Fabrics for a baby quilt


Color scheme


Lining up the details

Quilting and Musing

Finished quilt top

Have you ever read the book, or seen the movie, “Como Agua Para Chocolate?” It’s one of those stories that stays with you for ages. Specifically, I love the thought of emotion being transferred into creative works — in this case, food. The main character cries as she cooks, invoking an unexpected tirade of tears later at the dinner table as the guests eat her sorrow. I’d guess most women have found themselves crying into a sink full of dishes or over a stove at some point, thankful their emotion wasn’t later detected with such Hollywood flare.

When designing a project for a loved one, I enjoy thinking of how it will be used — ultimately what I want the end result to say. I’m learning to create less, but do so with more intention. The fabric, thread, yarn, ingredients are all being selected with a bit more care, often hidden meanings and emotion tucked away never to be revealed to those unwrapping the bow or picking up a knife and fork. It’s enough that I know. My instinct to over think such things makes most uncomfortable. Social grace is something I’m still learning.

I’ve made countless wedding and baby shower gifts wrapped in happiness, joy and optimism in a new start, a fresh future. I love making aprons thinking of the bounty of satisfying meals to be created with it wrapped, hugging the recipient. Bright birthday handbags being toted around the mall, making their own content, confident statements in a sea of Coach and Dooney repetition. Or the adrenaline filled rush fueling runs down snowy mountains with ski caps and scarves I’ve knit.

This project isn’t quite finished; if I could wrap it my feelings they’d be unconditional love, caring, kindness, joy, relief, optimism and the luxurious pleasure of opening the front door after a long trip away, take your first deep breath and swimming in the comfort of home.

From my weekly wordy email list: Suppose you’d called your theme ‘textile words’? Now there’s a reminder of how words and metaphors relating to textiles pervade our language. Textile is derived from Latin texere, to weave, also the origin of text — words woven into a fabric. Then think how we lose the thread of an argument; spin a yarn; give credence (or not) to a tissue of lies; spout homespun philosophy; and travel from one airport terminal to another on a shuttle bus. Nor must we forget the Greek and Roman Fates, spinning, measuring, and cutting the thread of each of our lives.


On Summer Menus

Sweet grape tomatoes

Today’s dream is to be studying in Alice Water’s kitchen by day and gardening in her organic fields by night. I’d be begging David Tanis to teach me all he knows and watching the people flow in and out of Chez Panisse in Berkeley. One day. Today, in the heavy heat of Phoenix, I’m thinking of creative menus for the summer that require little energy and much refreshment.

Last night I sat under misters overlooking a lake and watching the sun dip below a tangerine horizon,  sipping a cold glass of sauvingon blanc and enjoying a chilled bowl of gaspacho topped with spicy pine nuts. I left the table full but light, feeling like I’d earned another Arizona summer day survivor badge. While last Saturday I spent 8 hours roasting and baking in my tiny kitchen, I’ve decided now to leave the oven off until September. It is time to celebrate summer foods that require little heat but burst with flavors of the season.

I’m thinking summer green salads with almonds, berries and pulled chunks of cold chicken. Bowls of cold cucumber soup topped with generous dollops of yogurt. Cereal with cold fruit in lieu of steamy nutty oatmeal for breakfast. Less bread, more raw fruit and vegetables. Less meat, more dairy. And everything cold.

If I had the chance to bbq, this post would be entirely different. More like, “An ode to my father’s cooking: BBQ chicken, watermelon and a side of chlorine.” We ate most of our summer meals as children on the patio, sitting on towels in wet bathing suits, running away from my mother’s 30-minute warnings as we dove back in immediately afterward. Alas, while the quickest smell of charcoal brings me right back those blissful childhood memories, I’ll have to wait until I have a proper house to plan summer menus around his secret recipes.

Do you have a favorite summer food?



Beauty in a rose

Loving these

I have a fundraiser I’m coordinating this weekend. It is magical to watch pieces of a destined puzzle come together: the musicians, dance troupe, food, wine and location were all donated. We have more than 80 people attending and I have a fabulous new cocktail dress I’ve been waiting to put out of the closet. Abracadabra! With any luck, we’re about to pull an organization-saving event out of our hat.

It’s like the community garden similarly coming together in a series of incredible events, with experts, tools, land, farmers and lots of energies joining with a synergistic effect. When something is meant to be — there is no stopping it. Like Finny reminds me in my frequent moments of impatience — the spring will come and the grass will grow. Regardless of what you to do force or prevent something from happening, what will be, will be.

I once watched a Bravo interview with a movie star who described how his rather difficult childhood prepared him for his current fame. Each step of the way, he was pushed to learn something that made him incredibly uncomfortable. Raised by his grandmother, he was forced to learn the piano, play on the football team, be a member of speech and debate. Later, he recognized each of these skills were instrumental in his rise to success through film that specifically required his talents. Without his grandmother’s insistence, these golden opportunities would have passed him by.

I am so thankful for the opportunities for uncomfortable growth that have put me right here, right now. Synergy, divine power, destiny, fate — call it what you will — it is a grace-filled moment to look back at life and see how the dominoes managed to knock each other forward to push you into the beauty of today.


Pragmatic, or Handy one Might Say

I recently found this poem by Marge Piercy:

“To Be of Use”

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

We all have those in our lives who are hard workers, dedicated to a cause,  goal or even a paycheck and way of life. Work ethic is such an odd characteristic; one child may receive twice as much as the next from the same nature and nurture. It’s hard to come by if it isn’t instinct, and yet it is equally hard to lose for those who are constantly on the go and need to relax. To be the pitcher, crying for water to carry — I like to think the joy I find in working is also spent in fulfilling a greater purpose.

One of the characteristics I admire most about my father is his unwavering work ethic. He has worked hard, long hours his entire life and done so with a smile, knowing his family would benefit from his toil. He’s the type to trim the lawn and wash the cars before the rest of us were out of bed on Saturday morning. Then again, teaching his children that no job was too small was essential. I remember him making me write a thank you letter to my first employer when I had to leave to move away for college and insisting that if they asked me to clean the bathrooms, to do so with a smile. It was important we have the attitude and ability to take out the trash or to greet the most valued customer.

I’m still not fond of the cleaning, but I appreciate what he’s taught me more today than ever before. Being able to bounce between caring for an office, “lunching” with donors, schmoozing at fundraisers and running after the postman with the mail wouldn’t be possible if my dad hadn’t pushed us to work a bit harder.  I am truly blessed to have such a great example.  (Two, really. My mom was the original domestic engineer.)

I’ve recently been gifted two particularly useful objects.  A pincushion ring from glorious Julia, created by Susannah Rodgers.

April Domestic Bliss 2009 053

April Domestic Bliss 2009 057

Nothing like a little useful bling while you sew!

New software to play with

And Amy Butler’s peeps sent over her new software with two dozen new patterns. Oh my goodness, what summer fun this will be. Friends, expect many a crooked seamed purse and pillow. They may not be perfect, but they will be useful.


Bird for Dinner?

So pretty from this angle

Another tomato sacrificed to the birds

Damn birds

Blurry photos, but you get the idea. Matty currently looks like Elmer Fudd, walking around with a broom (in lieu of a gun), shaking it at anything that moves near the garden.

I’ve also decided next year I need about 15 tomato plants instead of 4. I’m not going to have the shelves of late summer canned tomatoes I’d hoped for. I keep hearing that I should have used fertilizer; I’d rather have fewer tomatoes than mutants.



Good thing this is for a very understanding child

Green Sombrero

Far from perfect, but the journey was educational. This pattern kicked my ass.

What a wonderful weekend this has been; another gorgeous baby born to a  Ya Ya — Emerson Louise, 8 pounds, 21 inches! Rebecca is the gladiator of labor and her husband couldn’t be more perfect for her. They were at the brink of hysterical exhaustion yesterday before the birth and yet Matt was her rock. Along with her family, she was surrounded by love when the new sweet (and loud) baby arrived. Emme is just perfect.

In between hospital runs and kitchen adventures, I’m tying up loose ends this weekend. A sewing project here that needs one final step, a garden that needed weeding and new coffee grounds, a home that needed cleaning and stacks of ironing now completed. I think the gift of time is the most precious. Time to do whatever you want, however you want — does life get better?

I’m back to running with several Fall races in mind. I find that my day is much more structured when I get up to run first thing. I can plan and meditate on how the day will unfold. I am more disciplined in my thoughts and what I eat — both key to my overall mood and happiness. Running any sort of distance is a spiritual practice; I have to turn off the music and tune into my breath, reconnecting. There needs to be a word for the rush of emotion at the end of a great run — when you take a huge gulp of intensely satisfying water, feeling the rivulets of sweat falling from your limbs and brow and your heart beginning to calm. Everything is tingling in exhaustion and relief.

I feel invincible in this moment.

Now, to carry forward that strength and resolve into the day,


Dinner and a Movie

I was in charge of the dinner:

Strawberry salad

Strawberry salad

Strawberry salad

Brie and berrys

Brie and berries

Summer love

Tomatoes for dinner

Slow roasted tomatoes (I didn’t get a roasted photo, but let me say, I’ll be making these again. Simple cooking at its very best!)


breading for the lamb

Rack of lamb

Rack of lamb

Scene from a happy kitchen

Best Chocolate Cake

Chocolate cake — which didn’t come out of the pan clean, but was rich and delicious. This is a cake that would impress just about any chocolate lover. Matty is sure to enjoy the leftovers today.

Spending a couple hours planning, shopping and preparing a meal is one of my favorite ways to enjoy a Saturday. (Or any day, really.)

He was in charge of the movie.

I’m not cooking lamb and cake for myself, nor buying my own ticket to Terminator. Leaving the theater last night, he said, “Is the movie review going on the blog?”

Well, it is now.

It was everything you’d expect a shoot ’em up movie to be — excessive in every step, with limited narrative and lots of guts and explosions. Christian Bale is considerably hotter as Batman. It was worth going to because it made him happy, and really? What goes better with an elegant meal than blood and boom at the Cine Capri?


Finny/Donk Sew Along: May

Dear Finny McFinberg,

So, remember last weekend when I was bugging you to help me with some freezer paper/stencil/paint ideas for our embellished t-shirt May sew along project? You looked at me from the moon and responded, “Um, I just cut out some fabric and kinda glued it on the shirt.”

Ah. Right.

And so, while you are out with Bubba, enjoying your envy-inducing sabbatical, fly fishing and backpacking with friends this weekend, I’m sitting in Phoenix sewing.*  Yes, you can feel sorry for me. When sewing induces sweat, it’s time to start looking at real estate. And yes, this is the same conversation we’ve been having every summer for the last 10 years (literally) and no, I don’t actually plan on doing anything about it anytime soon. That’s the way I roll. Me + summer in AZ = unneccessary bouts of extreme grouchiness. Amazing how that green-tinged mood crops up when I think of you standing in waders in some beautiful zenful river, sweet talking fish.

Okay, just cranked up the AC and poured myself an icy drink. Phew. Back to the topic at hand, shall we?

You know what? This may be the simplest craft project ever. For those who don’t have a sewing machine and regularly lament, bitch and moan that they can’t play along — guess what? This project takes 10 minutes, a pair of scissors and very little craft talent. And yet the result is damn cute. I present my new hippie badge tank:

Take two tank tops

Two tanks from Costco

You need about 2 inches of this

Plus one package of this Stitch Witchery glue stuff

A hippie badge

Plus a little VW van fabric

Little hippie van

et, voila:

Finny/Donk sew along May project


Good choice, Finny. Honestly, the hardest part of this project was finding fabric I wanted to wear on an already cute tank. The VW Heather Bailey print has been hanging around for a bit and worked perfectly. In cleaning out the art studio (turned roommate’s headquarters) this weekend, I found a stack of T-shirts someone gave me. And so, if you’d like a VW hippie badge T-shirt — leave a comment. The first three will have one mailed out this week.

As for you, I hope the fish, the backpacking and the sabbatical are going swimmingly. Miss you!



* In all seriousness, I think my next sport/outdoorsy adventuring will be fly fishing. I’m considering trading in the tri bike for some waders and a rod. Hmm…

Summer Sewing

Red summer

The other day I mentioned I’d like to learn how to sew a dress.  In my mind, this is the Everest of craft — creating something that fits and that I’d like to wear. The two wrap skirts I’ve conquered are hills in comparison, and considering the wrap is so forgiving, even that is a generous analogy. Many of you responded that you too are interested in this project. And so, I thought I’d chronicle my adventure in great detail in case you want to play too.

This week: find a pattern. I found three I’m loving, in part because all Simplicity patterns are $1 (from the normal $16) at JoAnn’s this weekend. I bought two Cynthia Rowley designs and one vintage beauty. (This site is great for pattern reviews. )I couldn’t find a fabric that didn’t remind me of a quilt or frankly, JoAnn’s. While I don’t mind their prints for placemats, wearing it to dinner is an entirely different matter.

So, I think I’m going to try to make one of these dresses first in muslin as a rough draft. A little practice certainly never hurt my sewing. Also, I am skipping a bit because my mom recently bought me some oh-so-silly-fancy sewing machine. They have friends from Phoenix visiting them in Texas this weekend and I’ve got my fingers crossed this new baby is road tripping to Tempe soon. Woo!


Small but Sweet

Sweet grape tomatoes



I based a menu around these items

Carrots from the garden

The harvest

I had a few friends over for dinner last night. I planned the meal around what could come out of the garden; it wasn’t entirely local or in season, but I’m doing the best with what I can grow. We had spinach salad with toasted pine nuts, pears, tomatoes and carrots, pasta primavera with artichokes, spinach, basil and tomatoes and strawberries with ice cream for dessert. It was a good meal, with even better company.

The community dinner has taken on a new life this year; in 2007-2008 I hosted meals for anyone and had a wide variety of people come. It was a good learning experience in cooking, hosting, entertaining and being patient. I’d guess I served 500 meals, with great happiness.

This year, I’ve changed the dinner party recipe; instead of inviting the masses and hoping to have enough food, I’m inviting fewer folks and making the meals tailored to those around the table. I’m trying to move my life in this direction — less, but more meaningful. If you’ve come to a community dinner in the past and I haven’t yet reached out yet, I will. If you’ve been to my little home, you know it is always open. You’ll just get a better meal if you show up with an invite (and RSVP.)