Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Quilt Along ~ Episode 2: I Don't Enjoy The Cutting So Much

Well now!  The "quilt along" is going well.  I mean, in the sense that it's taking me two weeks to do each week's assignment....you know, that kind of well.  I cut 7.5" x 3.5" rectangles, ten each from ten different fabrics.  I still need to cut 100 3.5" x 3.5" neutral squares...I'm thinking a blue sheet? Or maybe a pale pink sheet?  I think I have both.  After work tomorrow, I'll go through my thrifted sheets and pick something that says, "I'm a quilt!"

Nancy and her friend are cut and ready to go...I love those paisley squares! And although I'm counting on Carmen to be 10 days behind at all times, she's let me down by completing most of her sewing already

We're following the (long ago finished) quilt-along from "I Have to Say".   It's never too late to start...and, the good news for you?  You'll pull ahead of me in no time at all. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Home sweet home!!!

After being out of town for a week, it felt so good this weekend to settle back into home life!  I took a gaggle of boys to the park.  Tommy and his friend were swinging on one side, and I was alternating pushes between Scotty and my grand-nephew, Matthew.  As I stood there, pushing and giggling, I thought a lot about how all of this was a metaphor for mothering and life in general, but then the sprinklers came on and now I can't remember what it was that I thought was so profound.  I just passed off my push-duties to the older boys and that was that.
Except for our time at the park, there was little reason to get out of our pajamas.  There were legos to be made...
...and based on the number of boxed snacks lining our counters (crackers and fruit snacks and cereals, oh my!) there was an emergency baking session that needed to happen.  Immediately.  My favorite oatmeal raisin cookies, and easy homemade granola bars.   (I assure you that these granola bars are not Laurel approved!!)
It was time for a quick tour of the gardens...the first of the plants meant to be my future butterfly garden on the back hill are doing just fine, and my wonderful husband (who kept my gardens watered in my absence!) is taking a well-earned rest in the back there.
Eggplants and cucumbers, rosemary, tomatoes, squash....check, check and check!
The first of the cucumbers, making an appearance!
Hundreds of green tomatoes...cherry, grape, roma, beefsteak...hundreds.  Slurp!
This giant bumble bee makes me smile!  For the longest time, I thought I had one big fat bumble, but after snapping this picture in my overgrown sage plant out back, I noticed three more just like him in the lavender bush out front.  I love him.
There must have been three dozen honey bees in the overgrown marjoram plant (um, a theme, perhaps?) in the backyard.  They love this!  Which reminds me...we should head out to the front side yard to check on our friends in the green bin...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Crochitting Party

Miss Laurie!  Isn't she beautiful?  Such a sweet, gentle, soul.  Confidential to Laurie:  Did I ever tell you that the notecard you gave me when you retired, and you wrote about the fun we had and the things we learned teaching math, is one of my greatest joys?  Yep!  I've saved it and I treasure it.  And you.  :) 

The food she prepared was so delicious!  All of it was so fresh and healthy.  Veggie pizzas on whole wheat dough, green salad, and this other salad of roasted veggies and rice, I think?  Was it rice or wheat?  Well, I'll sort it out and let you know, asap, because she gave me the recipe and I WILL be making it this weekend.

Laurie is working on this beautiful knitted blanket.  Ha!  Funny story:  She had a bit of 'scrap yarn' that she thought would work into a nice lap-afghan.  Wouldn't you know it?  It was nothing like enough yarn, so the stash-busting project suddenly required a wallet-smashing trip back to the yarn shop!  As you do.

A crochitting party is the best place to get help on a new project.  Here, Nak Min makes great progress on her first knitted scarf, after Susan helped her to cast on. 

My dear-sweet-Linda was off and running on a crocheted blanket she is making for her first granddaughter, due in early fall.  I think it may have been her first experience at actually reading and following a pattern, so I was only too happy to help her get started and continue to trouble shoot when she dropped a stitch or got lost in her row.  hmmm...it seems I didn't upload the picture of Laurie's friend knitting her Waldorf-style dolls...perhaps I was making some play at respecting somebody's privacy?  Who am I kidding?  ;)

Anyway, once everybody was well underway (I was working on a crocheted baby dress ~ not for me, I assure you! ~ and it's almost done now), I asked Laurie about her trip to New Mexico.  Laurie is an artist, and soon enough she was sharing some art that came home with her.  It was beautiful, and led us to a small tour of where it might be hanging in the future. 

Which found us in this hallway.  Aren't these trees beautiful?!?  The one on the right was a gift from her son.

Here, see if we can get closer.  I think you can't really get a feel for the beautiful blue here, but I think the tree itself can be appreciated.  I thought it looked like a person!  Doesn't the trunk look incredibly human?  I was quite taken with this piece.

From here, I managed to finagle a tour of her reclaimed studio.  (Previously functioning as her daughter's bedroom!)  Linda gave these plain letters to Laurie as a gift for her studio, and Laurie decorated them by collaging inspiring and colorful images.

Right here on the R is a scrap of paper that reads:  May all your dreams come true.  (Note to self:  Start saving your pennies for a nice macro lens.  You won't regret it.)

Her inspiration boards!  I love inspiration boards!  I would have one, except I have no place to put one...for now I'll live through my friends.  You can't see it very well in these pictures, but one of the greatest things about this room is that every wall is painted a different color!  This was her daughter's choice when this was her bedroom, but I love that she kept it.  Pale green, lavender, pale yellow...it's a really beautiful effect. 

When I say that Laurie's an artist, I'm not kidding.  Her talent astounds me.  I guess there's a whole school of thought that would say we're all artists, and shouldn't we claim the artist label, and take ourselves seriously as artists when, say, we're crocheting baby dresses or making shirts out of sheets or repurposing material into quilts?  And, in fact, each of those activities can be elevated to an art.  Look at this baby dress, or these quilts, and you will never doubt that it's true.  Still... I can't look at these pictures and not know, there's a huge difference between what I do and what she does!  I can do everything I do, make everything I make, and really, it requires not talent so much as tenacity.  And don't imagine I'm downplaying or pishawing the importance of tenacity, either, as having it and using it is definitely it's own kind of talent, but I am just saying...there's a difference.  A huge, undeniable, awe-inspiring difference.

Next stop was her 'private retreat', but you need to know that, should you invite me to sit in your living room and enjoy some ice cream with fresh strawberries, I am totally the kind of person that will end up taking pictures of your bedroom and plastering them over the internet.  Prepare accordingly for my arrival.  Do you see what she has there, instead of a headboard?

It's all painted on!  The fern and flower leaves are a mix of stencils and freehand work.  The photo is from Hawaii, one of her favorite destinations.  Who could blame her?  I smile now, seeing the wooden "Dream" letters on the shelf... a theme, perhaps?  One of Laurie's dreams was to sell her art, and she's making that happen even as we speak!  She takes her drawings and watercolors and prints them on notecards and they are beautiful ~ I've purchased a set and, in fact, I need a refresher set.  She doesn't have an online site, but I'm encouraging her to get an Etsy shop or something, ASAP. 

One last picture, from her bedroom.  This trio of pressed leaves was her mother's.  Her mom collected the leaves and pressed them onto cloth herself, I believe Laurie said in the 1930s!  The display is one of the most beautiful objects I've ever seen in person.  I'm thinking I might do the same thing, though I can only hope that in 80 years, somebody could appreciate it as much as I do this one.  It's so old that the leaves and the cloth they lay on have actually begun to sort of 'meld' into one entity.  I love it!

Thank you, Laurie, for letting me share these pictures!  It was such a fun night; the hours flew by with great food, amazing friends, both deep and silly conversations that I love so much, and a little uninterrupted crafting time.  Savored!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Laurel's Kitchen:: Falafel and "Arab Bread"

I was at my friend Laurie's house last night for "crochitting" party (crochet and knitting) and it was so fun!  Laurie reads this blog sometimes, so if she gives permission, I'll share some awesome photos I got to take of her art studio and some bits around her beautiful home.  Oh, and the food!  Holy cow.  The food. 

Well, in fact, the reason I bring up Laurie just now (besides hoping she'll be moved to grant us permission!) is because she is one of the people who recommended Laurel's Kitchen to me in the first place.  She was showing me a second LK book, called The Bread Book and it also looks fantastic.   I have just a wee bit left on my gift card, so I'll be looking for a second hand version, once again.

Last weekend I made the falafel.  I used to get falafel at a deli near my work in the Financial District of SF (back in the day! :) and it was a round ball and it was darkish....green from the parsley, perhaps, plus it was a bit of a crunchy, fried-like kind of texture?  When you ordered it, they'd heat it, mush the ball into a patty-shape, and pop it into a pita with some shredded veggies and either yogurt or humus... pick your poison.

For all I know, I may have done something so wrong here, but they tasted fantastic anyway.  Falafel is pureed garbanzo beans, held together with some potato and lots of parsley...the flavor comes from garlic and lemon, plus some spicy-spices, and there's nothing wrong with that, not at all!

The pitas start off as pretty much the basic whole wheat bread dough.  I have to say...this batch of the whole wheat dough was by far my best attempt.  It was elastic and soft and moist-ish.  If you weren't around for the canneloni disaster, you may not be able to fully appreciate the beauty that is this dough. 

You cook them for five quick minutes, and they puff up.  Then you slice them open, fill them with vegetables (lettuce, cucumber, and tomato for us) and plop the falafel patty right in there.  This book was published in the early 70s, and I have to giggle at the "Arab Bread" moniker! 

Verdict:  We LOVE this!  It's tasty and oh-so-healthy.  I was telling Laurie yesterday, and I'll tell you today, that in the future I think I would just pick up whole wheat pitas at the store.  I don't mind some bread-work, but many of these puffed, and then got too hard; others puffed appropriately, but then deflated and were difficult (read: impossible) to slice.  In fact, just tonight I served Erik what I called a "flasammy", which involved two pitas with the falafel and veggies stacked between them, rather than couched inside one!  But I love having the falafel on hand (for lunches, snacks, and dinners, it's that good!) and it's so easy to make.  It will be a standby from now on.


Last Friday, being the last day of school, guaranteed us a weekend chock-full of graduations and birthdays! 
Fortunately, the people we know have backyard graduation parties with pools and birthday parties with rock climbing walls and that makes for a great weekend! 

To celebrate the end of school, and the start of summer, we got ice creams...and then I went to work.  Ugh!  Yes, I'm swamped this week!  I'm teaching a summer institute next week, and the week after that, so there's lots to prepare, and I'm packing my office/classroom (oh my!) and hopefully, before this week is over, there will be news bout that!!!

Friday, June 11, 2010


School is officially out!  We went to the end-of-little-league pizza party tonight, so it was an exceptionally long day...but it was hot and the kids are in full summer mode already(oh, bed time, where are you!?), and I FINALLY had a minute to comment here to folks who left sweet notes over the last two weeks.  How did that happen?  You know, it's funny, I never used to comment in the comments on my old blog.  I was so self-conscious!  Now, I don't even care how dorky I am ~  I love the tips and sweet comments and I pretty much feel so much better when I get to write back...I'm going with better late than never?  :)  Also, I'm just going to pretend anybody cares.  haha!

I'm looking forward to this weekend...it's swamped with graduations and birthdays, but I plan to get some serious yard time in tomorrow, and I have project lists and crafty fun on my mind.  Plus, my dear friend Glenn just called and invited Erik out onto his sailboat for a day on the bay!  Oh, yes, summer is definitely arrived! 

I just can't get over these tomato plants.  The one in the back and the one in the front were planted on the same day.  The one in the back is towering over the top of the cage!

(Confidential to Jason:  Doesn't kitty look majestic?!)

This tomato plant?  Planted on the same day.

Here...these tomato plants?   You guessed it!  Same day.  Why so different?  The ones closest to me our taller than Scotty; but look at the ones just to the right here....so tiny!  It's really so strange!

Looking at this picture...aren't the flowers so pretty?  They remind me that....

We still have visitors!  When they showed up last weekend, I was so (happily) bewildered.  What could they possibly see in our underdeveloped patch of land?  The flowers above were planted last year, virtually ignored, and now lookit ~ so pretty.  It makes me wonder if they're suddenly so stellar because that's what bees do...make things flourish.  I know bees travel far and wide to get their pollen, but still, I have to believe our little gardens are majorly benefiting!

One of the things their arrival has done is to make me so much more aware (and appreciative) of all the plant life.  The green bin they've moved into is under a pine tree, and for the first time ever, I realized how gorgeous these purple blooms are that become pine cones.  I'd never stopped to notice such a thing!

There's also a wee-bit of blooming going on inside ~ my fabric!  This is the fabric I won in a giveaway at Beautiful Beatta's blog last fall, and I'm finally going to make it into a quilt.   I'm joining Carmen for a quilt along...this will be the first quilt I do from start to finish!  Wish me luck.  It's six weeks, and each week to tackle just a part of the project.  This was the week the wash and iron the fabrics.  Check.  It's never too late to join if you want to throw your hat in the ring!

Alright.  Just so you know.  As I was writing this up and waiting for pictures to upload, we got another nasty (but quick) jolt.  Earthquake.  There were two last Thursday night, too.  Almost exactly the same time.  All three have been between 2.5 and 3.0.  I'm a native Californian, so I won't even get out of my chair for less than 5.0, and even then, I wait to see how long it will last ~ I perk up, but I'm not going to get hysterical.  It could be over by the time I finally stand, so why break my neck hopping up?  Anyway, when I came home tonight, Erik said, "Earthquake weather."  I'm pretty sure he did it to tease me, as it is one of my long-standing pet peeves (right up there with stickers on fruit) that any time it gets "muggy" in the Bay Area, some dork starts in on 'earthquake weather' (I assure you, there is no such thing) but man....now I'm wondering!  The epicenter last week was less than 2 miles from our house (we live ON the Hayward Fault, I'm telling you) and this one I'm seeing here was also 2 miles away (in the other direction) and at 2.5.  Even when you're right on top of a 2.5, it's not a whole lot of shaking...but man, they're just loud when you're that close.  You hear it before you feel it, even.  Anyway, all this to warn you, that I'm fairly certain I feel a hey-I-updated-the-earthquake kit kind of post coming up.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Can't Do Much ~ Part Deux

Following along with the theme from yesterday, there's another very small thing I've been working on.
I'm beyond sick about this oil volcano in the Gulf.   I think about it all the time, and the helplessness...and hopelessness...that comes with this preoccupation is so profound.  We are right at the edge of our technology and our knowledge.  Who even knows at this point if what the things that they're trying are actually going to cause more and more damage?  It's mind boggling. 

I want to do something huge.  I'm not even sure what this would be at this point, but I'm looking for it.

Craft Hope Spreading seeds of hope one stitch at a time

In the mean time, I found this.  It's not huge, in fact, it's oh-so-small.  Craft Hope is sponsoring this project, and this is how they describe it on their website:
...to assist them in their efforts in caring for and cleaning oiled marine mammals, mostly dolphins, other marine mammals, birds, and sea turtles. Dolphins are naturally curious and have been swimming toward the oil plumes to investigate… and that curiosity gets them in a lot of trouble against the oil slick.
They need hand towels and wash rags to use for cleaning oil off the animals.  They are asking for small rags that will be destroyed during the clean up and tossed immediately.  As I read through the details added at the bottom, I saw it could be as easy as cutting up towels and t-shirts (all 100% cotton) and sending them along.  I stopped just long enough to embroider on a "thank you" for the volunteers.  You know, so it's crafty.

I can't do much.  But I can do this. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

I Can't Do Much

I am optimistic by nature.  I have been described, not unaffectionately, as "pathologically cheerful". 
Shortly after my godmother was diagnosed with lung cancer, I got a recruitment phone call from the Red Cross.  They'd like it very much if I'd agree to come in and give aphresis platelet donation a whirl.  I have the rarest blood type, but wouldn't you know it it also the universal donor for this particular product?  This particular product, by the way, has a primary function...it's given to chemo patients to boost their immunity after treatment.  Yes, sir, I think I would like to sign up for that, thanks for calling.

There are so many reasons why I should not be doing this process.  First, it's a two arm process.  My left arm is a gusher with a nice juicy vain.  My right arm is a complete dud.  They have no problems getting the output vein set up and rolling through my left arm.  During the process, the blood goes into a centrifugal machine, gets separated, and the platelets stay and everything else comes back to me through a needle in my right arm.  I now have three holes in my right arm, each with its own bruise, because it took them that long to get the needle lodged into a viable spot.

It's funny, when my sons were born, and I was breastfeeding them, I had a Winner Boob and a Loser Boob, too.  Come to think of it, lefty was the winner.  It is possible that the entire right side of my body is just dead weight.

So the whole thing takes a couple of hours.  I get to watch a movie!   But not everybody is a good candidate for this type of donation. The anti-coagulants that they use in the centrifugal machine, some of those come back in with your blood and, well, some people get sick. Um. I get sick. Yeah, the first time I did it, I went for almost an hour and a half, and I got super sick. It wasn't dangerous or anything, but I was fainty and feverish and passed out....twice. But I wasn't even upset about getting sick.  I was just annoyed that I missed the last fifteen minutes of Milk!  I guess I technically know how it ends, but it's not like I'll ever rent the movie to watch the last fifteen minutes.  They were a bit worried about me, actually, because they got enough platelets to use, but the part that got stopped was the part where the rest of my blood would have come back to me.  Which means that I lost quite a bit of blood from the process.  Whoopsie daisy!

There were a few steps I could take to better prepare myself for the process (calcium, water, food choices, etc.) so I signed up to try again.  Which I did, on Sunday.  Worked like a charm!   This time I watched The Blindside, which was actually great.  I think I was expecting something more schmaltzy, which it wasn't. It was cute and kind of laugh-out-loud funny a few times.  (If you think it's weird that I'm so into the movies, then you must not totally understand what it's like to live with my very loud sons.  A heated lounger, wrapped in blankets, with headphones and nobody interupting me every 8 seconds?  I wish I could knit, honestly, but you can't move your arms.  If I could knit there, I'd never leave.)

Most of the aphresis donations taken in Oakland (where I go) goes to lukemia patients at Children's Hospital.   I can't do much.  But I can do this.  So I will.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Last week, after Erik finally agreed that I could get a few chickens, I decided to play a little game that I like to call, "Pushing My Luck".  On Saturday morning, I looked at him and said, "Hmmm...are you thinking what I'm thinking?"  He allowed that he was probably not.  When I went on to say, "We should get bees, too!  Wouldn't a honey bee hive be perfect for us?!" he confirmed that, no indeed, he was not thinking anything like that, no ma'am.  Not at all.

I think his exact words, to his credit, were, "How about one thing at a time."  Fair enough.

So was it my fault that a few bees started hanging out near my green bin this morning, near the side of our house?

I say no!  If I had wanted to attract some bees, I would have no idea how to even go about it.

By the time we got back from the A's game today, they really seemed to establish themselves.
Why don't we just peek under the lid and see what all we have going here?

Oh my gato!!!!  There must be 10,000 bees setting up shop in our green bin!!!

So.  Here we are.  I don't suppose there's an easy way to move these folks into a top bar bee hive?  
Wait.  Do any of you know where I can get a top bar beehive?
I'm half hoping they just disappear as mysteriously as they arrived ~ I'm so afraid they will come to harm! ~ but 3/4 of me (you do the math) is really hoping I can manage to move them into a proper hive and convince them that they've ended up right where they're supposed to...bee.  :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

...to the east side!

We've been spending a lot of time in the backyard these days.  It's always been (way down) on the to-do list to create a little (homestead, if you're me) or (haven, if you're Erik) but oh, it's always something!  It's been about a year and a half since I had the pond and waterfall put in, and the raised patio too. 

Since then, it's mostly status quo back there ~ mostly working on the flat-lands....getting the vegetable beds established, going at overgrown bushes with the hedge clippers, trying to keep the mulch in place and the weeds under control.  Whew!  It's been quite a job!

The hill ~ or, as we refer to it, that damn hill ~ was always looming.  Literally.  Unusable space, as it was, and completely covered in 4 foot tall grasses and sticker bushes.  Ugh!  So, I don't know what possessed me to head over to our neighbor's and offer some work to the fellow helping him set a fence. 

He was here for maybe 7 or so days, over a 3 week period.  Communicating completely in Spanish (his only language; my second language) and Maia's ULP (Universal Language of Point) we somehow managed to get these stairs fashioned into the side of the hill, taking us from the back of the yard to the top of the hill, right along the neighbor's fence.

You may notice, if you've seen the yard pictures from just a month ago, that he also spent two days hacking down and evacuating the weeds.  Thanks, Yciedro!  He also put a half-set of steps up the center, between the patio and the waterfall.  A path, that he leveled into the hill, splits from the top of the stairs and meanders across the middle of the hill.  Another partner-path does the same thing from the other stairs across the top of the hill.  He brought in the piedritas that cover the stairs and paths, one bucketful at a time.  Erik and I finished up a few wheel-barrow-fulls last weekend, and I can tell you for free, whatever he charged, it was not enough.  Era un bien gran trabajo!

There's a lot more show-and-tell for the hill, but let's wrap up this evening's edition by pointing out that I learned quite a few new Spanish words.  For example, I learned that "to dig" is either acavar or cavar (a little mumbling goes a long ways when you're not quite sure of a particular pronunciation!) and I also realized, totally by accident, that in Spanish the word for "wood" (madera) is very close to the word for "shit" (mierda).  That was an awesome conversation, because he started out very perplexed as to why I would need him to come back tomorrow, after I'd purchased some shit.  At the store. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Flying Higher

You can baaarrrreeelllyyyyy see him, flying there in the center...an enormous hawk, sprawling and majestic, but he looks like a tick here.  Actually, he looks smaller even than the tick I pulled out of Scotty's tummy last night when he came out of the woods at the little league playoff game.  Yes, you heard me, a TICK.  *shudder*  If you've started to itch after reading this, imagine my world for the past 24 hours, after plucking that thing out.

Here you go, for perspective, the gray matter in the middle of this one, just hovering** over the mountain, is actually a plane.  It's landing at the Oakland airport.  From where I'm sitting, taking this picture in my backyard, we can watch planes land**** at the San Francisco airport, across the bay there, and here in Oakland, just past that tree on the right, and also at the wee little executive airport in Hayward, to the left of where we are sitting.

I liked these two pictures together because they kind of define where we are living...high on this hill, you can watch the cars and trains pass below you, but the sounds are so distant, it's more like waves crashing on a beach.   Just the rural beauty of a hawk, juxtaposed with the modern mechanics of a Boeing 747...it kind of makes me smile.

**  I once told Erik that he was pronouncing "hovering" wrong, because he was saying it like huv-er-ing.  I told him it was supposed to be said like hoe-ver-ing.   After a full five minutes of this, exasperated, he sputtered out, "But, look, don't you say hover craft?!?"  And I said, willfully and blatantly forging on, even though I agreed with him the whole time, "Don't you say over?"  This was before I had any real hobbies, so irritating him for no reason was the closest I got to entertainment.  This is why I often tell a friend, "Yarn saved my marriage."

****  My treadmill is in the garage, and I used to open up the door and pretend like I was running outside.  I often ran at 10 pm, when the kids were asleep and everything that need getting done had finally got done, and I'd leave the lights off in the garage.  It was quiet and peaceful and I'd watch the planes land to pass the time.  I thought 'mill running was so boring, so I'd play little games with myself, like, when a plane came into view, I'd watch it until it disappeared behind that tree on the right.  If another plane came into view on the left, before the previous one disappeared on the right, I had to watch that new one until it disappeared...and I'd repeat all this, if another plane had come into my sight in the meantime.  But, but, and here's where the excitement kicks in, if no plane broke the event horizon on my left before the previous plane exited on my right, well, then I allowed myself a peak at the time on the treadmill, so I could check how long I'd been going.  Since I'd run for 5 or 6 miles at a time, without this little game, I'd be obsessively staring at the time...and just like a watched pot never boils, a watched timer never ends.  In the 45 minutes I'd be running, I'd only get to look at the timer a handful of times.  Seriously, a lot of planes are landing, all the time.  Except, right after the World Trade Centers were attacked, all air travel stopped for several days.  That was so eerie!  I think it was the first time I realized just how many planes pass through here, on those few days when no planes passed at all.