Monday, November 30, 2009


Now that we're back from Encinitas and Rocky seems to have recovered from her mysterious ailment (tongue biting with possible bladder infection on the side?), I can laugh about our Thanksgiving trip. You see, Wednesday night Rocky was not well and to be honest I was pretty sure we would wake up Thanksgiving morning to find her passed away. That didn't happen and since we couldn't leave our sick cat home alone and we didn't want to cancel our trip down south to Encinitas, we took her with us. It all seemed too much like a scene from a Vacation movie and I was afraid we were going to have to transport a dead cat back home. *shudder* Rocky spent the whole way down on my lap or at my feet just resting while I pet her and again, since I thought we might lose her, it seemed like the right thing to do. Turns out it was. By Friday morning she was perking up and by Saturday she seemed mostly back to her 14 year old self. She rode home in her carrier and is doing well.
We celebrated Chris' 40th on Friday with the Hillmans and the Helgrens. He did a nice long ride that morning, we ate a nice brunch made by his dad, and then I served his requested quiche dinner and his favorite grasshopper pie, whipped up by his mom and I.
I made this little painting for him using an ink resist technique I learned a few years ago from an illustration class. Other than the masking tape not working out and the ink spilling out onto the frame, I'm pleased with it and Chris enjoyed it, too. The scene is from a mountain biking relay race Chris did in August in Simi Valley.
This is the original photo. I messed with the contrast of the picture to get the basic look, painted the scene with gouache (everything including white areas and excepting black areas), let it dry and then covered the whole thing with India ink. After the ink dried, I rinsed it and magically, the ink on top of the painted areas washes away, leaving the unpainted areas black. Last I went back in with gouache and a black ink pen and retouched some areas. Now we just need to matte it so you won't be able to see the awful ink spillage - et voila, fini.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I've been working on some thankful thoughts for a while now. First, I will mention that our cat, Rocky, or Miss Cat as we sometimes call her, has not been well today and we're facing the possibility that she may have entered her last days. She has been with us for 14 years. I'm thankful for that. And if she goes on a few more days, weeks, months, years (?!), I'll be thankful for that too.

Babies! I'm thankful for babies. Erin and Tom are preparing to welcome their little Nova or Sawyer in December and we just learned this week that another niece or nephew is headed our way next summer. Yes, it's early on so I guess I'll leave it at that.

Good neighbors. There are good neighbors, like those who are mostly quiet, keep to themselves and don't seem to be bothered by any of our activities. And there are good neighbors, like the ones our kids want to invite to their birthday parties (even though they have no children), who invite us over for tea and dinner, who look out for us and call us when we've left the car door open in the driveway (yes, I've done that), and who think to send us a Thanksgiving card (yes, they did). Turns out we have both kinds. Good neighbors and good neighbors. I'm thankful for them.

Work. I seem to remember that a year ago I was thankful for the little bit of work that was coming my way. Not much has changed in the work department and considering how tough things are for some folks out there, I'm thankful for the work that I have. And I might as well be thankful for Chris' work too. I mean, really, that's what is keeping us afloat.

Projects. I have a few projects in the pipeline that I'm really excited about. It's great to be inspired with ideas. My only problem is finding time to do them all. Some vintage fabric came to me via a friend whose grandmother (in law) recently passed away. This fabric is gorgeous (the picture does not do it justice). It's pretty heavy and I'm pretty sure it's cotton. It apparently came from a dressmaker in Hawaii. I'm on the lookout for just the right dress or skirt to pattern after - thinking on the lines of a square neck, fitted a-line dress to the knee.

I'm still plugging away on the linen/wool sweater, there are booties (and now more booties!) to make, and there's that kitchen wall chalkboard frame I need to get back to.
Last, but certainly not least. I'm thankful for my friendship with Chris. Some time this year, Chris and I started to meet each other for lunch at our local Peet's coffee shop. It was probably around the time things had settled a bit with Maia's treatments and around the time work got reallllly slow for me. We always pack a lunch, order lattes and sit for an hour or so to talk. It's fun and good and nice. And I'm thankful for it.

On Friday, Chris turns 40. I'll be back around then to show you a little something I made for him. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Having a Thankful Day

But first, she sings! She really does sing! Of course we know Maia sings, we hear her all the time, but this time she sang at her school Thanksgiving Lunch. She knew all the words (of course she does), she sang so we could hear her, and she sang with a smile. So sweet. She sings - when she's good and ready to sing. And not a minute sooner. Little bugger.
After feasting at preschool, we're off to Sofia's school this evening for a Peace Feast. The Peace kids are preparing a Thanksgiving meal with the help of a mom/chef. I'm looking forward to it. This week has been difficult for Sofia. Her friend, "who I've know since I was 2", left her school to start at a different school. It all happened quickly (which is probably best) - he told her on Monday and his last day was Thursday. She's feels scared and sad and worried. I know this will pass and she'll make new friends, but it hurts to see her sad. Not to mention my carpool just disappeared. I knew it would end someday but I didn't expect it so soon. Oh well, that's ok. It does simplify things a bit - takes more of my time, sure - but I only have to worry about getting my two kids to and fro.

By the way, I brought this black bean salad to the lunch. Yummmmmy. The dressing is super tasty.

I have more to post - some cutie patootie little booties I've been working on for one special little baby coming to us in December. But must be off for now.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Trying Something New

I found this nifty little feature in Blogger that allows me to send email notifications when I write a post. If you are reading this you may have gotten such an email. I started blogging way back when as a way to keep in touch with family, post pics of the kids, and then later I added my creative endeavors. I've met a few people along the way and I have my favorites over there on the the right side, but I still like the idea of keeping in touch with family. It's sort of like reading my journal without all the really juicy details, not that there are any :)

If you'd rather not receive such an email, please let me know. Just send an email or post a comment. I promise not to be offended.

Speaking of my favorite bloggers, JCHandmade (also known as Jennifer) just posted that she was diagnosed with MS this week. The news brought me such sadness and I felt a little silly being so sad for someone I don't know in person. But I do know we have quite a few things in common. She's about my age, she has two little girls (hers are twins), she knits and sews and blogs (in fact she's somewhat of a creative blogging rockstar), she enjoys cooking good food for her family, she's a progressive thinker, and she plays in a rock band in her free time. Ok, well I don't play in a rock band. She said they caught it early and she is keeping a positive attitude but I'm guessing there may be some tough days ahead. I'll be thinking about her.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Yummiest Thing I've Ever Made

Grandma and Grandad came over for belated birthday celebration, on their way (further) up north. They promised a pizza dinner, and I made the belated chocolate mousse that Sofia had requested for her birthday. The mousse recipe called for Candied Orange Peel as an accompaniment. As has been my habit this week, (ahem) I failed to read the recipe thoroughly, and missed the part about soaking the peel in salted water for 4 hours.

Can't start the candied orange peel at 5 o'clock and expect it to be ready for the mousse at 7, now can you?

So anyway, it was done late, and Maia didn't taste it until this morning. But when she did, she said, "Mommy, this is the yummiest thing you've ever made". It is candy. Pure candy. So what if it's made from real organic orange peels, it's also soaked and cooked in sugar and then rolled in more sugar. I swear it tastes like Trix cereal. Not that I've tasted that for about 20 years but it brought back memories. So here's the recipe, it's from a Williams Sonoma cookbook.

Candied Orange Peel

2 oranges, preferably with thick skin
1 T sea salt
1 c sugar, plus extra for coating
1/2 c water
3 T light corn syrup
  • Cut around circumference of each orange cutting only through the peel, then make a second cut perpendicular to the first through the stem and blossom end. Remove the peel in 4 segments (now you have 8 orange peel pieces).
  • In a small bowl, soak the peel pieces in the salt and just enough water to cover for 4 hours.
  • Drain the peel and place in a small saucepan. Add water to cover and bring to a boil over med-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Drain and repeat the process. (Why? I have no idea... ) Drain and set aside to cool. Cut into 1/4 inch strips.
  • In a small saucepan, over med. heat, combine the 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, and 3T corn syrup. Heat, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil and the sugar is dissolved. Add the peel strips, reduce heat to low, and cook slowly until the peel is translucent and the syrup registers 230 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Do not allow to caramelize.
  • Transfer peels to a wire rack to drain (better put something under it), without touching eachother. While still warm, roll the peels in sugar on a plate and then place on a piece of wax paper to finish cooling and drying. Store in a covered container in a cool place for up to several weeks.
Yeah, like it'll last that long around here.

Monday, November 02, 2009

A Very Happy 7th Birthday

Sofia invited a few friends over for her Kings and Queens Brunch. The crowns were lovely but I didn't expect the kids to wear them much. One friend wore hers the entire time and she was an adorable queen. The crowns were made using a process similar to that described at Bitterbetty's blog here.
The kids seemed to enjoy the restaurant-like party. I took their drink orders, brought them drinks, took their food orders and helped Chris briefly in the kitchen. Then we played a few rounds of 20 questions while waiting for their food. They were very polite (mostly) and I had fun being their server. Chris did an excellent job preparing the food. We served it all at once and most of the kids cleared their plates - those who didn't had eyes bigger than their stomachs ;)
After the party, she opened some presents. Part of Sofia's gift from us was her own knitting basket with a starter skein of red wool and size 8 needles. We also gave her three horse books. Her face says it all. She was very happy.
We spent the afternoon working on a puzzle and rounded the day off with a movie and bean and cheese burritos for dinner (Sofia's request).
I've heard 7 is about the right time to learn knitting. She has been asking for a couple years for me to teach her but I have held her off. We started a simple garter stitch scarf. I was a little nervous about teaching her to knit because I'm not the most patient teacher and she's not the most patient apprentice. That and I'm left handed and she is not, so I am learning to knit right handed along with her. She seems to be picking it up pretty well.