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July 2008

June 2008

the smell and taste of summer

Jorge's watermelon

"When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory"
-Marcel Proust "The Remembrance of Things Past"

Edna and Ximena's watermelons

Watermelon. One whiff, one minuscule drop of its sweet juice on my tongue, and I am immediately transported to the spirit of summers past - those endless days which were spent running through sprinklers, constructing subterranean abodes for little creatures, and building secret hideouts. Those sweet, long summers of childhood. I love speculating that with every joyful, juicy bite, with every drippy, sticky chin, these children are constructing their own happy memories of summer.

Maria's watermelon

The Fun for Nothin' Flickr group is already brimming with great, no-cost children's activities! I especially like this one and this one. Keep the ideas coming!

fun for nothin' challenge

Gaby and Victor jumping rope

Who would have though that an old rope could provide hours of entertainment? Indeed, it can. As does a spoon, a cup, and plentiful dirt. I have a hunch that this knack for creating something fun out of nothing is not specific to children in Mexico, many of whom have little or no access to fancy store-bought contraptions. It's something I've though about a lot, having been in daily contact with indigenous children whose playthings amount to pine cones, sticks, rocks, and the occasional found object (trash.)

Gaby, Victor and Benjamin jumping rope

Then there's my toy philosophy - high-quality, educational, organic, non-toxic, quality-over-quantity ...  embarrassingly gringo and downright untenable in most parts of the world. Certainly, there is a wonderful place for such toys in the hands of a child whose parents can afford such a luxury. There are so many amazing resources out there nowadays. However, the true fun, the true creative endeavor, is to allow children to make something out of what we perceive as nothing. A piece of newspaper. A rope. Sticks. Hand-me-down marbles. Natural paints. Rocks. An old family parlor game ... low- or no-cost alternatives to store-bought toys and games. And so I'm introducing an ongoing challenge: Fun for Nothin'.

Here's the scoop: Fun for Nothin' is a resource for parents trying to move away from the consumer culture and for those who might be on a tight budget. To participate, join the Flickr group,, and upload a photo of a low- or no-cost children's activity or toy. Share a tutorial if you wish in the photo notes or by linking to your blog post.

Go ahead and take a button for your blog and help to spread the word so that we can make this a great parenting resource for families near and far. (Just copy and paste the HTML code in the text box into your blog's HTML code.)


Hooray for simplicity! Hooray for handmade! Hooray for re-using and recycling! Hooray for old-fashioned games! Hooray for free fun! And, lest the sentiment has not made itself clear yet .... hooray for improvised jump ropes!

remember me and smile

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.
~Dr. Seuss

Tears. Smiles. Words of goodbye and plentiful hugs. A choked-up rendition of "La Bamba" followed by a more joyful "Hokey Pokey." Then the little ones were sent forth into the summer. The oldest five, the ones I've had by my side for the past three years, stayed behind and admired their books - special collections of the work that they've done since they arrived as chubby-cheeked three year-olds. Parents swooped in for appetizers. A few photos were taken which oddly suspend in time these otherwise fleeting moments. And thus comes to a close another day, and with the turning of this page, an entire chapter of my life. 

last day of school

last day of school

last day of school

last day of school

last day of school

reflections with red shoes

First off, I wanted to express my gratitude for your kindness and sweet words about the podcast. Thank you so much for that. As a natural introvert, I sometimes struggle with "putting myself out there" and I always get a bit nervous when announcing a new pattern, or, in this case, announcing a new pattern and a podcast interview on the same day! There's so much of myself - my time, my creative energy, and my passion - that I put into each creation of mine, that that I find it difficult at times to separate my own identity and self-worth from the physical products themselves. This, of course, gets easier with time, but those butterflies always seem to flutter around my stomach at times like these. When you take the time to leave a comment or send an email, it really calms my nerves and reminds me that I'm among supportive friends. Thank you a thousand times over. I wish I could respond to every one of you, but, as I'm sure you understand, I'm two weeks away from moving and am in my last days of teaching - once the dust of the move has settled I will have so much more time to be in touch.

wee wonderfuls quilting bee wall quilt

A doll-sized embroidered quilt for decking the walls of my new studio. Pattern by Wee Wonderfuls. Shoes by Miz Mooz. And no, I really don't know why there are shoes in the photo. A bit of toe-tappin,' fun-with-the-camera-remote craziness, for sure!

Speaking of moving, I'm already starting to fantasize about my future studio. Now that I let slip in the podcast that I have a book project up my sleeve, you might have guessed that there's been a lot of behind-the-scenes sewing going on around these parts. And there will be plenty more once we settle in to our new home in Durham. Lots and lots and lots of sewing. I'm so giddy that I'll have an ENTIRE ROOM dedicated to my creative exploits!

In the spirit of taking my sewing to the next level, my current sewing machine, an old-school Kenmore which I purchased used four years ago, will be staying behind in Mexico to spend its retirement making classroom materials. As for her replacement? I have my eye on a Bernina, either this model or this one. I really want to take up quilting, which is something that I haven't been able to do on my current machine - which doesn't even have a walking foot. Any suggestions? I'm also going to be in the market for a serger, most likely the Babylock Imagine or Evolve. Any bit of wisdom you could pass on would be most helpful.

While I'm soliciting advice - can you guide me in the right direction for low- or toxic-free paint? Any particular brands that have a healthy selection of colors? One of the first tasks in our new place will be to paint the room that will be my studio. I think you'll understand why after peeking at this photo that I took of the room when the former tenants were still in residence. While it's not actually as dark as it seems, that green has got to go. I'm thinking a pretty light blue will do the trick.

But back to the moment and the task at hand - I have to compose letters to my students for tomorrow's goodbye. I'm planning a fun day with lots of singing. I couldn't think of a better memory to leave with them and to take away with me.

big news, and a podcast to go with it

It’s about time for some big news, isn’t it? As much as I wish that I could be announcing this kind of wonderful news, that will have to wait until the chaos of moving subsides and the stars of serendipity and grad school schedules align. Instead, I have another “baby” that’s ready to make its way out into the world – the Lola Apron pattern!


I’ve already mentioned how smitten I am with this apron. So smitten that I went ahead and made a mini-version, which comes as part of the deal. And a BIG thanks to my wonderful testers, Monique, Lucy, Shawnee, Beth and Melissa - these ladies are extremely talented, and they've made the pattern very user-friendly and typo-free.

Oh – and yes, that’s me, my former student, and, perhaps surprisingly, my Mexican kitchen featured on the pattern front. The dark interior made it a challenge.

But Miss Lola was insistent. She refused to be photographed in front of a run-down fence. She was pure kitcheny kitsch, and her place is the kitchen. How in the world could I possibly have a photo shoot in my rather hobbit-like kitchen? Answer: white bedsheets, this flash, a particularly patient husband, and lots and lots of fun with photoshop. My saving grace? These plates. They make the whole photo, in my opinion.

One more thing, which is a big announcement in of itself – have you listened to the most recent Craftsanity podcast? I haven’t yet, out of fear of hearing my own voice bumbling about and making embarrassing statements. I was so honored to be invited on the show and to spend an hour or so chatting with Jennifer, who is a delightful person and a fellow apron aficionada. 

Craft on!


singing in the rain

A riddle: What's closed in by the neighbor's concrete wall, at the lowest elevation in the neighborhood, and surrounded by a moat that has no outlet?

Ah hah! You guessed it ... my house!

whoosh ... and we were in the middle of a pond

It was fast. Furious. Muddy. Funny. My cat even peed his "pants" out of fear of the sound of the 2 cm diameter hail that came along with the rain. There I was, camera in hand, frantically throwing duffel bags, files and packing supplies on top of beds.

water rushing in


here it comes

Trickle. Pour.

cats, there will be no playing with THAT toy

I must say, the bathroom has never looked this shiny.

wow, look how shiny my bathroom is!

Three rooms are under an inch or so of water. The equipment we have at our disposal here in the Mexican hinterlands includes a mop and a few buckets. You know what I want to do?

why not have wine in an old olive glass?

Have a glass of wine in an old olive jar. Laugh. There's nothing like leaving Mexico with a bang. Or a splash.

**I'm still doing the classroom countdown to goodbye, only the countdown has been accelerated. The last day of school was moved up to the 20th due to some government educational bureaucracy. Seven days left.**