Friday, December 31, 2004

The last day of 2004

It is New Year's Eve day, and what are we doing? We are not vacuuming the kitchen floor in preparation for the arrival of our friends Beth and Tim. No, instead we are standing around the kitchen watching the kitchen be vacuumed by Roger's favorite Christmas present, a "Roomba" robotic vacuum cleaner. This was a brilliant idea on my part, I believe. I'm annoyed by ever-present crumbs on the kitchen floor, and Roger loves gadgety things. So this will please us both. Plus, we suspect, it will keep the cats entertained. I figured I should photograph the christening of our first family robot. Note to self: this thing really moves! That little grey thing in the corner is the Roomba, rushing out of the frame to grab a crumb or wisp of cat hair or something.

Okay, here's a slightly better shot. And it's blurry because the darned things is still moving along happily.

Ah ha! Here's Roomba heading to the corner to find more cat hair. Cute, huh? Another note to self: it takes just as much time to stand around watching the Roomba vacuum as it does to vacuum, although it is far more restful.

This is not, however, the highlight of the day. Beth and Tim are coming from Sacramento to see in the New Year with us, and we will dine on delicious nibbles from Oakville Grocery for dinner, along with champagne, of course. (Menu: fresh chilled shrimp and cocktail sauce, smoked trout pate and crackers, chinese sesame noodles, stuffed grape leaves, bits of crabcake and smoked salmon fritatta, green salad with blue cheese, pecans, and sliced apple, a selection of gourmet cheeses, roasted beets, and sour dough french bread.)

Happy New Year!

Hitting the Sales

Neither rain, nor thunder, nor holiday traffic can keep diehard quilters from a fabric sale! On Thursday, Janet Shore, Rita Pesetti and I headed off to visit two shops with big holiday sales. Rainstorms were predicted, but we weren't daunted. Our first stop was The Quilted Angel in Petaluma where everything in the store was on sale. How can you resist a sale like that? Here, Rita and Janet have fabric cut by the store's new owner (whose name I forget, I'm afraid).

We then moved on to New Pieces in Berkeley. It's the sort of store where every bolt of fabric is great, and it's hard to move from one side of the store to the other without being waylaid by stuff you just HAVE to look at, fondle, and maybe even purchase. We all found fabric we couldn't part without, plus Rita and I both bought "Journey of an Art Quilter" by Barbara Olson.

We can't go anywhere, let alone the very quilt store where Janet worked for several years, without encountering quilting friends of hers. We all chatted happily with Sharona, the new owner of the shop. And as we were paying for our goods, in walked Roberta Horton to check out the sale.

After that, we visited New Pieces' quilt gallery up the street, where we oohed and aahed over a lovely assortment of quilts. I took the opportunity to take a photograph of Rita and Janet, looking happy.

We realized that purchasing fabric couldn't stave off our hunger any longer, so we made our way to the terrific Mexican restaurant Janet has introduced us to. We sat next to a fireplace with a real, burning fire in it (so cozy!) and ate chile rellenos and enchiladas. The perfect spicy lunch on a cold, rainy day.

It was worth the rainy drive to have such a fun day. Now, to get to work using this lovely new fabric...

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Personal Highlights of 2004

It's that time of year when every magazine you pick up and seemingly every tv show you tune in to is listing top events of the past year. In that vein, I've been thinking about the high spots of my here they are:

Our family trip to Disneyland in January, where Caroline wore her Cinderella dress to Disneyland every single day;

Pulling off a major surprise for Roger's birthday in February when our friends Diane, Eric, and Abby from Maine walked into our local Chinese restaurant to have dinner with us, and then a second surprise when Roger walked in to the house next day to find a surprise birthday party with lots of friends and family.

In March, Roger and I working together to plant 13 big shrubs and several small trees in our newly landscaped backyard (then giving up after planting 5 and hiring guys to plant the rest), and the joy of seeing greenery instead of a big brown fence.

In June, meeting Melody Johnson and enjoying her 3 day workshop at the Pacific Piecemakers Quilt Guild in Gualala on fun, fast fusing...and having my eyes opened and creativity awakened to the joy of fusing.

Spending a relaxing week with Roger's siblings at Lake Tahoe in July, and kayaking on the lake with Caroline.

In August, finishing four complex appellate briefs for the California Court of Appeals on the standards for ordering sanctions for pleadings...results still to come.

In September, having my quilt "Red Threads" juried into the Pacific International Quilt Festival and seeing it hung there.

Spending fun quilt days with Pat, Janet, Rita, and Gerrie experimenting with fabric paints in our backyard in August, attending a quilt retreat at Bishop's Ranch in October and laughing, laughing, laughing throughout.

In October, seeing the look on Laura's face after surgery when she learned that she didn't have ovarian cancer.

Roger and I watching Caroline at the Oakridge Stables' October pony show, watching her concentrate so hard, and seeing her happiness at winning two third place ribbons.

Seeing my brother Gregg so happy about his engagement to his girlfriend, Kitt.

Re-activating my New Hampshire Bar Association membership to be an active New Hampshire lawyer again, all the way from California.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Animal, vegetable, mineral?

My mom has turned us on to a new, strange's a little handheld electronic game called "20Q." She gave one to my brother, my sister and I, and although the little blue thing looks harmless enough, we sat and fiddled with it for the longest time on Christmas night, and the day after.

It's basically a game of 20 Questions, but the game asks YOU the questions. And darned if the thing doesn't get the answer about 80% of the time! There's a free, online version of this game at

I've tried the oddest things: a potato chip, a seam ripper, a giraffe, a stethoscope...Caroline even did "air" and the thing got it! It's fascinating, to think about how items can be systematically eliminated based on answers to questions. Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

And now, back to quilting...

Maybe now I can get back to quilting!

Today's plan is to clear away the clutter from the "gift wrap central" station, and to tidy up the heap of paper that has landed on the floor next to my computer as the result of a big work project last week.

and then I can sew! I'll finish the quilt in progress for Roger (which is so far safe to mention here because I know he can't remember the name of my blog and I won't remind him until I've given him the quilt), and I'll start cutting pieces for the red and white house quilt I'm planning.

I'm tempted to drive to the Quilted Angel in Petaluma because I know they've put every bit of fabric in the store on sale for 20% I just got an email announcement that New Pieces in Berkeley is having a sale. This may call for a road trip later this week!

But for now, I'll control myself and clear away the mess so I can sew in peace!

I've already put in a request to Roger for a birthday present (seeing as how it rolls up at the end of January so quickly) for cordless headphones phones, so I can listen to the stereo or tv while I sew and actually hear over the sewing machine noise. I'm looking forward to a period of total immersion in sewing...

Roger, me, and Willow on Christmas night. The presents have all been opened, dinner and dessert have been eaten, Caroline is in bed...and we're tired!

The aftermath

I didn't think this way as a kid, but as an adult I find that the days right after Christmas are the best. The flurry of activity has died down, and everyone can relax to enjoy new gifts, mounds of leftovers, and time with nothing to do. I anticipate several naps this week!

Christmas was very fun. We spent Dec. 24th at Roger's sister's house, surrounded by Roger's family. This year, Roger's sister Doreen and her son Dash made the trip down from Oregon to join everyone, so that was a bonus to have them there. The kids (13 of them, ranging from age 4 to age 17) spent the afternoon planting Diane's butterfly garden to fill out her newly-landscaped backyard. Amazingly, no one fell into the pond or got their holiday clothes too dirty in the process! The kids opened their gifts from their designated cousin (the result of the Thanksgiving name-drawing) and Caroline was delighted to get a DVD of the newest Harry Potter movie. We had a festive dinner (prime rib and grilled salmon!), then the adults did the "consumable" gift game, a family version of a yankee gift swap which involves choosing mysteriously wrapped presents, stealing the especially desirable ones, and much strategizing. Roger and I came home with a bag containing a lovely assortment of teas, and a cookbook of all chocolate recipes!

On Christmas morning, Caroline contained her enthusiasm and followed the instruction to not wake us up until 7am...She appeared at my bedside at 6:58 to announce that it was "almost time" to wake up! We had a grand Christmas morning (having pre-set the coffee maker the night before, so we were greeted by fresh coffee) and were all delighted with our goodies.
I received some wonderful gifts, including
A lovely silver necklace with the Chinese characters for mother and child
The DVD set of the 3rd season of The West Wing
A necklace and earring set chosen for me by Caroline from her elementary school's holiday shop ("Do you think they're real diamonds?" Caroline asked...For $4.99, I'm guessing no. Still it's actually rather pretty.)
A gorgeous book of Andy Goldworthy's artwork, "Time"
A luscious packet of hand-dyed fabric from Alaska Dyeworks

Roger loved his robotic vacuum cleaner! And Caroline was delighted with her microscope from Santa, and then proceeded to spend the morning taking samples of things from around the house so she could inspect them microscopically. ("Are there any dead bugs around here?" she asked, hopefully.) She also loved the Nancy Drew computer game she got--my clevery ploy to lure her into the Nancy Drew mystery books so I can read them all again myself!

In the lull after present-opening and before guest arrival, Caroline played with her new toys and Roger napped.

Sleepy Christmas

You can tell Roger is sound asleep by the fact that he hasn't noticed the smoked salmon plate on the table in front of him!

Mom and Dad, and then Laura arrived...We enjoyed artichoke dip, smoked salmon, and champagne until Gregg, Kitt, and Kitt's mom Gloria arrived...Then we indulged in more wild present opening. Of course, afterwards we needed more food to fortify ourselves, so we had dinner, which consisted of
Cheesy scalloped potatoes
Green beans in a tomato/bacon sauce
Laura's favorite raspberry jello with applesauce and seven-up
Green salad with blue cheese, green apple, and pecans
Rolls from La Boulangerie in Los Altos (it wouldn't be Christmas without these)

Gloria brought Caroline a domino game and then she and Kitt showed us all how to play, including how to bet for money. I see many domino tournaments in our future!

Ann, Walt, and Sarah Spalding joined us for dessert. Caroline and Sarah retreated to the family room to share their new toys and have "girl time" together. The grownups moved on to dessert, which consisted of chocolate mint bundt cake (made in my new snowflake pan), various cookies, and a luscious mocha toffee that Gregg found in SF.

All in all, it was a fulfilling (in more ways than one)day.

Christmas eve found us at Aunt Diane's house, for the usual Kisner/Hock family gathering. As usual, Santa made a guest appearance to pass out presents.

Caroline, too suspicious of Santa to sit on his lap, went with Daddy to talk to him and received an electronic Boggle game.

Caroline, chagrinned by the Santa conversation, is accompanied by a ribbon-bedecked Roger.||

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The night before the night before

This isn't our party, because I was having such a good time I forgot to use the camera. But maybe we looked like this, only in color.

A sort of peace has settled in...or is is exhaustion?

The holiday caroling party was fun, despite various friends unable to attend due to someone ill in the family, other commitments, or just general holiday overload. Still, we had a grand time and the neighbors didn't seem too terrorized by our singing at them.

One neighbor, who smiled broadly at us as we sang, said after we finished, "You should go around the corner to the Conways' house. They'll love you...they're GOOD singers." As if we weren't?!

The kids, of course, had a grand time. They were an all-girl group this year -- Lani, Claire, Caroline, Sarah, and Madeline. They were very orderly about taking turns to ring doorbells, but they jingled their jinglebells with great vigor. And we had some exuberant-voiced adults! Maria has a great, strong voice (see what you find out about your friends even when you think you know them well?) . Pat and Len brought Janet with them, who thought that the party involved coming and being sung TO. She was a good sport when she learned that in fact she coming along to do the singing. Laura brought Libby, wearing a jingle-bell collar...and Libby was quite well-behaved despite the number of dogs who rushed out of their houses to sniff us all out. At one house, a small yorkshire terrier (by the name of Murphy Brown) barked furiously at us the whole time. Defending the house, or singing along? Hard to tell.

Anyway, much champagne and cider was consumed. We still seem to have a mountain of cookies left, but that'll see us through Christmas dessert, and the days after. Nothing like eating Christmas cookies for breakfast on December 26.

Here's my newest Christmas cookies to add to the "must bake" recipe collection:

Coconut jam thumbprints

3/4 pound (3 sticks) butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tb. water, for egg wash
7 ounces flaked coconut
Raspberry and/or apricot jam

Preheat oven to 350. With mixer, cream together butter and sugar until just combined, then add vanilla. Separately, sift together flour and salt. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to butter and sugar. Mix until dough starts to come together. Dump on floured board, roll together into a flat disk, then wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll dough into 1/4 inch balls. Dip each ball into egg wash, roll in coconut, and place on ungreased cookie sheet. With finger, press a light indentation into each ball. Drop 1/4 tsp jam into each indentation. Bake 20-25 minutes until coconut is golden brown.

This is from my neighbor Julie Bell, originally from the Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

I'm not panicking

I'm not panicking. Really.

I got up early this morning to make find that Roger has eaten the butterscotch chips I need for the recipe.

Okay. I'll do the shortbread stars...but oops, the sprinkles are gone. Looks like a trip to the grocery store is in order before I start.

No worry. I'll wrap presents...but wait, the red paper that Santa uses is gone. And I couldn't find any plain red wrapping paper when I was shopping yesterday. Will Caroline notice? Maybe Santa won't wrap his presents and just put them under the tree unwrapped.

Where the heck is that red tablecloth I used last year? We have about 30 people coming tonight for Christmas caroling....and cookies (still to be baked) and cider (not yet purchased)...We do have the champagne, but at this point I'm counting on THAT to get me through the day!

Which reminds me...where are those sheets with song lyrics we used last year? In the garage somewhere, I'm sure. Looks like I'll need a flashlight to go find them...

But oops, no D batteries for the flashlight. Add those to the shopping list.

And, just to top the morning off, the bathroom toilet isn't flushing. Lovely.

But I'm not panicking, no sirree, I'm not panicking.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Five days and counting

I thought I was in great shape, Christmas shopping-wise. But I'm at that point where it suddenly occurs to me that I have more to do, and not much time to do it in.

Still to do:

1. Finish Roger's "High Tech Tucks" quilt -- I really don't want to give him an unfinished quilt for Christmas. If all else fails, I can do it as a New Year's present, I guess...

2. Bake cookies: brown sugar shortbread cookies are a must, and the coconut thumbprints are a new addition I want to make (given how delicious they were when Julie nextdoor gave us a bunch. I had to go over and demand the recipe this morning!) And then there's the peanut butter fudge...

3. Final shopping, which should be done tomorrow when I meet Beth at the mall in Corte Madera. I should stick my list in my purse now!

4. Finalize Christmas dinner menu and make shopping list. We're having a ham (purchased today), some potato cheesy thing I can make in the crockpot (recipe yet to be determined), some vegetable thing--why is that always the hardest for me to decide on...Maybe oven roasted veggies? But wait, the ham will be in there... Sigh. More recipe hunting...

5. Finish wrapping. Santa ran out of the red paper he always uses even though he was wide awake for wrapping last night.

6. Buy red paper.

With all of this yet to do, I set out this morning to return library books, mail two packages, find some plain white christmas ornaments to make last-minute name-card thingies for the Christmas table (wouldn't that look cool, tired to a red ribbon, with the name written on it in silver?) and buy flaked coconut. I had a successful trip to the library--it was one of those inexplicable days where books I can't wait to read practically leapt off the shelves at me so my library basket was full of books to bring home. Then, finding the post office lobby filled with people, I smugly dropped my boxes into the mail slot because Roger had done pre-paid, printed labels for me via the internet... Well I was across town, on my knees digging through the boxes of half-priced ornaments to see if I could find white or red ones when my cell phone rang. Turns out the PO site did some wierd thing and the labels Roger afixed to my boxes were "invalid" but the PO only emailed him about 30 minutes after I dropped them in the shute. Oops. Now I'll have to call the recipients and tell them that I did not intentionally send them their gifts postage due!

Never did find the white or red ornaments. Lots of gold, blue and green balls left around town, however. Then I thought I'd pop in to say hi to my sister Laura, and we got onto a conversation about camellia plants and how now is when they're in bloom and next thing you know, we were at the nursery looking at camellias. They were expensive, so we HAD to go to Home Depot to see their cheaper plants...and next thing you know, I was loading three camellias, a fern, a daphne plant, and two lemon trees into the car. How did that happen?! One of the lemon trees (a meyer lemon) is for Roger for Christmas. Two of the camellias are mine, the other stuff is Laura's. We do get each other into trouble.

We dropped everything off at Laura's -- the lemon tree will stay there until Christmas eve--and I hit the grocery store, my intention to make spaghetti with fresh zucchini and tomato sauce fading rapidly. Did they have coconut? No. Did they have coffee filters, size 4? No. Rats.

I got home to find Caroline having a playdate with her friend Sarah, and just as I was putting my shopping goods away, Sarah's mom Ann arrived to pick her up. She didn't have the urge to rush home and cook either, so next thing you know, we had plans to meet at our favorite local chinese place.

The hot and sour soup, spicy orange chicken, beef and broccoli, ma po tofu, cashew chicken, and sweet and sour prawns tasted much better than I think my pasta would have!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Art quilt for Elaine

I thought when I started this, that the blog would primarily reflect my quilting process. Unfortunately, that isn't at all how this is going...which, in fact, reflects how my life isn't involving any quilting at the moment. There are just too many other things to do. Well, that's okay...I enjoy Christmastime so much that I can't begrudge the other fun things I'm not doing.

I just sent this small art quilt off to my friend Elaine as a Christmas gift. Elaine is a talented artist, book maker and printer who always inspires me. She runs Blue Chair Press , her very cool printing and art studio. Several of my favorite art pieces in our home are made by Elaine--a great print set with large type that says "I get by with a little help from my friends," a wonderful art doll (Hilda Haagen-daaz) who looks over me as I sit at my computer and work, some framed artist stamps in my bathroom. So, I'm sharing some of my art with her. I havn't even told her about this blog and tucked a note in with the gift so she won't read about her gift until she's already received it. Hee hee!

Sunrise Hilltop, for Elaine

I met Elaine when I was involved in a 3-year intensive book arts course with my dear friend Shereen LaPlantz. Shereen was an amazing art teacher and mentor, and I miss her dearly. She died in September, 2003 after a long battle with cancer. Going up to Eureka (a 4 hour drive away from home for me) twice a year to spend a luxurious 4 days immersed in art, paper, and books was such a treat. And after meeting Elaine on the first workshop weekend, I always visited and hung out with her because we just hit it off. Oh, how I wish we lived closer.... I'd probably still be making books, and she'd be making quilts by now!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Caroline adds a decorative accent to this year's gingerbread house (an annual tradition, now that they have the kits with the pre-made walls and roof!) //

Caroline and Laura having a candy-happy time. This is our best house ever!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Five Ladies on a Lark

What's better than having a really good friend to have fun with? Having FIVE good friends who share common passions and love hanging out together, that's what. On Friday, Rita, Pat, Janet, Gerrie and I set out on our holiday spree....and what a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays together.

I, as designated driver (and owner of the largest vehicle, I think) picked everyone up at Pat's house. After oohing and aahing over Rita's recently completed "Dot com" quilt (fabulous!) we loaded into the car and headed south.

Our first destination was an art center in Mill Valley, about an hour away, where we thought we'd see an exhibit of art quilts by a quilter Janet knows from Berkeley. (Having been a founding member of the East Bay Heritage Quilt Guild in Berkeley, Janet knows pretty much everyone in quilting...We teased her that if we ended up in Siberia, Janet would say, "I have a good quilting friend who lives on that ice berg over there...") We weren't daunted by the drive...we manage to talk the whole way there, often simultaneously. Janet knit all the way there, working on a fuzzy scarf she's making for her niece.

We found the art center tucked back among redwood trees in a residential neighborhood. Turns out that the exhibit was a small show of quality work of all media...Although there were only 3 quilts (and they were beautiful), there were other fascinating pieces to look at as well. We had a good time there, even if it wasn't what we thought it'd be.

From there, we headed north to Larkspur, where Gerrie had made reservations at the Lark Creek Inn. What a lovely restaurant! We entered a charming, yellow-clapboarded house and were greated by a cheery fire in the lobby fireplace. ...then seated at a booth tucked into a windowseat, where we had a perfect view of a Christmas tree decorated with irridescent gold ribbons. Very elegant and festive. We ordered a bottle of champagne (inspired to drink an irridescent gold beverage), toasted our friendship, and proceeded to order a lovely lunch. We all had butternut squash drizzled with sage had us all moaning with pleasure and trying to figure out how to lick our bowls without looking rude. Most of us had the crabcake entree (topped with a delicious citrus aoili and surrounded by a mango salsa...yum). And, although we were quite happy with that, we couldn't resist sharing dessert. We ordered a chocolate "bombe," a perfect half-dome covered with dark, gleaming chocolate and filled with layered white, milk, and dark chocolate was the most luscious dessert I've had in ages, and a pear upside down cake, which I never tasted as I felt compelled to save every last bit of room for the chocolate. (I am, after all, no fool.)

We rolled out to the car and drove to San Rafael, where Janet's good parking karma won us a space smack in front of Pumpkinseed Quilts, my new favorite fabric store. What an eclectic and appealing assortment of fabric! We all found fabric we couldn't live without, and we have impeccable taste. Believe me, we know our fabric.

We stuffed our bags into the car, then walked two blocks to the Dharma Trading Company store up the street. I'd never been to the store (although I adore the catalog) and I was delighted to find that the whole front half of the store is YARN! Luscious, bright, soft yarn of every texture and color...We spent an enjoyable time wandering around stroking the yarn (a very pleasant feeling, indeed) and managed to select some to bring home, of course. Now we'll all look stunning in new scarves (except for Pat, who will look stunning in a new poncho).

Then, back to the car and home...Janet still knitting, Pat graciously sitting in the "way back" -- as the most (ahem) height-challenged of us, and the passenger least likely to get carsick, that's her spot. We returned happy, with new projects, new inspiration, and smiles on our faces.

I'm already looking forward to our January outing!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

What's your Mon-tra?

Caroline's buddy Christopher came home with her after school for a play date. On the way home in the car, they were discussing the creatures they were inventing for their imaginary world, very much influenced by Harry Potter. Christopher's suggestion was a "spermit" which, he announced, would be like a hermit crab but with super powers.

A "spermit" brings other images and powers to mind for me, but never mind.

Caroline has recently discovered the world of Digimon (digital monsters--that's the sum total of my knowledge on the subject ... but why is it that those Japanese anime people always have big round eyes? That's what I want to know). And so from time to time she's announced her own digimon creatures...foalmon (a baby horse) that morphs into unimon (a unicorn with superpowers.) She suggested that Roger and I play along and invent some.

I'm Mommimon and I am known to morph into various characters, including Krankimon, Sleepimon, Happimon, Fatigimon...

Ugly Christmas Lights

Last night, on our way home from after-school day camp, Caroline asked if we could drive a long way to look at the holiday decorations on people's houses. That was one my favorite things to do as a kid at Christmastime.

Back then, my favorites were the houses that had large wooden figures and lots of moving things. In our neighborhood, one house had large wooden presents all over its lawn, with moving wooden elves hammering and sawing...All of this was wonderfully (if garishly) lit with colored lights. Santa in his sleigh and all 9 reindeer (including Rudolph) were up on the roof. It was, to my childish eyes, an artistic marvel.

Now, everyone just hangs those dripping icicle lights around the gutters of their houses.

There's a fine line between exuberantly festive holiday decoration and, well, tacky. But how to know when you're crossing the line? I guess you can be sure when a photo of your house turns up here: Welcome to Ugly Christmas!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Spreading Christmas Cheer

This morning, I accompanied Caroline's 3rd grade class to a local senior citizen's center, where the kids met their senior pen pals for the first time and performed a Christmas play for them. This was a much-anticipated visit. The kids have been rehearsing the play and making holiday cards and gifts for several weeks! They've also exchanged one letter a month with their sr. pals since school started, so they were eager to meet their buddies. Caroline was especially excited, as her pen pal Marcelle always writes about her Chihuahua, Pepito and Caroline was hoping that she'd get to meet him.

This is Marcelle's dog, Pepito. He posed wearing the red collar Caroline made for him!

The play went off well, especially considering that Caroline's teacher had to leave to deal with a family emergency, and left a substitute and a flock of moms to handle the event. The kids performed "Mrs. Claus's visit," a play about what happens when Santa is too tired (he sits on the side of the stage snoring, throughout) and Mrs. Claus is left to do all the work and deliver all of the presents herself. Santa only awakes when everything is done. We moms relate to this storyline! Mrs. N was unable to persuade any of the 7 girls in the class to take the lead role, so one brave boy took the part and did a terrific job! His mom says he has two older brothers and is so used to teasing that playing a girl's part didn't phase him. Caroline was a reindeer, her first choice role.

The school principal introduces Caroline's 3rd grade class to their Senior Pen Pals at the senior center.

After the big performance, the kids sat with their pals, exchanged small gifts, and then shared cupcakes and red punch. Caroline had spent several days making window stickers (sort of faux stained class) for Marcelle--a dog and various colored paw prints. And she had sewn 3 collar scrunchies for Pepito. Marcelle got teary-eyed when Caroline presented those!

Caroline gives a gift to Marcelle, her senior pen pal.

All in all, it was a successful morning for all. On the way back to school, my car load of girls talked about how hard it was to talk to old people, especially ones they'd never met before, but they agreed it was easier and more fun than they thought it would be.

The sight of the litte kids waving to the roomful of seniors as they left, and them all grinning and waving back, was pretty darn heartwarming.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Christmas Music -- the Best and the Worst

I love listening to Christmas music. There’s nothing like it to get me in the mood to do holiday tasks. In fact, it makes me feel so happy that it cheers me up when I have to do ordinary boring things like picking up toys and folding laundry. When I discovered that my cable television company has music channels that include an "all holiday music, all the time" channel, I was delighted. I’ve had that on as background music a lot lately. And listening to constant Christmas music has caused me to reflect that there is a LOT of Christmas music recorded, some great, some horrible.

Here are my opinions about the best and the worst:

Among the best:

Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas music
"White Christmas" sung by Bing Crosby (of course, the classic!)
Pretty much any Christmas song sung by Rosemary Clooney
"Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire", sung by Mel Torme
"Pretty Paper" sung by Willy Nelson
Mele Kalikimaka sung by Bing Crosby -- how can you resist this goofy song?

Among the worst (and these are actually ones I’ve heard–I’m not making these up):

The Little Drummer Boy, sung by Bob Seger (and there are a lot of other really awful versions of this song, for some reason)
December Will be Magic Again, by Kate Bush
Please, Daddy, Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas, by John Denver
Santa, Baby sung by Calisa Flockhart

What are YOUR favorites?

And speaking of Christmas music... Did you know you can create a custom radio station, with your own favorite music, to play on your computer? This "Launch Music on Yahoo" site (check it out here LAUNCH: Music on Yahoo!) has all sorts of web radio stations...all sorts of holiday music, various genres of non-holiday music, even an all-lullaby music station! And there's the option that lets you pick your favorite artists and genres and create a custom station! Very cool!

Friday, December 10, 2004


I'm confessing an addiction. This site (Snood ) will lead you to the shareware game, Snood...and it's totally, wierdly addictive. I've spent more time than I should admit playing this game over the last week. I'm going to chalk it up to being under the influence of strong cold medicine.

It's a fun game...but I warn you, it'll hook you pretty fast.

The shapes and colors make me think I should try a snood-inspired quilt...or just keep playing Snood. One more more game...


Uh oh, Caroline is addicted to Snood too!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Drying up

We've gone through a lot of tissues in our house over the past few days. Caroline and I are on the way to recovering from our colds. Not surprisingly, she's far more energetic than I am! Roger has managed to avoid the bug, which is good. But he's heading into finals week, which means he has quite a few papers to grade and he's grumpy.

Today's big adventure is that a man from the builder of our home came to pull up the flooring in the master bathroom to tackle (for the second time) the inexplicable water seeping out of the shower. Actually, it's not inexplicable--it's easily explained by the fact that the original installer of the shower did it wrong, period. Thisx means that the vinyl flooring has been cut up, and now a large fan and a dehumidifier are humming away in the bathroom in an effort to dry out the floor board before they cut away parts to repair the water damage. Thank goodness for warranties, and for a responsible builder.

So much for taking a nice, relaxing hot bath tonight, though.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The December Cold

No, I don't mean the temperature cold...I'm mean the sniffling and sneezing kind. Caroline started complaining of feeling bad on Thursday afternoon and on Friday I woke up with a runny nose. Caroline stayed home sick and we spent the day blowing our noses and watching movies. Our favorite of the day was "Mrs. Claus," a made-for-tv musical with Angela Landsbury. It was pretty silly...managed to work in women's suffrage, unions, exploitation of child labor, and the meaning of Christmas. Still, it was a good way to spend a cozy afternoon.

Today, we thought we'd better take advantage of the weather (cool and grey with rain coming in late, supposedly) and get our Christmas tree. We picked up Laura, my sister, and in one outing got a tiny table-top tree for our family room, a medium sized tree for Laura's tiny house, and an 8-foot tree for our living room. Plus, we got a gingerbread house kit and lots of cheap candy from the dollar store for decorating it.

Caroline and I got the tree up so Roger was surprised when he returned from school. Caroline spent hours making an aluminum foil chain to drape on the tree (giving it a sort of tough, metal look---but in a festive way) AND she was big enough this year to stand on the ladder alone and put the star on top.

It wouldn't be Christmast without Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosy on our mantlepiece...

The family room tableau. The little theater is showing "White Christmas" (it says so on the marquee), my favorite Christmas movie.

O Christmas Tree! Note the aluminim foil chain painstakingly made by Caroline.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Friendly inspiration

Yesterday, Rita came by for a visit, bringing with her goodies to share and inspire. We poured ourselves fresh, hot cups of coffee and went up stairs to my office to talk about art, projects in progress, and other fun subjects.

My interest in my in-progress chair quilt was reawakened when Rita reacted so excitedly to the pieces I had up on my design wall. I was SO excited in that project when I got started...I drew chair after chair, trying to get the perfect comfy arm chair shape, until I was happy. I made freezer paper drawings, I cut fabric pieces, and I made test blocks before I settled on a fabric selection and method I liked. Then, when the first assembly stage of each block was one (fusing) I put them up on my wall...and stalled. They've been there for the past 10 days. I've been wondering whether they're too cute? too symmetrical? too...too something? Rita's reaction to them ("Definitely not too cute!") was encouraging. So, maybe I'm on the right track.

Rita shared what she created in Melody Johnson's fusing workshop (see http//, and the results of her creativity workshop with Libby Lehman. Very cool! And we looked at a few books, which got my mind spinning with ideas and images...

Once we started talking fusing, I pulled out some shapes I'd cut and fused in an abundance of enthusiasm one evening after a workshop day when I did Melody's workshop with the Pacific Piecemakers. I put a squiggle in a square, vaguely wave-ish. But after making block after block after block, I wasn't able to put them together into any way that thrilled me. So, another day some weeks ago, I slashed them and inter-fused curving bits of fabric...More exciting, but still no excitement when I tried to put them together. So, the other day, wanting to play with the new Olfa circle cutter I got at PIQF, I took a few of those fused blocks and cut circles out of them. VERY EXCITING!

Rita took one look at them and said "I wonder how they'd look with stripes..." I reached into the closet and grabbed a piece of purple and white striped fabric, then scattered the circles on them. Magic! I knew I made those circles for a reason.

Having solved my problem, we turned to Rita's "dot com" blocks from the class we'd taken together from Freddy Moran. Rita had the blocks all made, and we spread them out on the floor, then started turning them every which way. So many different patterns and shapes! Rita rushed right home to keep arranging and to sew them together...which I suspect she's done by now.

All in all, it was a very inspirational visit...and I think we both came away invigorated. How wonderful to have friends who can light that creative fire!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


I figured I was going tohave to spend all morning waiting around for the Crate and Barrel truck to arrive with the new kitchen table. The phone message said they'd come between 9am and noon. Uh huh, I thought. It'll be after lunch, for sure. But to my surprise, the doorbell rang at 9:15 and by 9:30 the delivery guys had set up the table and unboxed the chairs. (Two of the six were damaged and will have to be returned, but we can cope with 4 chairs for a bit.) It looks great! A white-ish table (tres chabby chic) and red chairs. Looks wonderful with the red-tiled fireplace in the background.

Today is mine! Caroline will go to Auntie Laura's after school for fun and crafts (Aunties are the best!) and that means I have the day to play! I think Rita will come to play today. She's promised to show me what she learned at Art Quilt Tahoe, including how to open my Bernina up and get all that grime out! Some day, I'll be able to get up to Art Quilt Tahoe and spend two weeks sewing and hanging out with creative women...but heck, I can do it right here. Inspiration isn't the problem...discipline is.

So, that said, I'm going to tackle the chair quilt I have in progress. I want to machine applique text onto the borders, which means I'll need to use Microsoft Publisher..which makes it easy as pie IF ONLY I can find the cd to install it on my computer.

What is it about my creative process that gets me all excited to start a project, then stalls me in the middle? I think I have to work on just pushing through, pushing through.....