Crocuses 2 2013One of the things I like best about living in northern California is that spring really starts in early or mid February. These crocuses came up a few days ago, along with our first daffodils and grape hyacinths. I do miss winter, though.

And when spring arrives, our family’s fancy turns to… the family Christmas letter! We started our 2012 letter during the actual Christmas season, but left it unfinished in the press of other goings on. But eventually my husband’s patience gives out and he gets in a snit points out that 2012 is long over and nothing has been done. So we held an emergency Christmas letter workshop last weekend and got the thing finished. My husband has already sent his out by email, but I really prefer to send it out the old-fashioned way, which means that mine probably won’t get out for another couple of months. And what to call it then?


Crafting Trend Report

A lot of crafting has been going on in the secret depths of Sunny’s room. She’s what I’d call a serial crafter: she gets obsessed with one kind of project, like making cute little bows. She retreats into her crafting dungeon and makes dozens and dozens of the latest craze. Then poof! it’s over, and she’s on to the next thing.

After the bow phase came to a crashing halt, she made a whole lot of cute little stuffed animals. Ten points if you can name the model for the stuffed animal in the photo.

Now she has raided my yarn bin and is methodically using up all the small balls of yarn I’ve picked up at the thrift shop over the last few years. Here’s the result:

Sunny Scarves 2 2013I am currently wearing the blue-and-yellow scarf, but I think the others are available.


What I’ve Been Doing Lately

I don’t think I’ve mentioned here that Basketball Girl has joined the cheerleading team at her high school. And when I say “team,” I really mean it. Her team competes all over the West and usually wins the national championships in its division, so it is very serious business — nothing at all like the popular-girl style of cheerleading that prevailed in the prehistoric days when I was in high school.

She only went to the tryouts to provide moral support for one of her friends who wanted to try out, and ended up as one of just a few freshmen on the team. Having never taken dance or gymnastics before, she was really starting from zero. In just a few months, she has mastered the splits, roundoffs, back walkovers, (almost) back handsprings, and all the cheerleader jumps. It’s been a big challenge for her, and we have been proud of  how hard she’s worked to learn all the cheers and tumbling moves. Here she is (on the left) with some of the other girls from the team:

Cheerleading 1 2013

But this blog is really all about me (MMMEEEEEE!), and what this means for me is that I’ve been going to a lot of basketball games to watch Basketball Girl cheer.

Luckily for me, the basketball team at her high school is a top-ranked team and very exciting to watch. Sitting in the stands brings back memories of when I was in high school and my friends and I drove all over the Chicago suburbs in my friend Pat’s 1950s Chevy to watch our high school team play basketball. I’ve even been able to get Sunny to come to a couple of games with me. She brings her knitting needles and alternately knits and cheers. We also like to admire our team’s very handsome coaches.

This was the big game against the hated arch-rival high school:

Basketball Game 1 2013

The priest on the right is another knitter, watching the big game:

Priest Knitting 1 2013

And here’s the team warming up for a tournament at which they beat the even-more-hated arch-rival team from the rich suburbs (especially satisfying since we’re the poor school from the ‘hood):

Basketball Game 2 1 2013It’s bittersweet to see these kids just starting out, so disciplined and full of purpose, and realize that I’m never again going to be where they are. Of course, where I am is pretty good, too. But I won’t be young again.

Charming Curtain of Ribbons

My friend Mary made me this ribbon curtain for Christmas, and my husband helped me put it up last week. I love the way the ribbons let in the light but obscure the (ugly) view in front of our house. From certain angles, the view out that window features our garbage cans and our neighbor’s stunningly bland beige stucco house. Now I see bright colors and patterns instead.

I thought the ribbons might scare our parakeet Pickle, who lives right beneath them. But Pickle is a great lover of bells and shiny things, and every ribbon has either a bell or a shiny thing dangling from it, so he seems quite satisfied with his new landscape. 

Thanks for my new curtain, Mary!

Must-See TV

I took Sunny and her cousin Peter to see the Harlem Globetrotters this afternoon. They are more like a circus than a real basketball team, but they have been in business, it turns out, since 1927After the game I’ve been reading up on their history, and discovered that they were featured in a must-watch TV movie that I swear I will find, no matter what it takes:  The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island.

The Joint Design Project

This week I spent several days working on a quilt to be sold at a fundraiser next weekend at Basketball Girl’s high school. I had cut out all the fabric and stitched up dozens of blocks. Now I was ready to lay them out into the final quilt.

Winging it being my main creative strategy (in fact, my main strategy in almost any situation), I had made a bunch of  blocks without deciding ahead of time exactly how I would use them. This time I had been more organized than usual: I was proud that I had made exactly the number of blocks I knew I needed. Sometimes I just sew a pile of blocks first, then decide how many I will need.

I took the quilt blocks into the living room to arrange them on the rug. I wanted to make a grid that was eight blocks tall by six blocks wide. I had laid down a few blocks when my husband came in.

He stood watching while I put down a couple more blocks, then frowned. “I don’t think a random arrangement is as good as something more structured.”

I had a block in my hand. I was about to put it down on the floor, but I stopped. “Oh?”

“Think about it. It’s a Catholic school. The people there would like something with more order to it.” He came over and took the block from my hand. “Do you mind?”

“No, no! I love criticism of my deeply felt creative efforts helpful feedback. Be my guest.”

Before I knew it, he had picked up all the blocks I had laid down, counted how many I had of each one, rearranged all my piles, and laid out the whole quilt. And here it is, exactly as he specified. I think it looks great.Pinwheel Quilt Red Black White Large

Quote of the Day

Sunny, as we’re driving along I-5 to Portland, Oregon: “What are all those filing cabinets doing next to the road?”

Me: “You mean those bee hives?”

This is a kid who went to a Waldorf school and spent a whole week at a real life farm, milking cows, etc., when she was in third grade. Guess it didn’t sink in as well as we’d hoped.


Post photo by Jim Champion. Used under Creative Commons license.

From the Annals of Weird Product Names

This is an actual food made in Japan. My husband brought it back from his latest business trip as a gift from a Japanese friend of ours. When I opened the bag (with quite a bit of curiosity) and tasted one, it turned out to be a kind of crunchy molasses meringue cup with a depression in the middle where, I assume, you put some goo. But what kind of goo?

Next time my husband goes to Japan, I really hope he comes back with a food called “Goo.”


Making Preserved Lemons

I like to make homemade Christmas presents. This year, the only one I managed was a couple of jars of preserved lemons for my brother-in-law the chef and our friend John, who is a serious cook.

Making the lemons is surprisingly easy. You put a couple of tablespoons of sea salt in the bottom of a clean quart canning jar, then quarter the lemons lengthwise so the sections are just barely held together at one end. Open up the lemon and salt the sections liberally, then pack them into the jar, squishing them down as you go, then cover them with fresh lemon juice and a couple more teaspoons of salt. I added some peppercorns and coriander seeds to make the jar look interesting and (I hope) the lemons taste better. Next time, I might also add some garlic cloves. The lemons ferment on the counter for three days, then in the refrigerator for three weeks. You can use them to cook Moroccan chicken and I don’t know what other dishes.

As for how they taste, I’ll have to wait for a report from my victims gift recipients.

Cute Creature of Christmas

Sunny painted and then laboriously hand stitched details on this octopus for a Christmas gift exchange, which she didn’t even get to go to because she was in too much pain from having her wisdom teeth removed.  Now she is feeling better and working hard at making little stuffed animals out of my scrap fabric. I figure she’ll work her way through my scrap bin in about a thousand years.

It’s  been fun to share my studio with the girls. Sunny uses it to make all kinds of things. Basketball Girl uses it because the only TV in the house is there, and she does her nightly beauty regimen while watching TV on my couch. They are both good sports about putting up with the noise of my sewing machine while they try to do something else. Family togetherness means putting up with each other’s noisy appliances.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

And Marcus has chosen a new favorite place to hang out, on the corner of the sheet we put on the floor under the Christmas tree. I’m not sure if he’s waiting to get a Christmas present or whether he considers himself to be a Christmas present. Probably both.

I’m having to fight Sunny for possession of my cutting table. I don’t know how many of these bows she made before she declared herself finished and moved on to hand-stitching decorative details on shirts she bought at the thrift store. As for me, I am making lots and lots of fabric gift bags, baking cookies, stringing Christmas lights, and wrestling with an update of my blogs.Sunny Xmas 2012 Thumbnail

I’m delaying the dreaded moment when I have to take my chilled sugar cookie dough out of the refrigerator and roll it out into a flat sheet to be cut into shapes with cookie cutters. This never goes well for me.  I’m not great with pie crusts, either.

Basketball Girl and I went to the grocery store to get sprinkles for the cookies and had to force ourselves not to buy the sprinkles in the shape of little white bones, which might not create the right effect on our tree-shaped cookies. I removed the giant black Halloween spider that was still hanging outside our front window. But it didn’t go far. It is now crouching cheerily on the ground by the front door, next to the last of our miniature Halloween pumpkins, because why put away a decoration when you can press it into service for the next holiday? Every house needs a Black Widow Spider of Christmas.

The Harvest

These are the first-ever guavas from our new guava orchard. (Well, five guava plants.) So exciting! We ate these after I took this photo and I can report that they taste just like Sweet-Tarts in a fruit.

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