Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I want to make this!

 Isn't this hand-sewn bird just the prettiest thing you've seen all day?
The pattern can be found in this book:

Thursday, February 23, 2012


When we are in the dregs of winter, perhaps it's natural to dwell on the darker side of human experiences. Plants die in the winter, or at least hunker down and stretch deeper into the earth. Most animals get thinner as food supplies dwindle, and yet humans get notoriously fatter in the winter. I think it's good practice to live closely with the cycles of life.

In this vein, I present a little collection of possible epitaphs--thoughts on life and death that would not necessarily be carved on a headstone (what do we cremation-choosers use?) but at the very least, sum up a life-philosophy. I suppose the collection is part of what Gretchen Rubin calls my "ongoing, personal research project." Little notes scribbled on gum wrappers, books filled with ephemera, thoughts, quotes, lists of songs to play at my funeral (that's another post.) My mom is a notorious personal research note-taker. She may still have a misquoted saying from LA Story in her wallet.

This is my favorite of all possible epitaphs:

"The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
all goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what anyone supposed, and luckier."  Walt Whitman

Another great one is:

"Is it so small a thing,
to have enjoyed the sun,
to have lived light in the Spring,
to have thought,
to have done...     Matthew Arnold

The weirdest one is on W.B. Yeates' grave in my opinion, although I love it.  I've had the pleasure of visiting this site. There is nothing quite like an old, overgrown Irish graveyard in the rain. It's so romantic.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Another bird feeder

I just purchased an awesome bird feeder. It's huge and plastic with no less than six perches. The little tree on one side of our house, where I hung the feeder, is now aflutter with tiny, pink-headed finches. They're mesmerizing.

And they are mighty hungry. They went through a half-gallon of seed in almost a week. So it reminded me how important it is, and how cool it is, to feed the winter birds.

Jack and I made this easy bird feeder a few months back. The good old pinecone slathered in peanut butter and rolled in seeds, then hung with string (or purple yarn in our case.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine sandwich cookies and a sweet purse

We made up a quick batch of sugar cookies last night, using Martha's sugar cookie recipe, which follows here. I eyeballed a quick frosting and tinted it pink for Valentine's Day. We, oh who are we kidding, I then wrapped them up and personalized them with some little stamps. Jack will be bringing some to friends at his preschool.

 Valentine Sandwich Cookies
  • 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, or 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup fine sanding sugar, for decorating (optional)
  1. In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
  2. Use an electric mixer to cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs.
  3. Add flour mixture, and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Stir in vanilla or lemon juice and zest. Wrap dough in plastic; chill for about 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. On a floured surface, roll dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Transfer to ungreased baking sheets; refrigerate until firm, 15 minutes. Remove from refrigerator, and decorate with sanding sugar, if desired. Bake until edges just start to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.      Yield Makes about 16 large cookies or 30 2 1/2-inch cookies

In other news, I recently realized that the makeup bag in my purse is waay too big and takes up too much space in my bag. Rather than go out and buy one, I figured I'd make a quick pattern and whip one up. From start to finish, this little purse took all of two hours to sew--and the ribbon is sewn on my hand. I love quick, rewarding little projects.


Here's what I did:
First, I cut out long rectangular pieces from two fabrics. I used my quilting ruler to help make sure they were square, especially the point at the one end for the closing flap.

Then I sewed the layers together, right sides together, leaving the short, straight end open. I snipped the corners, then turned it out carefully.
Then I turned the open end in neatly and sewed that closed, sewing all around the perimeter of the piece, with about a quarter inch seam.
Then I folded it in threes, with the lining fabric on the inside. Mine is tan muslin. I also place the ribbon down, wrapping the ends in at one side.

 Then I ran it through my sewing machine and used short, strong stitches up the two sides.
Next, I pinned the ribbon around the base where I wanted it. (The ends were already sewn in when I stitched up the sides.) Then I hand sewed it on with dark blue thread.

And voila! Done.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Whale watching and rugelach

We spent the weekend looking for whales out at Bodega Bay. We saw a few sprays, but no actual whale was spotted. The weather was clear and sunny and cool--Jack ran around in the fields while my girlfriend, Bri, and I ate scones and jam.

And a few projects were finished when someone got a cold (Jack) and someone else (me) got to stay home from work and keep him company.
First: an aquarium scene made out of construction paper and sequins.

Second: some seriously delicious rugelach.

You can find the recipe in my favorite baking cookbook: Martha's Baking Handbook or online here. These are so friggin' good, I have a tummy ache from eating waaay too many. The flaky layers are almost pastry-like and hold chocolate slivers, finely-chopped walnuts, raisins and sticky apricot jam. The filling in my book is different from the one online, I used 1 cup of walnuts, 1/4 cup of sugar and only 3/4 cup of jam. I made half of ours with chocolate, the other with raisins, all with nuts. Too good.

And from what I remember from my coffee shop days, rugelach freeze really well once baked. (I've already put more than half in the freezer to deter a late night rugelach attack.)

And I found this in a drawer the other day, don't you just love these? Jack is fascinated by it, and always wants to drink the water out of it. Yuck.