Friday, May 30, 2008

Chalk on the Walk

When I was a child, I thought family traditions were something my parents organized and planned. At least for me as a parent, it's more like things just happen into tradition. Chalk on the Walk is an example. On the first day of summer each year, our library has a sidewalk chalk-fest. It must be a Very Big Deal to Sarah because she cleaned her room last night so she could go. The cold drinks are as popular as the purple chalk buckets. One year Sarah drew a pumpkin that, semi-protected under a building eave, lasted until Halloween. Boy were we proud each time we visited the library.

Note to self for next year: do chalk AFTER book borrowing. Today we did chalk, then went in to check out books. Inside the library, Matt was like a deranged monkey, chalk on his face and hands, moaning and crying. He knew people were outside drawing without him. Doing puzzles at the activity table was no equal alternative.

I'm not sure what Sarah was drawing here but she did draw a house using perspective. "Mom, let me show you how to draw a house..." I do have a degree in art but I learn from her every day. To see, and draw what you see and feel, cannot be taught.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


My new favorite thing is Soak. I got a bottle at Clementine's a while back, intending to use it on my bed quilts. In the past I've dry cleaned my quilts which is a big no-no but honestly washing them was scarier. Yesterday I gave it a go and it was awesome. I washed a quilt Erik's grandmother made (I never met her but she apparently was a real Renaissance woman: farmer, peace corps volunteer, mother of 8, quilter). Soak took out most of the yellow age spots, brightened the whites and colors. Washing and drying it not only made it cleaner but the fabric has more body and softness. The best thing about the washing process is that you don't have to rinse. The smell is light to non-existent, too. I couldn't find directions for washing something quilt-sized but used 4 capfuls and it was perfect.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Our *Blooming* Garden

Erik and I mulched the perennial beds all day Saturday. Despite Erik's cursing (he is not the gardener of the family), the garden looks good. This weekend we celebrate six years in Indy. It's interesting to see what plants come and go, and what grows and changes each year, like our family.

New PJs

Glad to finally finish these up––they'd been in the "to do" pile for months. It was my second pair with this pattern (McCalls M4979). My first pair (which I absolutely love) was with a Heather Bailey Freshcut print, the fabric slightly heavier and forgiving than this Amy Butler while I worked. These drape a little better, though. I recommend the pattern––it's super easy and, was a buck on sale at Jo-Ann. Now that I've made two, I could make more quickly…I always need options for speedy projects when I fall in love with a fabric!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Simple Pleasures

It doesn't get any better than this.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Throwing Out

My newspaper has a feature called "What's In My Fridge," or something like it. The interviewed is someone with a public, revered career. This person, respectfully pictured, lists items like "L'Estornell Marcona Almonds," "Spanish Dried Sausages" and "Chteau Margaux 1973." Each week I read it, imagining the individual, returned late after the theater or some philanthropic do-dah, well-heeling it to their stainless to be greeted by fish roe and fanciful fruit trays. I may be exaggerating a little but not much. Who are these people?

I love cooking and eating great food (I was once in a cooking club) but let's be real. A work-at-home mother, I'd be more suited for a section called "What I Should Throw Out Of My Fridge." Here's a current sample:
  • Shredded chicken––well, it was supposed to be shredded. I added too much spice and then ground the chicken up too fine in the Cuisinart giving it a texture Erik politely called "interesting." "Interesting" enough for only for one meal.
  • Sour creams - they seem to collect and multiply. 
  • Jars of green olives - when have we eaten green olives in the last five years? are they even green anymore? pickles are the same––in the store they trick me into buying them.
  • Honey mustard - valiant attempt at homemade but we didn't think twice about it after the chicken strips were gone.
  • Vinegar-y bottles of wine - what kind? who knows? best for long summer days with the kids or visits from certain family members.
  • Sloppy joes - they seem to be a permanent resident which is weird because I don't think I fix them very often.
  • Target tuna salad - it's been lunch for a week (how can this be? it's like the biblical loaves and fishes miracle!) and it's getting "juicy" but it's been tasty.
  • Tortillas, tortillas and tortillas - 3 dated packages, dry enough for me to make a lucrative hobby of shoemaking on etsy.
  • Gorgonzola - ten years ago I made a to-die for salad dressing with gorgonzola in it; I have tried many times since to emulate it without luck (no, this gorgonzola is not ten years old!)
  • Apple butter - each fall I long for real apple butter with a depth of flavor and in desperation purchase something with a metallic tang and twitchy sweetness; I have not learned and do this every single year.
I spare you more items (the newspaper feature is limited) and I spare you pictures. And please, do come over for dinner if I ask you some time. 

Wedding Gift

My friend Sabine laughs easily. She is spontaneous and open to new experiences and people. Her house is like her––natural, artistic, and unique.

We met eleven years ago at an internet startup. It was the 90s, we were all doing well and having fun at work. Sabine and I organized "swap your lunch" get-togethers with our fellow eccentric coworkers. Then we organized a book club with Amy that morphed into more of an eating club. The three of us share a love of books, fiber, food, gardening, pets, travel, the outdoors, music, our children, and the arts. After I moved from Chicago, we have made trips back and forth to catch up in person. 

Sabine and Amy are responsible as much as anyone for my sewing mania. We exchange gifts at Christmas and Sabine has always crafted hers. After years of incredible scarves, mittens and a felted wool turquoise purse that still leaves me breathless, I started making gifts for her, as well.

So, for her wedding next week, I had to make her something. Since she and her man spend much time hiking and camping, I've gone with simple roll-up picnic place mats and a wine from a local winery. Sabine is German and I'm hoping the linen place mats have a European style and a natural feel. I hope she will enjoy them as much as I did making them.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

2nd Chocolate Lollipops Patchwork Bag

I've had fun finishing a bag similar to this one––someone local is already interested and someone else (not local) has requested another. But this week and next I'm too busy with a website design (and some travel) to get started. Here and there I'm reading (laughing my way through would be a better description) Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's book Yarn Harlot. I've spun and woven and sewed but never knitted––I can still identify with McPhee's passion for color, texture and "stash." Like McPhee, I find myself a "process" person, loving the creative act of designing and sewing. On my desk is a large basket stuffed with stash gems, all coordinated into plastic baggies and destined for more patchwork bags and belts––it's almost more than I can take, thinking about when I can do more (which reminds me, Cami, do you have many more of those wonderful ceramic buttons?). But today I must work on the site. 

Sunday, May 18, 2008


This morning I did gyotaku with friends at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. Gyotaku is literally "fish printing." In short: you take fish of different shapes and sizes, paint them, and print them on paper. It's a good activity for those "can't draw a straight line" folks. Both kids and grownups are intrigued by seeing real fish up close. Creative types will enjoy  taking it in new directions. It's messy but fairly easy to set up and clean up.

I have always loved doing art in groups. Although I value the actual artwork from various art happenings in my life, I also remember the personalities involved. The generous, creative, exploring people, happy to spend time, creating something together.

Internationally, fish are a symbol of life. Here is a sampling of our work from today:

You can see so much energy in the scales, in the paint.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Doing Too Much

If we're supposed to "simplify our lives" I have failed today. Sunny May weekends are prime––EVERYTHING you wait for all year happens then. I had a plan but it was hard to decide. I told my husband at breakfast: "There is a cottage home tour and the art fair and a plant sale and a fundraising walk and a neighborhood garage sale. For starters." I could think of more but decided not to share––he already had a blank look. I wanted to ride my bike and garden (before the weeds took over) and play tennis with Sarah. I had to run. I needed to finish three sewing projects. There was the obligatory trip to the grocery store and the bank. Sarah wanted to visit the library and eat at Qdoba. ("Mom, you missed the mother's day lunch at school and we never eat out.") You get the picture.

This is what my mom calls Doing Too Much. She will call on the phone, "You aren't doing Too Much?" are you?" There is a tone, as if I've done something negligent and evil. "Nah, not me, not this time," my voice pitching higher. Overdoing (I'm wincing) is something I've done since birth. At age ten I was already overwhelmed with my own neighborhood newspaper, fashion designs and card catalog for my books. I was also writing a novel.

It is a bad habit (ingrained). Yes, I know. But in my defense, I love this fullness. This blessed taking in and enjoying as much as I can-ness. 

And today, I could've just sat on the deck and relaxed, reading (I would've liked that, too). But there was the breezy run with maple seeds scattered at my feet. Enjoying Sarah poke seeds into the ground and hearing Matt say "gardening." Finishing a purse for someone else to love as much as I love mine. Overfilling a tote bag with tantalizing library books. And who doesn't like crossing things off a list?

The truth is that this evening, the kids started screaming, whacking each other in the garden. After a little bit, I started screaming, too. We all went inside and talked. There seemed something terribly wrong with screaming around such beauty. That's when I realized that doing one more thing was not going to make any of us happy. Doing everything we'd done all day was not what made us happy, it was the little quiet moments, with each other, sandwiched in-between all that doing.

Tomorrow is another day, they say. I have plans but have also no plans. And it will all be good.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Field Trip

Today Matt's preschool attended the zoo. By the looks of it, every child in America did too. It took 45 minutes for the bus queue to reach the entrance from the parking lot. Once inside, it was deafening. But Matt enjoyed the seals and the giraffes and the monkeys. In his own quietness he took it all in. When we had seen enough, we visited the Gardens to see both butterflies and blooms.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Easel Fun

I'm certain that somewhere, in some language, "kids" and "creativity" and "spontaneity" are a single word. One minute: one child is asleep, another on a school bus. The next: they have emptied outside with paper and crayons and chalk. There is laughing and hugging and smiling. In my mind, it's a divine act, complete with fish and cats and bunnies and vases of flowers.

Even Sam-the-Dog looked on. He's fresh from his annual "puppy cut" which shears off inches of golden retriever fur. Shocking to see at first, he is cool and clean, ready for summer days.

Monday, May 12, 2008

3 Weeks 'til Summer

Oh my––summer is coming at me so fast. When I was a child, all I needed was a large stack of books. Sarah is different. She's very social (where she got this trait, E and I don't know). There aren't playmates in the neighborhood so I've signed her up for a couple of classes in the hopes she'll meet friends there. She'll do swimming (as will Matt) and also take tennis for the first time. There are lots of free (or close to it) events around town and I'm trying to catch all dates. Is my goal to make her so tired she'll just want to sit and read?!

To prepare myself for "Kids 24-7," I've treated myself with a birdhouse (I'm embarrassed to say how long I've wanted one). I'm also registered for tennis, kinda funny since I haven't taken a lesson since 1980 (boy that sounds old). Let's just say that I was inspired by a life list and have started in on my own. 

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Easy As Pie

There are three recipes I will pass on to my daughter: my can't-live-without cookies, granola, and mixed fruit pie. All three recipes were from my mom (who makes a peach pie I'd go to prison for). Since the pie is my calling card (it's the only best thing I make), I kinda prickle about passing it on. I figure it's my gift to humanity. It truly is easy to make.

Mixed Fruit Pie
Crust (for two crusts)
2 c. flour
1.5 t salt
1/2 c. canola oil
5 T. cold water

Mix dry ingredients. Make a well in center and pour oil in, then water. Mix gently with fork and roll onto wax paper. 

Fruit Filling
4 c. of fruit, like strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 c. - 1 c. sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 t. cinnamon
pinch of salt

Mix together (make sure flour is incorporated well with fruit). Place on top of bottom crust (which should already be in pie pan). Place about 3 T. butter (chopped into little pieces) all over top. Pinch top crust on. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar if like. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then at 350-375 until pie is done.

Note: It is "best" if left to set for a day. But who can resist?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Peony for Your Thoughts

I spent three full days in the garden this week. My rear end and legs are aching but I accomplished a lot and it was heavenly––cool, wet, green, and quiet. I have nothing planned outside today (except for some whiffle ball with the kids). 

Friday, May 9, 2008


I am a synesthete. A person with synesthesia experiences mixed perception; they involuntarily combine one sense with another. Although it can involve any of the senses, the most common form is when an individual associates color with letters and/or numbers. For example, the letter "A" may be known as red, "B" may be blue, "C" may be yellow, and so on. I borrowed the above chart from Wikipedia (that trusty source). I bothers me to read it because the color associations in it are not mine. 

My sister was the one who told me several years ago. Growing up, she and I played odd association games that no one else understood. I'm not sure how she learned she was, or what synesthesia even was. Personally I'm convinced that all people are synesthetes but according to more scientific sources on the subject, it is rare. It is not a big deal. [Trust me, I have weirder traits.]

One of my favorite books by my very favorite author (I know, big surprise, Amy) talks about an incident concerning mixed perception. A doctor's patient, who recently had gained sight after being blind from birth, "called lemonade 'square' because it pricked on his tongue as a square shape pricked on the touch of his hands." This is a lot like synesthesia.

I strongly associate people with colors. My husband "looks" like a Rothko painting, of dark green, navy, black and brown. My son Matt loves to wear green but it doesn't feel right to me, since I think he "is" blue (close to 7453, you Pantone freaks). Sarah is a bright fuchsia, with some sepia and sienna browns, although she says she favors blue. I have a feeling I'm celery green although it is neither my favorite color nor one I look good in. I experience synesthesia in other ways besides color but color is the biggest way. Color in general is very important to me, to see and to work with creatively each day. I get this through gardening, my house, graphic design, and sewing. And music has color to me.

All this brings me to my point, which is this: this week has not really been a sort of verbal week for me. I have nothing to say. What has been dramatic really isn't large to me, and what has been small has been large (does this make any sense?). So, I am leaving the colors of the week as part of my post. Anyone else experience this? Any other colors for the week to share?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Giving and Getting

I've been finding Craigslist a helpful resource for trading plants. Last week I gifted overgrown monarda to three happy gardeners. My neighbors are not gardeners and I welcomed the camaraderie. A woman (in very cute green shorts) generously brought me heliopsis. One man has promised me hostas and grasses in the fall. Another man traipsed all the way across town and lingered, surveying the entire yard. I believe we could've chatted all afternoon, covering each plant.

Today I became the giftee (?) and eagerly accepted yarrow, allium and surprise lilies from a stranger in south Indy (does a gardener ever refuse free plants?). But gardeners tend not to be strangers long and it was fun to poke around in someone else's hard work. All I've met are planning to keep in touch and continue trading when our gardens get out of hand. 

So Matt and I enjoyed our afternoon, digging in "new" plants. When we were finished Matt was so muddy he looked like a chocolate bunny. After baths, we rewarded ourselves with cookies.

More Fun with Scraps

I've been hoarding little baggies––each holding a different fabric medley. I'm finally getting to them and have plans for more belts and handbags. There are so many great fabrics right now and I like how they pop when they're together.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

New Things

This week my doctor told me to take it easy since I have tendonitis in my right leg/hip. "Sedentary" sounds like "sewing" doesn't it? Pouring my energy into new stuff for the shop has been fun but (trying not to whinge because I've had heaps of fun), I now have a bloody pinched nerve in my neck! 

I've been lucky enough to have sold 5 things recently and ever so badly need to replenish the shop. I have another belt on the way, too. Then a new bag and…