tomatoes, peppers, onions, whatnot. I'm not a super confident freezer, so I just stick to the basics.

The only problem I have with these is in convincing Erik that they are not good for snacks. As easy as they are to make, it's still work. Which I don't mind doing for a super easy, fast, protein-filled breakfast. (Bonus: No every day dishes!) But I don't want to 'waste' them on the munchies, either!

Oh! And I almost forgot the most important part! Mister Picky-Eater (and by 'picky' I mean 'junk food junkie') Tommy will eat them. Sold.