April 16, 2014

Passover Deliciousness

Well, once again Moses's plagues have won freedom for the yeast-deprived Hebrews. And once again, as tradition dictates (well, our tradition anyway), we have commemorated their mad dash over the Red Sea floor by telling their story, eating, and watching renowned Jewish actor Charlton Heston ask Pharaoh to release the Hebrews from "bundage". (He really might not be capable of producing an "O" sound...)

And for dessert? Mmm! Chocolate-covered matzah topped with haroset. Ridiculously good.

Slowly melt chocolate chips with a little bit of olive oil and spread it over broken pieces of matzah. Chill in the fridge until the chocolate re-hardens.

For the haroset: pulse grated apples, dried apricots, craisins, and crushed walnuts in the food processor until they form a chunky spread.

Wait until the kids have found the afikomen, then go to town!

April 14, 2014

Three Teardrops

Turquoise, onyx, pearl, coral (faux! always faux!) and silver beads; round and hexahedral seed beads; all suspended from a leather band.

I went back and forth on whether to make true teardrop shapes with the three loops or whether to connect them to a flat bar at the top, but eventually settled on this arrangement. It's busy, but just the right amount of busy, I think.

April 10, 2014

Piano Cozy

The digital piano lives in a nook in our bedroom that just happened to be exactly the perfect width and depth to house it. I say "digital piano" because I am the kind of snob that values all 88 keys. The black nylon covers that these things usually come with have that certain eyesore quality that no one really looks for in bedroom furnishings, so I sewed this cover for it instead:

I used some gray micro-suede and a cotton batik for the edges and piping. The piping is my own concoction. I know you're supposed to use bias-cut fabric for piping, but I figured for the straight lines here it would be okay to just use long pieces cut along the grain.

(Incidentally, for anyone who is curious, we have a Williams Allegro which has surprisingly great sound considering the price. Not the greatest piano in the world, but a perfectly workmanlike one for the kids to learn on.)

Creature of the ... Foggy Lagoon?

Hi all
While in San Fran, wandering a beach south of the city, we noticed this (see below).
I wondered if this were a trilobite, but the others warned me not to delve too deep, for fears that I would awaken an ancient creature.
This ...thing was firmly adherent to the rock beneath, and I turn to you, o internet masses, for your speculations and declarations: anyone confidently able to identify this?
Thanks in advance!

Addendum: Thanks to Google Image Search, I'm now guessing this is a Chiton. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiton

What do you think?

April 7, 2014

Spring Break in the City by the Bay

Has anyone ever had the kind of weather we had in San Francisco last week for as many days as we had it? It was a run of perfectly sun-drenched 60s days that are the ideal backdrop to hanging out in a city - and people, believe me when I tell you that we made the most of it. Of course we hit all the old jackpots: Muir Woods, the Exploratorium, the Academy of Sciences. But now that the kids are old enough to actually enjoy looking at things and not just craving playground after playground after playground, we found some new (to us!) places to be sad about leaving behind. It was also so completely great to spend as much time as we did with the family. Totally fantastic trip all around.

Best new discovery? The nineteenth century sailing ships at Hyde Street Pier, near Fisherman's Wharf. Here we are on the Balclutha, which has now become the kids' favorite name for any make believe character.

Misha took this arty blue and red shot of Captain Jake.

And there was no beating the confluence of awesome as Jake went wild over all the pulleys, levers, wedges, screws that operated this huge sea-going machine. Why? Well, his class has been studying simple machines for the past few months, and here he was - suddenly in simple machine heaven. Check out that fierce face as he demanded to be photographed with "a three-grooved pulley!"

The simple machine extravaganza continued at the Cable Car Museum which is basically one giant love poem to gears of all shapes and sizes. Did you know that cable cars don't have engines and that they move by grabbing onto and letting go of a endlessly running underground steel cable? Well, now you do.

Next on the new landmark list was the the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps (on 16th and Moraga Street), a really long staircase with a continuous mosaic.

As you ascend the stairs, the tiled images take you from the bottom of the sea all the way to the sun.

And when you get to the top? You get to play sun god for a little while as you survey the whole city below you.

We also wandered around Land's End. No, not the beloved backpacking equipment supplier, but the park just north of Cliff House. The prize for hiking the whole trail? A huge stone labyrinth right on the water, which led to long discussion of why a labyrinth is different from a maze, and how that meathead Theseus would never have amounted to much if not for Ariadne's brilliant ball of yarn escape strategy. I mean, if you're not trying to connect as much of your daily life to Greek mythology as possible, are you really living?

Lara the ever expert and fearless climber scaled pretty much all the climbable things that we encountered, as usual. Here, for example, she and my dad are at the top of some rock formations at Pescadero Beach.

Here is some sibling love as they wait for some delicious concoctions from the Ghiradeli ice cream store. I had a banana split and would have happily continued to eat one (ahem, two) per day since.

And finally, no trip would be complete without a catalog of things from nature that Misha found fascinating. (read: gross things). We have, in particular order: a giant slug from Muir Woods (that is Misha's hand for size comparison, people), an enormous butterfly (which, ok, yes, I get that butterflies are ostensibly pretty when they are in pictures, but these were enormous flying monsters in real life), an albino crocodile from the Academy of Sciences, and some kind of fossilized bug/shell/spinal column/who knows really from the beach.

April 6, 2014

A New App Featuring the Little Cardboard Doll Furniture

Check it out: cardboard is going totally digital. Illustrator Gwendi Klisa used my Little Cardboard Doll Furniture patterns (pro tip: get them for free here!) to create adorable backgrounds for a new children's app called "And So To Bed."

I love that cardboard tree too! It kind of makes want to actually follow through on my dream to create a giant cardboard dollhouse.... but that has the potential to be the kind of project that sucks me in to the point that I forget to eat, sleep, interact with the family.

Follow all the latest app development on the app's Facebook page, and see more of Gwen's work on her website.

April 2, 2014

Geode Ring

Last summer, my dad brought the kids unbroken geodes, and they went to town smashing them up with hammers to reveal the beautiful crystals inside. Since then, the best of the pieces have been sitting in a bowl in the house and I haven't been able to figure out just what to do with them - that is, until now, when I glued my favorite triangle with an interesting black and white color scheme to a ring blank with E6000 glue. I also coated it with Mod Podge to save any clothes I happen to be wearing from being sliced open with the saber-sharp crystal edges. I love this thing!

Hiding the Meter

After our basement renovation, I had sort of mentally tabled the weirdness on the basement bathroom wall.

There was no particularly appealing way to hide those utility doodads, so I decided to accept our contractor's "Let's put a white frame around them!" solution with a shrug, and figured we would eventually figure something else out later. The main complexity was working around the way that the gas meter juts out of the wall a full 3.5 inches, which basically meant that the standard solution of "large art" wasn't really going to work - at least, not off the shelf.

So, now it is later and we have indeed solved the dilemma! I bought stretcher bars, stretched a big canvas over them, made a masking tape grid over it, and the kids and I whipped up... let's say a tribute in equal parts to Mondrian and Joseph's amazing technicolor dreamcoat.

But this is not actually the solution - the key to that lies in the way I framed our painting. I used 1x4 pieces of lumber to construct a basic frame (the kids helped me glue, hammer, and stain the wood!). Then, I attached the painting as near the front edge as possible (inset only 1/4" or so). This left enough space for the gas meter to be hidden behind the canvas. And now our bathroom is a little less factory-chic and a little more rock and roll.

December 4, 2013

Sir Jake the Brave Explorer

The latest book is finally complete! Here is "Sir Jake the Brave Explorer" - enjoy! And if this is too small, click the link below to see a bigger version.

November 25, 2013


A little bit of Thanksgiving outside:

A little bit of Hanukkah inside:

Hope you're having a happy Feast-ival of Lights!

(The wreath is made from a twigs and felt flowers hot-glued to a foamcore circle, while the present towers feature tiny matching presents for each day - minus turkey day.)

October 30, 2013

Leo and Mona

Move over, Dan Brown, because we're about to plunder your anachronistic Leonardo da Vinci well for our costume needs!

I made pretty much all of Mr. Forty-Two Roads's getup, with some awesome assists from tutorials on how to make Renaissance flat caps, men's gowns, and a general sense of what some 19th century dude thought Leo might have worn. (And you know how much they loved authenticity in the 19th century. I mean, these were the people who re-staged all the Shakespeare tragedies to have happy endings!) How fun is that brocade cape? Love it.

For myself, I made everything except the wig (natch) and the black dress, which was actually my senior prom dress! Whooo! San Dimas High School Football rules! My general sense of right and wrong for this one came from this wonderful blog post from an actual costume designer, which is where I got the idea to make one of those wire hair caps that was all the rage back in the day apparently. Mr. Forty-Two Roads drew the insanely symmetrical curly-cues on the frame, eyeballing it entirely, because drawing things perfectly without sketching from memory is his X-man power.

... and here we are striking a pose. How's my enigmatic half-smile coming along?

October 24, 2013

A Bit of the Macabre

Come on in, won't you? It's always so nice to see you....OOooOOooOOoo

These? Oh, just a little late present from a friend. Or should we say a present from a late friend?....OOooOOooOOoo

Either way - no need to lose our heads about it.....OOooOOooOOoo

October 22, 2013

We Boo the Zoo

You guys. It has finally happened. The kids - of their own volition, with basically exactly zero input from me, mind you - have decided on Coordinating Halloween Costumes! OMG. Their pick? Well, take a look:

That's right - good old Red and Wolfie at your service.

For Red's trademark, I made a half-circle cloak out of crushed velvet (or rather the faux version I found at Joann Fabrics). The rest is a take on the traditional Bavarian dirndl - I made a simple skirt out of cute corduroy with a print that made me think of the Black Forest, used a regular long sleeved tee, and over it I approximated the dirndl vest by adding some ersatz "lacing" that is actually just glued on to a green tank top. The leggings and boots put the "Riding" back into the mix.

Mr. Wolf is the third incarnation of the sweatpants+sweatshirt based costume. How many years can we keep this going? We'll see. All of this one is cut and glued pieces of felt and fleece (and I'm indebted to this wolf costume for much of the face). The key I think is several different grays, and several different textures of felt. And of course, claws. Always, claws.

Oh, and are you super terrified by that eyeball wreath? Stay tuned for some details about all our spooky decorations.