Sunday, March 30, 2008

Birthday Boy

"Three" has never tasted so good: pigs in blankets, french fried potatoes, mixed fruit, baked beans and of course cake and ice cream. Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Small Tasks

"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble." - Helen Keller

Here are my "small tasks" of the day so far.
  • wake up kids
  • feed kids breakfast
  • clean up breakfast
  • get Sarah on bus
  • mend Erik's shirt
  • color with Matt
  • run 4 miles with Matt
  • snack with Matt
  • read with Matt
  • diaper change
  • sing music with Matt
  • laundry, 3 loads
  • clean kitchen
  • do dishes
  • put houseplants outside in sun
  • make lunch for Matt and me
  • watch Pooh Bear Shapes dvd with Matt
  • put sheets back on bed
  • pick up everywhere
  • check in with email, clients
  • organize mail, bills
  • attend Sarah's play at school
  • drive with kids to Target for a few mid-week groceries
  • put away groceries
  • put away laundry (are you still reading?!)
It's been a warm, sunny day full of small tasks but big moments. Sarah was wonderful in the play and is happy to be home early. Matt and I have chatted about many things; I can hear him as he laughs, playing in his room.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

C is for Cookie

My husband is of the "if it's not broke, don't fix it" variety. This also applies to cooking. This morning I tried a new breakfast cookie and well, it was met with silence. Here is our family's tried and true recipe. I prefer granola myself but my husband lives for these (as does Matt). The recipe is from Cooking Light. You may want to double it.

Breakfast Cookies
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 melted butter
2 large eggs
1/4 c. chopped dried figs (or dates)
1/4 c. dried cranberries (I use Craisins)
1 t. vanilla
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. wheat flour
1/2 c. unprocessed bran
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. allspice
1/4 sliced almonds
granulated sugar to sprinkle on top (about 2 t.)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in chopped figs, cranberries and vanilla.
  3. Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, bran, baking soda, cinnamon and allspice, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring just until moist. Gently fold in almonds.
  4. Drop by level 1/4 c. measures 4 inches apart on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle evenly with granulated sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until almost set. Cool 2 minutes on pans. Remove, cool and eat.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Digging a Deep Well

The potter Ken Ferguson was a friend of my parents; he and my father traded work. There is a new book about his work. I love quotes I can sink my heart and mind into and this one jumped out at me:
My students have often heard me say, 'You have to dig a deep well.'
The problem people have understanding the phrase 'digging a deep well' is that people don't realize that it doesn't have to be within the world of ceramics, and it doesn't have to be about art. 'Digging a deep well' is an experience, a challenge, something you've done or that you've faced which forced you to make a decision. You had to decide where to focus. Are you going to get the best of it, or is it going to get the best of you? These things make you a stronger, more sensitive, more passionate person; a person, willing to be tolerant and understanding, able to focus on work and less critical of other's work.
It has to do with intellectual curiosity. An afternoon spent by observing a phenomena of nature and then drawing it, studying it, examining it, trying to figure out how it happens, why it happens and the answers to all of those questions. You go outside of yourself. You have a new experience, and you try to understand it.
[Incidentally, Ken's sweet wife, Gertrude, gave me a copy of  Song of the Lark when I was a child. I didn't read the book for many years but when I did, I immediately read every Willa Cather book.]

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Each year I find this flower past its flowering. I found him yesterday and quickly took his picture. Isn't he cute? His closest neighbors are grape hyacinths which are feet away. It was a lovely warm day and I walked the yard joyful about anything green. Last evening the kids and I took a bike ride. Spring will be here soon (even if it's not here today).

My current project is a set of placemats for spring. I am finding them more time-intensive than expected (see the rows of stitching?) but am excited about the fabric (same as the hat). More to come.

Friday, March 21, 2008


"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable." - Helen Keller

[The quilt is from Alabama Chanin. Check out the new Alabama Stitch Book.]

New Find

I must be starved for art. In the plans: a trip to the State Museum's new quilt (and impending knitting) show; the couture show at the IMA; a trip to Mass Ave and Fountain Square to just poke around in galleries. Sarah has art camp at the Art Center over spring break and am hoping for a "freaky friday" experience so I can go in her place. This image is by artist Kelly Packer - I bumped into her site this morning and really liked her work. Makes me want to make time to draw today. 

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Interior with a Book

I grew up in Kansas City where I visited the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. My sister and I took art classes there each year. As a family we saw many (most?) exhibits. My mother is a painter and my father was a fine woodworker. My favorite collection at the museum was Modern and Contemporary Art. This was my favorite painting. It's Interior with a Book by Richard Diebenkorn. Another favorite painting (not at the Nelson, though) is Helen Frankenthaler's The Bay (which, incidentally, required special attention two years ago when a boy stuck gum to it). I am still inspired by these and other works and hope my children, too, will find art that stays with them throughout their lives.

Speaking of art, a friend just sent me this about "Women in Art."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New Hat

Don't you just love instant gratification? Well, it wasn't exactly "instant" but it was pretty darn close to it. I finished the hat last night while Erik watched Hill Street Blues. The pattern is from (thanks, Amy!) Lotta Jansdotter's book.

The colors are so vibrant together. I'm hoping that makes up for how silly I look in hats.

Matt's activity was just as colorful:

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bright New Day

Just look at these little yummies, will you? New projects in the works - things to learn, things to keep - starting with a rather perky fabric hat. These colors are so juicy they make up for the rain. Stay tuned.

Seen today: "Creativity makes a leap, then looks to see where it is."

Friday, March 14, 2008

Real Living

I'd planned to get fabric and start new projects today but Matt was sent home from day out - he had diarrhea 4x. He's sleeping now. He had a TANTRUM, kicking and flailing and screaming at the top of his lungs when we left preschool. I had to carry him over my shoulder. Of course we had to walk by all the waiting parents. I never know what to do about public discipline. When Matt is in high gear (as a two-year-old can be), there never seems to be anything I can do except go home asap. Sarah was always the example; Matt's like the warning. Sigh. I must admit I calmed down by eating some cookies and watching a few minutes of  "Real Housewives of New York City."

When I started the blog, I had something else in mind. Nothing personal. Only what drove me artistically and creatively - I would shine the candle of inspiration (!). But like each day, real life creeps in. And even I have to admit that what really matters are things like healthy kids, milk in the fridge, clean laundry and seeing spring bulbs. It's always been a pull for me, deciding to work with kids. When there are days I feel I'm merely surviving, I remind myself that it's been a full life, and a choice I would make again. Gotta go check on the boy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Bad Day in Six Words

My friend Amy has been captivated with the 6-word memoirs she saw on Usually my day isn't so bad but today ranked up there. Here's my day in a short, six-word, six-line stanza. I'll be positive tomorrow, I promise.

Bad day wanna cut off heads.
No internet access unhelpful customer service.
No email, using squirrelly Squirrel Mail.
Made big dinner Erik didn't eat.
Dropped dinner, Sam snatched, Matt moaned.
No nap tired little screaming man.

P.S. Good walk takes care of everything.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Chocolate Lollipops

I don't seem to tire of using Anna Maria Horner's Chocolate Lollipops fabric. Sarah tore a gaping hole in her jeans - here's where we ended up. These hearts are as much sewing as I've done in nearly 3 weeks. This is a record for me. I have been busy "working," the left brain dotting i's and crossing t's on web proposals. I'm doing my darndest but so far most is in the "hurry up and wait" category. A treat has been CDG's site (site coming soon, write away, Cami!) and a logo for an energy company (can't divulge that one yet, sorry). Today I talked my brains out in a meeting on Microsoft solutions, thinking "design is one freakishly diverse field."

Anyway, that's a long excuse explanation for why the Bernina has sat silent. I might as well list what new projects I'm considering. Tomorrow (cross fingers) I hope to start calculating yardage. It would be heaven if I could get fabric this week. Here's the list:
  • table runner - this one is inspiring
  • maybe duvet cover in AB's cherry wallflower
  • crazy placemats, I've been inspired by MA's scrappy mugmats
  • more bags - I have cool new pattern ideas but need to come up with a game plan to sell them (I don't want to end up like the cat lady, but with bags)
  • curtains for piano room (replace nasty medical gauze-looking eyesores); curtains for Matt's room (with great hope he may again be a napper)
  • finish vintage quilt probably for guest room with cool scrappy shams and matching dropskirt
  • more pajama pants - made some fun ones out of this, want some more out of this
  • want something, anything out of Nigella
  • need a skirt or two for spring
  • Sarah needs a dress for a wedding; shorts for her would be easy and fun (and save money)
  • should I think about getting started on Christmas gifts? what if I made everything for next year?
  • [Cami, are you scared yet?!]
Comment if you have any advice on which project to start first -- or any inspiration for additional projects!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Tasting Spring

I truly wish I could share. It was delicious and Sarah (with her face in the bowl) said it "tasted like spring." I can't wait until summer pies. Here is the recipe. It's easy and healthy.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Diary of a Winter Run

Sam and I enjoyed a short run this morning. Here's how it went:

.4m - this is ridiculous, I can't see, they were right about the wind, maybe it'll get better
.7m - so far this is harder than a marathon, should I turn around? in 12 years of running I've only turned around once
.8m - I have pins in my face, the world is sideways, the wind is at 90 degree angle, warming up though
.9m - there's the school, do any kids see me running by the windows? I'm reminded of the time I was running in the summer and some kids leaned out a window and yelled "Hey! Casper!"
1m - what's wrong with me? I used to run in 2 feet of Chicago snow. I would treat myself with a chocolate chip bagel every day. Then try not to nap at my desk the rest of the day...
1.2m - there's the house with the kayak; I remember seeing the owner and his son playing a banjo and dobro in the driveway one evening
1.3m - there goes the FedEx truck; there's the house with the potsmokers
1.45m - what's this woman doing walking out in the blowing snow? Is she NUTS?!
1.5m - feel good, like I've had a relaxing hot shower, really! walk a few feet with back against the wind, yeah, I deserve this
2m - running again, how can the wind be coming from this direction, too?!
2.1m - ice/snow is dicing up my face; think of song: "Hello, my friend, hello..." Hate Neil Diamond, love snow, hate this snow
2.2m - love my sky-blue Montrail trail shoes; love Gore-Tex; love grapefruit in winter, yes I do
2.3m - think of box of  cookies Erik brought home yesterday from German Bakery
3m - glad to see school again; I love being outdoors in the snow; I love Sam and running with Sam outdoors in the snow, his face all white and smiley
3.1m - there's the FedEx truck again
3.4m - no thoughts, absolutely nothing but falling snow, Sam and me
4m - home, know that snowy runs are my favorite, ready to go again

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Snowy Day

Here are a couple of pictures from our snowy March morning.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


"There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better: we find comfort somewhere." - Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

I have experienced a couple of professional disappointments recently. As Erik says, you must kiss a lot of toads. Since I drowned my sorrows in Toblerone yesterday, today I decided to get "back on the horse." The exercise bike felt good - or maybe it was just the Masterpiece Theatre Jane Austen Presents special I had taped. Here's to all of us, in all times, finding our place in the world.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


If the date in the book is correct, I last read Diary of an Early American Boy on September 15, 1979.

I'm sure about the other date in the book. In my dad's handwriting: "Presented to Harold Thomson, March 2, 1976." He dated the book because he cherished many books by Eric Sloane. Dad also dated the book because, well, because he dated everything.

I randomly picked up the book this morning, the March 2 date a complete coincidence. The kids woke up still miserable with their colds, coughing like seals. I needed something to sit and read as I felt as energetic as they did.

The book, like Sloane's others, chronicles details of early American life. How to create ink. How to build a bridge without a single nail. How to split planks. How to make nails. How to build a mill, a forge shed, a cellar. Did you know early American farmers began their planting season on March 25? Do you know the differences between fence stiles? Do you know what a hay rick is? Do you know the real reason behind the term, "dog days of summer"?

Sloane was a student of early American history, both writing and illustrating some of the great breadth of knowledge required by the early American farmer. He writes in Diary:
In modern times when everything a person needs may be bought in a store, there are very few hand-made things left. So we are robbed of accomplishment. In Noah's [the subject of the Diary] time, nearly every single thing a person touched was the result of his own efforts. The cloth of his clothing, the meal on the table, the chair he sat in, and the floor he walked upon, all were made by the user. This is why those people had an extraordinary awareness of life. They knew wood intimately; they knew the ingredients of food and medicines and inks and paints because they grew it and ground it and made it themselves. It was this awareness of everything about them that made the early American people so full of inner satisfaction, so grateful for life and all that went with it. Nowadays modern conveniences allow us to be forgetful, and we easily become less aware of the wonders of life. 
We are apt to ponder why almost everything of the old days was initialed and dated. It was simply because almost everything was made by the one who initialed it; the date was added because everything was so completely aware of the times in which he lived. 
One of the things I don't like about working in IT is that there is nothing long-lasting. Nothing that is crafted. Perhaps that is why I am drawn to sewing. When I am making bags, I am thinking about how I am making a gift for the person who will use it. 

My dad spent his days as a fine woodworker, enjoying the art and craft of his work. Above is a picture of one of his hand-turned bowls. On the back he dated it: 12-25-1988.