Tuesday, October 21, 2014

They put a spell on me

 I'm usually big on holidays, but Halloween has never been one of my favorites.  I don't like to be scared for one thing, so I think as a kid I didn't like the spooky part of the holiday.  I also had a general suspicion of people on costumes as a kid, so that was another strike against it.

Still, I like the friendlier sorts of Halloween decorations, and back when Miss C was little I scoutd out some rather cute Halloween fabrics and made two -- yes, TWO  Halloween quilts which I've enjoyed having out in the Octobers since then.

Here's one -- wonky Halloween houses.  (Sorry for the blurry photo -- it's old.)


I made this at a retreat, and I remember that a friend gave me some pieces of a witch fabric so I could add a few witches to the scary neighborhood:


 
Here's the other, a wonky log cabin with strippy scraps: 


A few weeks ago, I was pulling stuff out of my quilt closet for a few UFOs I planned to finish while at a quilt retreat, and I came across the box of Halloween fabric left from those quilts.  I thought I'd bundle them up and bring them to the retreat to put on the give-away table as I figured that it was unlikely I'd be making any more Halloween quilts.  And then I started looking through the batch of fabric.  Gosh, I'd forgotten bow cute a lot of them were.  little candy corns on a bright blue background.  Dancing skeletons on an orange background.  Black and white ghosts all mushed together.  Green eyes on purple background... and those black cats on the orange...



You can guess what happened next, right?  I started planning a scrappy Halloween quilt and I spent the first day of the retreat cutting and piecing it.  And it makes me smile.  I put together triangles so they look like Halloween flags, as you can see from the peak abovve.

I'm just about to start machine quilting, and as it's small, that won't take long.


Funny how fabric can cast a spell and make you do something you didn't plan on doing!


Thursday, October 16, 2014

With sisters like that...

 
I will admit that I've always had a sense of discomfort about college sororities.  I know it's not based on much personal experience, but as I approached my college years, I viewed sororities as groups of girls that banded together to promote their eliteness, to exclude girls who weren't "good enough," to meet boys, and to have parties.  That impression wasn't dispelled by the one sorority information meeting I went to when I was a senior in high school and shopping for colleges.  One after another, bouncy, Barbie-pretty girls stood up to describe the reasons to join a sorority.  Making friends, having fun parties, having a great social life on the weekends. One girl went on at some length about the wonderful file of past student-written essays and term papers that many sororities maintained, so that its members could "share" them when work was due.  She was beaming, talking about this wonderful resource.  And I was thinking, "Isn't that called... um, CHEATING?"  That meeting didn't improve my view of sororities.

I went on to a college that was relatively new, had no residential sororities on campus, and perhaps because of the time period or college location, sororities and fraternities were considered pretty uncool.  So that was that.

But since then, I've assumed -- or maybe hoped -- that the role sororities play in the lives of college women has evolved.  The days of viewing women as merely decorative helpmates are behind us, aren't they?  And the idea that women go to college mainly to find a husband -- that is surely outdated.  Isn't it?  I've assumed that sororities had evolved to focus on emphasizing qualities like leadership, accomplishment, teamwork, community, and diversity.

So I was genuinely shocked this week when I learned from a friend that her daughter -- a striking, intelligent, confident young woman of Chinese heritage, was told by an officer in her sorority that she wasn't "pretty enough" to meet the new rush recruits.  Appalled doesn't even begin to describe my reaction.  The girl's mother -- herself an alumna of that same sorority -- is incensed and expressing her reaction up the sorority's chain of leadership.  Not surprisingly, the young woman is embarrassed and doesn't want to make a big deal out of it.  Her take on it?  The sorority just wants to make sure that it is represented well to prospective members, and it's no big deal.  She apparently doesn't question the message that she's not good enough to represent her sorority.

But I can't stop thinking about it.  That could have been my daughter.  That could have been any of our daughters.  For any girl, that's unacceptable.  It's Mean Girl behavior, even more dangerous because it's disguised in a sweet-smelling package of "sisterhood."

It breaks my heart to think of that young woman and how devastating a message like that must be to her self-esteem, her belief that she belongs, her view of those women as her "sisters." The message that you're not "pretty enough" to meet other people is a deeply damaging and demeaning message.

I think what's troubling me more, though, is that a message like that can be so deeply embedded in an institution like a sorority, so that its members -- even in 2014 -- accept it as valid and not worthy of serious objection.  I can't stand the thought that those young women are internalizing that belief, because it's the sisterhood they trust -- the very "sisters" who are supposed to "have each other's backs" for life -- telling them that they're not good enough for ANY reason, let alone for how they look.  And what girl (yes, these are girls, not fully formed, experienced women) can stand up to that sort of crippling message?  In that setting, belonging and being a good group member means being quiet, accepting, pushing down one's own hurt, not making a fuss. That's how women learn to accept the devaluing of their worth and the diminishment of their feelings.  It's an especially insidious and powerful lesson when it comes from the people those girls trust and want to emulate.  

So the words-- yes, those were harsh and stupid and hurtful and just wrong. But it's the big message -- that it's okay for a group of young women in an academic setting to be valued, and to value each other, by their appearance -- that is shocking and damaging.  I'd like to think that this young woman will realize that a group that expresses its values like that isn't worthy of her.  I'd like to think that she knows that she's already too good for a group that places a girl's physical appearance above all of her other characteristics.   But I don't know what she'll do.  The mother who's complaining -- Will she be heard as expressing legitimate concerns about what the sorority's values are? Or will she be viewed as an over-protective mother angry because her daughter was deemed unsuitable?  I don't know what she will be able to do, either.

I'd like to see that young woman and her mother go public. I'd like to see that girl quit the sorority and tell the world why.  I'd like her to make video for Youtube about her experience. I'd like it to go viral, and I'd like to see her on the Today Show talking about why sororities that give messages like this have no place in today's world.  I'd like to see women rise up to support her, and I'd like to see the leaders of that particular sorority publicly apologize and pledge to work with its members to eradicate harmful messages like that.

I don't know if any of those things will happen, either.  But I can write this.

 As women, we get the message that "we're not good enough" all of the time.  We're told, through deeds if not words, that we're not worth the same pay as men who do the very same work we do.  We are too emotional.  We're not capable of leading a nation nation or a business.  We're bombarded with messages all of the time that how we look is at least as important, if not more, than how smart we are or how well we communicate or how effective we are in our work.

Thank goodness that there are so many people all over the world fighting those messages.  Thank goodness there are adults who tell and show the girls in their lives that they are "good enough" because they are just who they are, that their uniqueness makes them beautiful and important.  Because if any college sorority is teaching young women the sorts of values demonstrated by this incident, we're all going to need to fight a whole lot harder.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Company of Friends


I've written here before about the quilt retreat I attend several times of year, at a beautiful retreat center here in Sonoma County called Bishop's Ranch.  I go with a group of 40-45 women, most from Northern California, and many who've been coming for quite a few years.  You might remember that quilt up there -- it's one I did a few years ago for a Ranch Hands' challenge which required us to incorporate that hunky cowboy in a quilt.  I used photos I'd taken during many of the show-and-tells, to celebrate the women at the retreat that I have come to know and love.

I was just there for another 4 day retreat, and as usual, it was fun and productive and inspiring and filled with laughter.  And, as I always do during these retreats, I ended up thinking a  lot about how enriched I feel from being part of that community of women.  We're all different ages, and we've had an enormous variety of life experiences.  But we come together to create and share and laugh, and it feels satisfying and joyful in an important way. 

In past years, I've taken a lot of photos.  But nowadays, I try to stay in the moment and just enjoy what is happening without trying to record it via my camera.  So all of those moments of intimate sharing, of raucous laughter, of silly joking and delirious punning --even the awe-filled moments sitting outside in the evenings watching the harvest moon float up into the sky -- they're in my head and my heart.  I don't need photographs.

When I first started coming to these retreats years ago, I appreciated them for the concentrated chunks of time to get projects done, and for the inspiration and education I got from working around other quilters.  But over time, the quilting part feels secondary to me.  Now, what's most important to me about these retreats is the pleasure and fulfillment of spending time with these friends.  We talk freely about our lives, our families, our experiences as we grow older.  I feel like I'm part of a tribe, and there's a lot of tribal wisdom that gets shared over fabric and pins and glasses of wine. 

And of course, I always end up thinking about the long tradition of women making quilts together, and I love feeling that in our modern way, in a big room with our fancy electronic sewing machines and enough electronics to challenge even the best-supplied electrical system, we're carrying on that tradition.  We take little bits of fabric and turn them into something bigger and prettier, just as we take the bits of our lives and share them to weave a strong and beautifully colored fabric. 

If you are one of the Ranch Hands and are reading this, please know how much you mean to me! 

Do you have a community with whom you share your creative endeavors? Or with whom you can laugh and be silly? 

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Because curly food tastes better


Yep, I'm still off quilting on my retreat.  But in the meantime, I have to ask you: do you have a spiralizer?

If not, you're going to want one.

Trust me.  I'm a middle of the road sort of vegetable eater.  I like a lot of vegetables and managed quite comfortably as a vegetarian for a lot years in my 20's and 30's.  But let me tell you - this little gadget makes vegetables downright fun.

And heck, we could all use a bit more fun in our meals, don't you think?

I honestly don't remember how I became aware of the new fad of turning vegetable into beautifully long noodles and ribbons.  But I do remember standing in a fancy kitchen store a few months ago, looking at the various options and wondering which was best.  I went home empty-handed, but did some research online to try to figure out which was best.  And, based on that, I ordered a free-standing model by Paderno that was reasonably priced and got good user reviews.  It's the very one pictured above.

And gosh, it's been fun.  I think I've used it almost every day since I got it.  I started by spiralizing (ooh, I just love even saying "spiralizing") cucumbers into lovely curls that made a great refreshing salad with a few sprinkles of rice vinegar and a teaspoon or two of chopped peanuts.  Since then, I've moved onto spiralizing (there it is again!) zucchini and carrots.  Turning zucchini into spaghetti-like strands is my current obsession.  Delicious with peanut sauce and some diced chicken thrown in.  And, with a hot red sauce on top, you'd think you were eating actual spaghetti.

I'm still having fun with the basics, but I've been reading "Inspiralized," a blog devoted to uses of spiralized food, and there are some wonderful ideas there.  (Today's featured recipe there is "Cheddar Rosemary Spiralized Potato Pancakes.  Oh my.  Excuse me if I'm drooling.) And look here, there's spiralled cinnamon-sugar apples.  A perfect little taste of fall -- apple pie with out the pie part.  Go google 'spiralizer' on Pinterest and you'll come up with a bunch more recipes too.

I'm kind of astonished that this gadget really does work as well as various blogs and websites and ads say it does.


Monday, October 06, 2014

Watching Food

I'm actually away on a quilting retreat this week (the one I go to twice a year, at the gorgeous Bishop's Ranch here in Healdsburg) but I thought I'd share some more movies with you.  You know, in case you're sitting around with nothing to do.  Ahem.

So you remember how I was saying that I've been on a documentary kick?  I love movies that look behind the scenes at people or events or even every-day matters.  Getting to see the inner workings of things just fascinates me, I guess. And there are a bunch of wonderful documentaries that deal with the world of food -- cooks' lives, restaurants, the mastery of special cooking skills. I've watched some and I've got a list of more to watch.  Here are some I've really enjoyed:



The idea of running a restaurant seems rather nightmarish to me, frankly.  The long and mostly nighttime hours.  The hot, noisy kitchen.  Cooking the same things night after night.  Definitely not a career path for me.  But I watched "Spinning Plates" yesterday, and I loved it.  This film takes a look inside three totally different restaurants -- one of the few American restaurants to have 3 Michelin stars, Alinea in Chicago; a struggling mom and pop Mexican restaurant in Arizona, and a multi-generational, center-of-the-community homestyle restaurant in the midwest.  It was fascinating, truly fascinating, and I had tears in my eyes at various points.  There's a reason this movie has won so many awards. You can watch the official trailer here.


Another food movie that was really intriguing was "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."  The film spotlights Jiro Ono, an 85-year old sushi master, and his two sons.  Jiro's life story, and the amazing attention he pays to this essential Japanese food, is fascinating. And what a contrast from the restaurants featured in "Spinning Plates" - Jiro's famous sushi place seats about 10 people and is in a Tokyo subway station! Here's the movie trailer.


And more on the restaurant theme.  "The Restaurateur" follows Danny Meyer, a successful New York City restaurant owner, as he opens not one, but two restaurants in NYC at the same time.  The film follows him as he conceives of the vision for each restaurant, designs the spaces, watches them come to reality, and copes with the delays -- construction problems, chef changes, all sorts of issues.  Again, it's not a life I'd ever want, but it sure is interesting to watch and of course it makes me think of my favorite local restaurants, and the balancing act that they must do every day to make it work.  One really fun highlight of this movie is seeing a very young Tom Colicchio (with hair!) who was Meyer's partner and executive chef. Here's the trailer.


And then there's the world of french pastry.  "Kings of Pastry" highlights several experienced pastry chefs in France as they prepare to compete in a national "Meilleurs Ouvriers de France" competition designed to identify the highest level of artisans in the world of pastry.  (You can read more about the details of the competition here.  The pastry making is amazing, but what I really loved was seeing how serious and dedicated and obsessed these guys were with their competition planning practicing.  Dedication, chocolate, and butter.  All in one movie.   Check out the trailer.

There are more on my "to watch" list:

"Entre les Bras," -- the English title is "Step Up to the Plate."  It's billed as a documentary on French chef Michel Bras and his decision to hand over his restaurant to his son, Sebastien, who has been working with him for 15 years.

"El Bulli: Cooking in Progress" -- a Spanish film about the creation of a Michelin-rated three star restaurant in Barcelona. 

"Somm," a movie about four young hopefuls trying to earn the title of Master Sommelier.  

"Three Stars" , about various restaurants and chefs who have earned the highly sought 3- star Michelin rating. 

I'll let you know what I think when I've seen them! 









Thursday, October 02, 2014

A Cottage on the Water -- with lots of pictures!

      I mentioned that I'd been up in the Seattle area a while ago. I was in Bremerton, to be exact, just across the Puget Sound from Seattle. Miss C and I were there as her high school graduation present, which was geared around her getting to spend time with two longtime friends who live up in that area. It was a very fun trip, and we both had a grand time.

     Miss C is not big on my sharing photos of her here, so you will just have to imagine three teens laughing and goofing around and grinning ear to ear for an entire weekend. But I can show you some  photos of our beautiful accommodations for the weekend.  I quickly abandoned the hotel option (knowing now Miss C likes to hang around where we stay, and envisioning the discomfort of trying to fade into the background while the teens occupied themselves in a hotel room) and found a great cottage via HomeAway.com.

    This little cottage was originally a boathouse, and it sits right on the tip of a peninsula, jutting out into Oyster Bay.  The views and the peaceful sounds were fantastic. The bay, like the rest of Puget Sound, is tidal.  This shot shows the tide out... when it was in, the water came all the way up to the cottage's foundation, and we could look out of the kitchen window straight down into the water.  (That's how I saw all those jellyfish.)

    Here's a wider view, so you can see what a great spot we had.


























This is what you'd see if you turned around.

























    The little living room provided a full view of the bay.


































   The place was decorated with charm, and the little kitchen was just right for us.


























  The sound of gulls crying was a peaceful background song.






















    There was a lovely deck, where I sat and painted one afternoon.

    There was even a covered part of the patio, where Miss C and her friend hung out when they weren't hunting for seashells and hermit crabs on the beach.


































  But it was the water that kept my attention and made me reach for my camera time and time again.


























  I'd go back in a heartbeat.  If you're in the mood for a waterside escape, you can find the info about this cottage here.  Tell them I sent you!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Blogging, Again


A number of years ago, I reorganized my whole blogging process and set up separate pages on this blog to break out separate topics -- Books and Reading, Homeschooling, Photography, and more.  Many of you followed along and gave me great feedback.  And then life got busy and complicated, and my blogging dwindled off, and those other pages languished.  Died, really.

But it's been on my mind to get things sorted here.  So I've been mucking about a bit in the background, and I've tidied a few things up, and guess what?  Those tabs work and will take you to new content!  I'm always reading, and making lists, and taking pictures, so I might as well get back into the habit of posting what I'm doing as I do it.

So stay tuned.  I have a plan to keep things updated regularly, and you can follow here and on the separate pages by subscribing to the various pages or just coming back here and poking around.  And you never know, there might even be quilting content again!  So keep on dropping in.  I do appreciate your visits and comments!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Jelly with breakfast

       I've been up in the Seattle area over the last few days, and was staying at a great little rental cottage right smack on the water.  On Tuesday, I'd awakened early. The tide was in, which meant that the water was all the way up to the pilings on which the cottage's foundation rested.  I'd made my morning coffee and was standing at a window in the kitchen, looking straight down at the water.  And something sort of pale and fuzzy caught my eye.  I looked closer.  It was whitish and sort of translucent.  Seaweed? A plastic bag under the water? 

A jellyfish!






























I'd never seen a jellyfish outside of an aquarium.  I watched some more, noticing that it had started to drizzle a bit and drops were hitting the still surface of the water.

Wait....those weren't drops. It wasn't raining.  That was the water surface moving because there were more jellyfish.

And more. And more.
















































I realized that there were thousands of them, as far as I could see, just drifting, pulsing slowly as they do.  A jellyfish ballet right outside my window.  It was mesmerizing.


 I ran to wake up Miss C, who grudgingly got out of bed to come see and then was instantly awed and delighted to see the water water ballet we had performing right outside our window.  She consulted the Google and learned that they were Moon Jellies, quite common in the Puget Sound and distinctive for the four-leaf-clover looking structures which, it turns out, are gonads.  The male jellies' are white, the females are a pinkish tone. 

And then Miss C spotted this fellow, off a ways under the surface of the water so it was hard to see him clearly:






























We think it was a Lion's Mane jellyfish. 

Good thing we weren't going swimming.  But what a magical sight!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Up Close and Personal



The death of Joan Rivers recently made me think about how although I have never been a huge fan of her stand-up comedy, I came to see her in a whole different way after seeing the documentary about her, called "A Piece of Work."  There's something about seeing someone up close and personal, in the context of the pieces of his/her life, with a sense of her whole life story, that I find fascinating.  This movie made me appreciate what a hard working, ground-breaking performer she's been for all of her adult life.  Here's the official trailer for the movie.

And that made me think of some other biographical documentaries that I really enjoyed.  For much of my life, I've tended to watch fictional movies.  But over the last few years, I've been watching a lot of documentaries.  It's like reality tv, I guess. But better -- and perhaps far more real.  Anyway, here are a few other biographical documentaries I've really liked.  Are there ones you've loved?  Do share them with me in a comment!


Speaking of fabulously successful yet insecure performers, this documentary about Elaine Stritch -- "Shoot Me" -- is gripping and funny and poignant.  She's another performer I liked well enough, but came to see differently after seeing this film.  How frightened she was of aging and losing her memory, and how much she needed the adoration of fans. It was amazing to see how she'd be sore and sad in her dressing room, then the minute she hit the stage, she'd be erect and charming and with charisma just shining from her. The trailer's here.


Have you seen "20 Feet from Stardom"?  It won the Oscar for the best documentary film this past year.  It follows several long-time but not very well known (to the general public, anyway) back-up singers who've sung behind the big names in pop and rock music.  It's intriguing to meet these women whose voices we hear all of the time, on our CDs and on the radio, and to hear their stories as they talk about how it is that they are not at the front of the stage.  I loved this look at a side of the music industry I'd never really thought about. Here's the official trailer.


I can't remember how it was that I heard about the movie "Bill Cunningham New York" or why I watched it, but I really enjoyed this movie. Bill Cunningham is a fashion photographer for the New York Times who rides around NYC on his bicycle photographing what real people are wearing for his dedicate page "On the Street."  His view of fashion as something that is relevant for real people, as armor for coping with life, is thought-provoking. But it's his odd, quiet private life juxtaposed with the hugeness of his role in NY's fashion world that made this film so fascinating for me.  He's a guy you'd not look twice at if you passed him on the street -- and a look inside his life is truly entertaining and intriguing.  The trailer is here.  



Exit Through the Gift Shop is another film that has gotten a lot of press and acclaim over the last few years, and if you've not seen it it's really worth watching.  It looks at NY graffiti artist Banksy (well, doesn't "look at" him as his identity is not publicly known) -- how his graffiti has affected, changed, and mocked the art world.  It raises a lot of questions -- what is art, anyway?  who can say what is art and what isn't? -- and is thought provoking as well as wildly entertaining.  Trailer here.

I have so many more on my Netflix queue so I'll keep you posted if I watch any great ones. 


Monday, September 15, 2014

Yosemite

Nope, I"m not there right now.  I realized that I never showed you the photos I took there during my gold country trip in early August.  Sonora, where I was staying, is about a 90 minute drive from the Yosemite valley floor. So it's a reasonable day trip (if you don't take the Very Very Long and Windy way home, which we did. But that's a story for  another day.)

Anyway.  Here are some Yosemite photos. The thing about taking photos there, I find, is that is that it's all so breathtakingly beautiful and so perfectly Yosemite-ish that it's hard to take a picture that doesn't look like a bad imitation of something you've seen on a postcard or Ansel Adams poster.  I found that I wanted to take picture after picture there, as a way to bring all of that beauty home with me. Even the best photos don't do it justice.  But I'll show you anyway.