Alphabet Summer 2013: Looking Back

Maude keeps staring at me, almost as if she's saying, "Hey! Thanks a lot, woman. You made me and now I just sit here. At least have the decency to bust me open like a civilized piñata." STOP YELLING AT ME! I say, as I walk past her confused face every morning. 

Don't worry, Maude, even though this year's alphabet is done, there's still plenty of fun to be had. And, no, that doesn't mean I'm going to stuff the poor chicken with candy and beat her with a baseball bat.

I'm probably not going to do that.

Alphabet Summer 2013 was wonderful, and I'm so happy to look back on all of the sweet, sweet memories.

ALSO, I am proud to share that photographs of all 26 projects are hanging in the art space at my school here in San Francisco. For those of you who can't stop by, you can check out the photos below. Also, visit this page if you want to look back on each project.

And for everyone who followed along this summer, or if you have just started checking in, I'm so grateful for all of your support, both this summer and beyond. You haven't heard the last of me quite yet:) Promise.

And, in case you were interested, I was honored and super excited to contribute an article about making zigzags from triangles on the Bernina blog!  Here's a link to the article.

Now, what to make next...

Z is for Zig Zag & Zipper

1Z-PatchThe last letter of the alphabet. Whoa.

In true Grand Finale style, I decided to go all out and use the letter THREE TIMES for this project. Why not? And then, why not sew a big fat 3D letter "Z" on the project? And why not take two entire weeks after the letter Y to work on the project? Don't mind if I do.

Part 1: Zig Zag

Okay, so we already know I'm big on themes. And clearly, as evidenced in the letter W, one of my favorite things to do lately is sew triangles together to make a chevron pattern. I even used the triangle zig zag pattern as inspiration in designing fabric! So how could I resist making a zig zag on this clutch? Well I couldn't resist. I didn't resist.

It's so easy, really. You just have to respect the quarter-inch seam allowance:

2 Triangle-Set-up 2Quarter-inch-footOffset-Triangles-Corrected

Using the quarter-inch foot helps you get a nice, straight row of triangles, and give you enough of a seam allowance to sew the rows together and avoid chopping off the top of your triangle. I call this "Avoiding the Volcano."

4Triangle-Row--Final-2 5Triangle-StripsVolcano-Free

Part 2: Zipper Clutch

The zipper clutch has been on my mind for months. I'm not normally one for a "strapless" purse... Essentially, it's like carrying your wallet around in your hand all night. Um, who's got the energy to do THAT?! I have MUCH more important things to do with my hands, like play with my hair or rip labels off of beer bottles. And, I believe I've already discussed how I can't hold a yoga mat and a coffee at the same time.

But, I'm challenging myself to 1.) Get a grip, and 2.) Carry a freaking zipper clutch around for a change.

I'll let you know how it goes.

This bag was super fun to make, to boot. I used a bunch of upholstery fabric and wool suit material from the Fabric Outlet, plus some scraps I got last week at an event at the Museum of Craft and Design from FabMo. (Side note: Do you know about FabMo? Scraps of designer fabric? Donation-based? Yes please.)

6Zipper-Foot 7Purple-Insides 8Clutch-Flat-on-Table 9Flat-on-Table-Vertical 10Z-closeup 11z-Closeup-2 12Open-Wide 13Zig-Top 14ZipperClutchDid you see the bonus "Z" on the inside? Only visible when you unfold the bag to get inside.

And, that's the end, folks! I squeaked in just before the Equinox, thankfully.

I can't believe it! Stay tuned for a retrospective, a look back and a final recap of the summer.  And surely you know that this might be the end of Alphabet Summer 2013, but it's really only the beginning.



Y is for Yoga

WHAT IS UP with those yoga mat bags? You know the ones I'm talking about. To quote my friend Molly, “A tube bag? Really?”

Seriously. It’s like a Tupperware shaped like a banana. Come on, people.

But, I know some of you, like me, DO carry an actual yoga mat around, and might be interested in some sort of satchel that would hold the mat, if necessary. It would certainly make my post-yoga bakery stop easier to manage if I didn’t have to hold a yoga mat AND a bag of pastries AND a coffee AND have to get my keys out.

I’ve had my eye on the “Everything Tote” from Heather Ross’s Weekend Sewing for months now. And when Alphabet Summer Fan Número Uno, one Ms. Libby Paglione, suggested that I make a yoga bag with the fabric I printed way back at the letter F, it was an official NO brainer.

1Maude-Yoga-Queen 2Everything-Tote

So the bag itself is made of the familiar "Maude the Yogi" fabric (lined with interfacing) on the outside.  On the inside I'm featuring none other than What My Friend Liz Chopped Off Of Her Curtains. Yep, leftover curtains! They're durable and thick enough that I didn't need to use interfacing. Score!3Making-of-the-Yoga-Bag-9-Sq 4Yoga-Mat-Bag-1 5Yoga-Bag-2-horizontal 6Bag-with-Maude 7Bag-with-Maude-2 8Bag-with-Maude-closeup 9Maude-in-Bag-Aerial 10Maude-in-Bag-Aerial-2I love this bag. If it is big enough to fit a chicken piñata, a yoga mat, two books and a set of Prismacolor markers, with room to spare, I'm thinking this bag (apart from actually being full of awesome things) is also figuratively full of potential. I'm imagining that a picnic blanket, a softball glove and ball, a few peanut butter jars of granola, a pint of ice cream, an Instax camera and even a Chihuahua might all fit inside.

Take THAT, tube bag.

It's getting real, everybody... This was the SECOND TO LAST letter! ¡La Penúltima! Gah!

X is for Xs & Os

8 X-marks-spot

What a crazy letter of the alphabet. Have you ever gone to the X section of the dictionary? Such strange words. I think I'll stick with the letter itself, thank you very much.

It has a nice ring to it in both of my languages, English and Spanish. And you should try doubling it! Just think of the Mexican cerveza, Dos Equis. Or in the English case, the band “the XX,” which is pronounced “the Ex Ex.” Which reminds me, the female chromosome allocation is “XX,” so is that what both of them are referring to?

The letter X is also the most scandalous. There’s the innocent text/email/letter signature “XOXO,” which I have seen in many cases just shortened to “Xx,” since people seem to want to do away with hugging. Just beware... if you add one more “X” to that farewell, you might be accused of wanting something saucier!

It’s funny that I bring all of this up, because for this project I went ahead and chose to honor one of the most G-rated uses of the letter X.




Last X-mas (see how I did that?), I made Stella a memory game out of my fruity fabrics, and so when I got the suggestion for Tic Tac Toe (thanks Brenda!), I automatically was drawn to making a fabric version of the game. Spoiler alert: Guess what my nieces are getting for X-mas!? It’s okay, they can’t read yet. Please don't tell them.

The game board is essentially a nine block quilt, and the game pieces are lined with interfacing to make them sturdier. As I was making the game, I was also listening to the first Michigan football game of the season on the radio, secretly wishing I was back in Ann Arbor. And actually, this fabric comes from the awesome fabric store in AA. I bought it back in December, as a part of what turned out to be a classic "sewing project eyes bigger than sewing project stomach" situation; I had planned on making the yet-to-be-born Mabel a baby quilt. She's almost four months old now. X-cuse me, Mabel! You'll forgive me when I let you beat me at Tic Tac Toe.

Just kidding. I'll never let you beat me.

1 XO-Game-board-9-square 2 Hometown-w-Caption 3 X-Making- 4 XO-Kisses 4b XO-another-closeup 5 X-Closeup 6 Closeup-of-Board-XO 7 Corner-closeup-XO


Check it out: I played myself!

9 XO

And nobody won! Typical.

I can't believe that there are only two more letters to go. TWO!

W is for Wedding

Two, well actually three really amazing events happened leading up to the letter W. First of all, Heather Ross released her new Briar Rose fabric line. You don't have to look very hard to find many a sewist GEEKING OUT on these delicious prints. Ever since I touched and felt that dark bright orange "Bee in a Bonnet" print down the street at Peapod Fabrics, it was literally wafting me it's pheromones from three blocks away. The chemistry is THAT powerful, I'm telling you. Second, two of my craftiest friends (of the Save Tuesdays persuasion) came to visit. And third, the crafty Queen of Hearts herself (who also sits on the Tuesday royal court) got married.

You know what THAT means!

That's right. Handmade wedding gifts.

One thing I think of when I think of my friend Lorien (besides Michael Jackson) is the Prismacolor colored pencil PC903, Bleu Franc (that's True Blue for you non-francophones.) You too? I know, crazy. It's just SOOO her colored pencil. So when I found out she tended towards blue and orange in her house... I let out a little yelp, grabbed my PC903, and made a beeline to buy the fabric.

You'll find below a few shots (and a bonus GIF!) of the process. The final product is either a table topper or a small wall hanging... I'll let the bride and groom decide.

Note: A few months ago, I made a zig-zag table runner. As it was my first time sewing the triangles together in this fashion, I ended up chopping off all of the tips of the triangles, creating an interesting result. It wasn't for a gift, so no big whoop, and it's imperfections have grown on me. But this time, I think I got it. Lesson learned? Respect the seam allowance, people! Respect it, or you'll get some volcano-like triangles.

See below for the other TWO handmade gifts!


Love-Quilt3Wedding-Quilt-Top 4Walking-all-over-you 5Walking-Foot-Closeup 6Love Birds Closeup 7Birds 8Lorien-and-Ryan 9Corner 10Final-Quilt!

And then it got better:

Susannah made (and I'm talking from scratch) his/her aprons with hand-printed fish, a hand-printed and personalized message on the inside of each apron, and appliquéd fish on the front. I am constantly awed by her talent, creativity and keen eye for style. She's an inspiration.

Faiza hand-painted and glazed this beautiful bowl. Her design was inspired by both Moroccan and Spanish tile and pottery. It's stunning, and he/she who receives an item crafted by her hands is indeed a blessed individual.

They also got the "blue and orange" memo.

Here are some shots:


Yes, I wrapped mine with a map of Portland.

And, just for fun, here are some pictures (pardon the poor quality) of the rehearsal paella dinner and actual wedding day. It was certainly an unforgettable weekend. Two beautiful people from two beautiful families, both inside and out. I'm so grateful for Lorien and Ryan, and I wish them all the happiness in the world.



Save them Tuesdays, world.

U is for Unbelievable


How does one go about describing the experience of seeing Paul McCartney live in concert? How can you even put it into words? For me, it was one of those moments that was, I can say without a single bit of doubt, once in a lifetime.

I have seen a Beatle.

I'm going to let this Rolling Stone article introduce it for me:

"But the biggest fireworks at Outside Lands' opening ceremony – literally and figuratively – came with the day's anchor act, the Beatles' Paul McCartney. Some fans found the performance cathartic. Some cried. Others had wide smiles from start to finish. Nearly everyone understood the weight of Sir Paul tearing soulfully through Beatles and Wings numbers with the conviction of the person who wrote those songs – "Blackbird," "Paperback Writer," "Hey Jude," "Eleanor Rigby," "Let It Be," and so on and so forth – which, individually and collectively, helped shape our very idea of rock & roll." Read more of this article here.

ALL of the above, people, ALL OF THOSE EMOTIONS. I described it as having "several heart attacks" during the show. A few examples: jaw dropping, grinning, tearing up, gasping, screaming, "woo-hooing," jumping up and down, and swaying back and forth.

And not only have I seen a Beatle, but I've seen a Beatle put on a SHOW! The man is 71 years old and still rocking a three-hour concert like a youngster. Unbelievable. I have seen my fair share of legends in concert (ah hem, Neil Young) and did not have this experience.

But then, I feel like my early years were defined by Beatles music. The poster you see above was on my wall for years, and one of my all time most favorite tracks is, randomly enough, the recording of "From Me to You" from the Anthology 1 record (track 31). My favorite album is Revolver, followed by Sgt. Pepper's, followed by the White Album. Whenever I listen to the end of Eleanor Rigby, I automatically hear the guitar strum followed by John's voice, "When I wake up early in the morning, I lift my head, I'm still yawning..." (Remember those days before discovering the "shuffle" option on your boom box?) It's just that kind of music for me.


This is, of course, the influence of my parents. My mom suffered from Beatlemania as a girl (the audio recording playing before the show last week aptly characterized Beatlemania as an ailment that "could only described by the person suffering from it.") So naturally, my sister and I (like so many others from our generation) grew up listening to and learning about the Beatles. My mom and aunt made their famous quilt in honor of their favorite band.

If you've never seen the Beatles quilt, it's truly something:

Beatles Quilt

Photo courtesy

So anyway, seeing Paul live, in the flesh, performing his little 71-year-old arse off... was... ya know, AMAZING.

In no particular order, these were my favorite songs he played:

1. Band on the Run (Best medley ever, if not greatest song ever.)

2. Something (No comment necessary.)

3. Maybe I’m Amazed (Have you listened to the lyrics to this song in a while? I mean, COME ON! What a love song.)

4. Let it Be (Nuf said.)

5. Eight Days a Week (He opened with this one....)

6. Live and Let Die (Pyrotechnics, that's all I'm going to say.)

7. Lovely Rita (Don't you just love rhyming "Rita" with "Meter"?! It's even more fun when you can scream it at the top of your lungs surrounded by thousands of people.)

So, in conclusion, I highly recommend spending a chunk of time listening to the Beatles today. If you have Spotify like me, there's a live show called "Good Evening New York City" that will give you a taste of Sir Paul's live shows.

Here are a few pictures. My phone died during the first song, of course, so I borrowed a few. Probably for the best, since it's impossible to recreate the experience anyway.



Oh, there's just one other thing I need to comment on, sorry if you've got stuff to do! Look below. See what the green arrow is pointing to:


So that girl was holding a sign, and she eventually got put on stage, to have PAUL SIGN HER WRIST WITH A SHARPIE... And that was just about the most adorable thing you've ever seen. She was absolutely HYSTERICAL, I'm talking Beatlemania hysterical, suffering from symptoms of shock (shaking, turning red, crying uncontrollably) from meeting Paul McCartney. Here she is:

Tatoo-moment-YESUnbelievable. This girl was not a day over 25 years old, and she was literally about to pass out from the gravity of meeting Paul McCartney. After she hugged him (hugged him!), she turned to walk off stage, and as she started walking she turned back to him and said, voice trembling, "I love you." And I don't think she was exaggerating.


Photo credits:


2. Wallpaper

3. Plane

4. Outside Lands Gallery

T is for Tuesdays

Tuesday-bigTuesdays have a special meaning to me. As I've mentioned before, I used to gather my friends together each week on Tuesday evenings for a crafternoon session. Without fail, we would assemble to talk, sew, draw, cook, or sometimes just go on a rant. These moments were magical for us all, and I believe we took away more than just an unfinished craft project from our Tuesdays.

Moments I remember the most from Tuesdays on Calle Columbretes involve green Thai curry, heart-shaped fruit, sewing with not enough light, making up silly songs with the guitar, making Diego-and-Salva-shaped cookies, designing Halloween costumes, printing t-shirts for Emma Get Wild, making Elizabeth’s baby quilt, holiday gift exchanges...

When we all scattered ourselves between the US, the UK and Spain, a small but significant movement was started among our crafting coven: Save Tuesdays. You'll recognize the card from Susannah in the bottom right corner here that started it all. It began as more of a motto to keep our crafting spirit alive, but we even went as far as starting a blog in order to share these crafting moments with each other. Isabel wrote the tagline on the blog, which I love:

“Tuesdays were a good excuse to get together and ease the stresses of the week with talk, wine, music and all kinds of arts and crafts. Sometimes the talking and drinking would get in the way and the only thing we'd actually produce is a slight hangover. Those evenings are missed as we are now sprinkled about the planet. This blog is an attempt to recreate those Tuesday  nights, each with a glass of wine in hand, online possibly, while still ranting and crafting!”

Here’s a few photo collages from the archives, with a few moments from those Tuesdays. Thanks to you lovely ladies for your trust. Oh, how I miss you. *I'm sorry about the Led Zeppelin Halloween picture, it's not from a Tuesday, but I just had to do it. Good Times.

1-Columbretes-Block 2-Tuesdays-2-Spain

And why Tuesdays, you might ask?

In my opinion, it’s the perfect day for a creative gathering. Weekends are tricky to manage consistently with everyone’s booming lives. On Mondays people tend (gasp!) to do work, and later in the week you’re up against things like dates, yoga, or other social activities. Plus, in this case we were all teachers, so on Tuesdays we weren’t utterly exhausted from the week quite yet. Tuesdays are... ideal.

Wait. It gets better.

You know what’s funny? My sister just told me her Stitch n' Bitch group meets on Tuesdays. AND, what's even crazier is that the history of Tuesday nights goes all the way back to our childhood. My mom and her Ann Arbor quilting friends would gather on Tuesdays ALSO. Whoa.

We used to simply refer to it as “Quilting.” (Where’s Mom? Oh, she’s at Quilting...) Here’s my mom’s words:

“I was already quilting and it was a really fun and motivating group. We grew to about 20-25 quilters, meeting in homes every week and 34 years later are still meeting once a week. When I first joined it was a great way to get out the house once a week and spend time with adults! I think we all loved being moms but it was nice to have a support group, as we all had kids about the same age. I remember in the early days when someone was having a baby the group would make a baby quilt. I missed out on that because my babies were born before I joined :( Now they are making retirement quilts and so far I haven't qualified for that! It really turned into a friendship and support group. We still quilt, a lot of the group knits, so there will be knitting going on also. We tried to keep it simple to host and try to stick to wine and popcorn...“

After 34 years... still meeting every Tuesday.

Here are a few pictures of their group (thanks for sharing!):


I also asked my gaggle about Tuesdays, and about what it means to them to be a part of a creative clan:

“Well, when I think of Tuesday evenings I think of inspirational conversation and crafting companionship. I think of a time when ideas that were just a glimmer in one mind being nurtured and taking full flight. I think of feeling confident to take risks. I think of the warm, satisfying glow that comes from simply creating something. And I think of a group of very good friends.” Faiza

“I do attach significance to Tuesdays every week. During term times I do not always necessarily get down to crafting, but I always think of our meetings in that crafting hub in Spain. If I don't craft I usually cook on Tuesdays and think of you all and the happy and superbly creatively affirming time I spent in all your company...” Susannah 

“Siempre me ha gustado crear, desde pequeña. Si hay algo que me gusta, siempre pienso: "eso seguro que puedo hacerlo", y aunque muchas veces el resultado no es el esperado al menos lo intento, y lo paso bien, pensando, imaginando cómo hacerlo, que es una parte importante del proceso creativo. Y lo que más me gusta es la creatividad en equipo, con mi hermana. Nos contamos las ideas y entre las dos las imaginamos y las mejoramos.” Mar 

It's some powerful stuff, everybody. We are all still crafting, fueled by that Tuesday energy... Mar and her sister have started a crafty business and, among other things, make some of the cutest crocheted key chains I've ever seen. Check them out here: I already talked about Susannah and Lorien, and don't even get me started on how creativity comes in to play when you're a rock star like Isabel. Big project or small creation, we all still thrive on what Faiza beautifully described as that simple, satisfying glow that comes with making things.

So yesterday, I “Tuesday-ed” it up. ALL DAY. If you follow my Instagram feed, I apologize for all of my #savetuesdays photos, but I feel it necessary to START A REVOLUTION. Here’s a few of the highlights from my Tuesday-athon:


What do YOU do to Save Tuesdays? Take a picture of what you make and use the #savetuesdays tag! Are you a part of a Tuesday-style creative group? If you are, I want to hear all about it! If you aren't (yet), do you want to start one?

What's stopping us? WHO IS WITH ME? Let’s do this.

S is for Soy Candles

It's no big secret around here that I love peanut butter.

I'm an equal opportunity PB lover, as well. I will eat it in any form, with any vehicle (a spoon being my preferred), and at any time of day. I'll eat chunky, natural, sugar added, creamy, or (a category created by a friend to describe my favorite kind) grainy. Oh, the grainy peanut butter! I'm particularly drawn to Adams Creamy. And as I was collecting all of my jars, I realize that, wow, I have eaten quite a few spoonfuls.

1 Jars-of-PB-in-a-row 2 Jars-in-a-Row-2 3 Jars-in-a-Row-3

But this post is only partly about peanut butter.

It's also about soy wax and candles! Do you also fall into the "Amateur Pyro/Can't Believe You Haven't Burned Your House Down" category like me? For as many candles as I have burned through in my life, I can't believe I haven't tried this sooner. And since my peanut butter jars were longing to be used for something besides lentils and dried chiles, I decided to listen to my inner pyromaniac. This project was very simple, involving only soy wax, candle wicks and essential oil. I found the wicks at Michaels, and the wax from this sweet little shop in North Beach. I used this tutorial for guidance.

4 The-Lone-Jar 5 Los-Ingredientes 6 Essential-Oil

The only special equipment you need is a double boiler. Funny anecdote: this is called a "baño María" (or a Maria bath) in Spain. That's probably my favorite expression for a household item in Spanish. Check out my DIY Maria bath below:7 Soy-Wax-Melting

I thought one pound of soy wax would make two PB jar candles, but, alas, I was incorrect. So I quickly ran and found this Moroccan tea glass and made a mini-candle. Crafting= thinking on the fly!

And then you wait for it to harden: 8 Drying-Wax 9-Dry-Top-Shot 10-Final-CandleDo you see that strange volcanic eruption that happened? So odd.  I wonder if it's the "tincture" that I used, which may or may not have contained more than just essential oils. Ah, well, you can't win 'em all. Looks like I'll just have to burn it. Shucks.

R is for Rice


So, the story goes like this. I used to live in Valencia, Spain. And when you live in the land that invented paella, you get used to people talking about rice. They will tell you LOTS of things about paella: how they make paella, where to eat paella ("Oh, not that place, it's far too touristy! Ja ja ja!"), when to eat paella (and of course, por DIOS, when NOT to eat paella: dinner, in case you were wondering, you may NOT eat paella for dinner), how during the 50's people started putting pigeon in their paella... wait, not pigeon, rabbit... pigeon was another story. Oh, and they WILL yell at you if you put olives in your paella, so don't try that either. I remember one time there was a paella competition at the school I used to teach at and the winning team was disqualified because they had snuck in a water bottle full of chicken broth. NOT allowed, people! In a word, they are passionate about their paella. And with good reason, I suppose, since it is delicious, healthy, and very beautiful to look at.*

When I'm feeling a little Spain-sick, I tend to need to get a fix of something Spanish. People get a little nervy when I try to kiss both of their cheeks, so I generally tend towards an Almodóvar movie, maybe a little David Bisbal, or I might whip up a tortilla española. (Side note: I found an episode of Cuéntame Cómo Pasó on TV at my sister's house and almost peed my pants.) But this time I decided to celebrate the Spain in me by making a paella... And, even though this might be giving away the Valencian rice farm, I have included a step-by-step recipe (Spanish style). Number 11 is the most important step, so ignore at your own risk.

1 Paella-Ingredients 2 Olivas 3 Queso 4 Paella-1

1. Stir

2. Stir

3. Stir

4. Open

5 Paella-2

5. Stir

6. Stir

7. Oooh, so pretty!

8. Stir

6 Paella-3

9. Stir

10. Sprinkle, let settle.

11. DO NOT STIR!  Are you trying to make risotto? You can go to Italy for that mushy crap! (j/k my Italian friends!)

12. DO NOT STIR! NO TOUCHING! For to look only!

7 Final-Paella

So yes, the moral of the story is "DON'T TOUCH THE RICE." I remember fondly/traumatically when a friend's mamá was talking me through the recipe. As some may know, I love to stir food while it's cooking. I don't know why, I just do. The poor woman essentially had to hit my hand to keep me from stirring that damn rice.

Making paella is a lesson in self-control! Also, if you DO stir the rice, you won't get that yummy burnt socarrat at the bottom, which is enough of a punishment. 8 Paella-Texture-shot 9 Paella-Texture-shot-2 10 Side-Paella 11 Wine-and-CheeseHey you! DON'T TOUCH THE RICE!

*If, in this paragraph, it sounds like I'm making fun of Spanish people... 1) I'm partly joking with a few people who know who they are, and 2) Yes, yes I am. But I love them and their paella tunnel vision.

Q is for Quilt

Don't you just love when you can shout, "I made a quilt!" I know, me too!

It's here: The Alphabet Summer 2013 wall hanging quilt. You might remember the 2010 version, and I guess two makes it officially a tradition!

This little guy features four asymmetrical (a.k.a. not measured) log cabin blocks in the center, with some solid fuchsia and magenta border fabric, free motion quilting and a dark gray binding. And when I say “free motion quilting,” I actually mean “wild, unruly, and kind of sloppy motion quilting,” but that’s okay.

And, while I literally followed no rules or measurements for the quilt top... I felt like I needed to be slightly more disciplined in finishing the quilt, lest it end up a pentagon-shaped-wavy-banner wall hanging.  So, at the risk of sounding pedantic, I used my mom’s handy Creativebug tutorials, specifically the “Quilt Sandwich” and “Quilt Finishing and Binding” classes.

Some of you might be thinking, “Ashley, why don’t you just call your Actual Mom on the telephone?” To which I would say, “Why have your Actual Mom repeat herself sixteen times, when you can literally pause and rewind your Virtual Mom as many times as it takes for the binding finishing step to FINALLY sink in? I can never remember the math! 45 degree angle, 3/4 inch, 1/4 inch seam allowance...AHH!”  Cut your Actual Mom some slack, poor lady! Plus, your Virtual Mom has a nice visuals with pretty fabric.

Here's a tour through the Q:

1Quilt-Top 2b Cut-it-Down 2Quilt-Border 3b Q.T3-NEW-Pinning-Hand-Basting 4Walking-Foot 5Machine-Quilting 6b Alphabet-Free-Motion 6c Pinning-on-Floor 6Finish-Quilt 7Final-QuiltI think I finally got it. Also, (listen carefully) I am NOT ALLOWED to use this raspberry color ANY. MORE.

Stay tuned for Chicken updates: I heard she did some shopping on the "Maude"Cloth website...

¡P is for Piñata!


In order to get YO’ piñata on, it´s THIS simple:

Making-Pinata-1 Making-Pinata-2 Triple-Maude-Circles

Ahh, San Francisco. The only place where, in July, it’s faster to dry your piñata INSIDE (where the radiator is on, by the way) than it is to leave it outside.

My piñata inspiration comes from these lovely places: Oh Happy Day, and Instructables.

Maude! And, the great news is that we have located an actual living MINI MAUDE. Yes, so now the Maudes (Big and Mini) are commencing their “Summer Adventure Series” in which they travel far (and pretty nearby, actually) in order to pose for some awesome photos... Below you will see the first installment of “Maude Goes Gallivanting.”


Out for a wee bike ride in the Mission! 1 Safety-First2 Out-for-a-Ride-(2)

Oops! Just like everyone in the local coffee shops... Doh!3 Helmet-Head

And if you were wondering, yes, it was actually THAT hilarious.

Gahh! Where will she go next? Stay tuned for updates.

(BIG thanks to my girlfriends on this one, for many reasons, but mostly for putting up with "Maude" and her sassy demands.)

O is for Origami


Origami. From the combination of two Japanese words, Orimeaning fold and Kami, meaning paper.

Folding perfectly square pieces of paper, lining up the edges and corners just so... it’s the perfect meditative activity for when you need to unwind.

And the crane! Oh the crane! The classic origami crane. I love this explanation of its signifigance:

“In Japan, the crane is a mystical creature and is believed to live for a thousand years.  As a result, in the Japanese, Chinese and Korean culture, the crane represents good fortune and longevity. The Japanese refer to the crane as the “bird of happiness”.  The wings of the crane were believed to carry souls up to paradise. Traditionally, it was believed that if one folded 1000 origami cranes, one’s wish would come true.  It has also become a symbol of hope and healing during challenging times.  As a result, it has become popular to fold 1000 cranes (in Japanese, called “senbazuru”)." Source here.

While I didn’t quite reach 1,000... I certainly found hope and comfort in folding these little guys. I highly recommend it if you are in need of a little TLC!

And, as we established back at the letter M, I do love a good theme. So let me start this photo gallery with... a haiku: :)


N is for Napkins

The British “serviette” sounds so much better, don’t you think?

But, alas, here in les Ètats-Unis, we use a word that also shares meaning with much grosser things. (Do you need a hint? OK, the British word for diaper, and the thing that shares its name Carmel’s beloved sidekick.)

THANKFULLY the Merriam Webster dictionary exists, otherwise we would still have our minds in the gutter (okay, probably just me, I would still have my mind in the gutter). Here is the definition:

nap-kin: n. A piece of material (as cloth or paper) used at table to wipe the lips or fingers and protect the clothes.

And so, behold, a DIY napkin tutorial, featuring some fancy free-motion quilting (oh là là!):

*In case you were wondering: The cotton-that-looks-like-linen fabric I used (pretty great, right?) comes from Satin Moon Fabrics on Clement Street.

1-Napkin-Setup 2-Sewing-Napkins 3-Plain-Napkins 4-Free-Motion-Napkin

Circle-1 Circle-2 Circle-3 5-Finished-Napkins 6-Finished-Napkins-Layered 6b-Free-Motion-Napkins 7-Napkin-Set 8-Napkin-Set-w-Bow

Violà! A gift set of Alphabet Summer napkins. I do love me a good monogram. And, très green, no?

P.S...I had big plans to celebrate “N for Neighborhood.” I even took several walks and snapped over fifty pictures of my favorite spots. Then, as I looked at one gray, fog-infused photograph after another, it just seemed like this week (well, month really) was not ideal, considering it’s the foggiest, coldest season of the year. But here's one anyway, capturing my favorite event in my hood. And then somehow everything got all French.


M is for Makeup

Two things.

1. I had two delicious yards of the “Maude the Yogi” fabric waiting for me in the mail when I got back from my Eastern-ly Journey. I didn't think that fabric could be funny, but man, that chicken sure does make me chuckle.

2. Do you know about the Tumblr “Your LL Bean Boyfriend?” I find it quite magnificent, and not just because of the bearded preppy men. My point for bringing it up is this: When asked if the dress she was wearing to an awards ceremony was in fact actually from LL Bean, Liz Price (the mastermind behind the blog) answered, “I’m big on themes.”

I, too, am big on themes. So, while this makeup case may have several commonalities to other things you have already seen this summer (here, here and even here), think of it as an overarching theme (like “Good and Evil” in To Kill a Mockingbird, or “Dependence on Men” in A Streetcar Named Desire.)

The case features some familiar fabric, but it also debuts a new treasure. In looking for a plastic material for the lining of this little guy, I stumbled upon some... ZEBRA PRINT... wait for it... VINYL. Yep, that's right. Zebra print vinyl. Which, of course, not only makes it water/makeup resistant on the inside, but also freaking fabulous.

Enjoy the pics.


Hey you! This is post #13! Halfway point! Which is to say that Alphabet Summer made it over the hump! Which is your favorite hump video between these two: Camel v. Unicorn ?

L is for Love

 What's more inspirational than love? Not a whole lot. Well, mmmm, probally (as my niece would say)... a trip to LOVE Park in Philadelphia.


The park's official name is JFK Plaza, but it is rarely referred to as anything but LOVE Park, after the installation of the Robert Indiana sculpture in 1976 for the Bicentennial. Although never a legal activity there, LOVE park became quite the Mecca for skateboarders in the 1990's until it was banned from the park in 2002. Check out this short podcast (99% Invisible, a.k.a my recent favorite podcast, episode 71, starting at minute 5) on the battle between city planners and skaters (featuring Kevin Bacon's dad, no less) for a great insight into why skaters get no LOVE in JFK Plaza.

Besides other important Philadelphia landmarks such as the gorgeous City Hall building and, even more noteworthy, the Quaker Mecca, the Friends Center, LOVE Park is the perfect central point for Philly tourism. Why, in the distance, at the far end of the flag lined JFK Parkway, you can even see a few Rocky aficionados running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art! (Note to self: Run steps for next Alphabet Summer!)

A little over five years ago, on a much colder sunny day, LOVE Park was a destination for pictures on my sister's wedding day. This time, with two little members added on to the clan, we headed back to the statue for some informal family portraits. And, big surprise here, I took the opportunity to play around with my photo editing skills!

2 17thCherry-Picture9SunglassesSandalsColor7KavanaghsKidsinColor3ArchStreetLolipop5Four-Square-Love-Colors!6JessiStella-Blackwhite8MabelLove4Comparison-Love1Love-Four-Square

And, a pair o' sisters:

10-Pair-O'-SistersLotsa LOVE.

K is for Kite

kite, nounˈkīt:

A light frame covered with paper, cloth, or plastic, often provided with a stabilizing tail, and designed to be flown in the air at the end of a long string.

Behold, the visual story of how I went from zero to KITE in a matter of hours... K-for-Kite-Final

Engineer-the-KitePaint-the-KiteFly-the-KiteStella-with-KiteA special thanks to my kite making crew/family members on this one, especially my niece Stella. Go fly a kite, guys!

J is for Jewelry/Japan

It happened again. I went to get a necklace from my travel jewelry case (a.k.a coin purse) only to find the chain in a tangled mess, so entwined with his friend that it appeared they had melted together. While some may say that untangling a pair of knotted silver chains is meditational, I’d rather not spend forty-five minutes of every trip dealing with jewelry! Sheesh.



You might remember that I’ve already discussed how I LOVE to make cases for things. LOVE it. So, my latest endeavor is this little jewelry case with fabric my mom got on a recent teaching trip to Japan. Such beautiful colors, designs and textures. The case can hang from the wall, and then roll up like a burrito. Inside, there’s a hook and pocket for necklaces (so they don't tangle!), and not one but TWO zipper pouches for earrings, rings, etc.

A little shout out to my dear friend Lorien. She makes, among other beautiful works of art, gorgeous jewelry. She made the bridesmaid's necklaces and earrings for my sister's wedding, and countless pairs of earrings, bracelets and necklaces that I (and others worldwide) still wear to this day, and will ALWAYS be found in my travel bag! And if you like the little pink earrings below, you should check out her stuff here, here, oh and here too.

Here's the little Japanese burrito case:


Machine appliqué in action.


Rubi was sort of interested in what I was doing. Zippy

Hanging out:Jewelry-Case-1Jewelry-Case-2

The other zipper pouch is hiding behind the first one!


Roll her on up!Jewelry-Case-4Jewelry-Case-5Jewelry-Case-6Now, if only I could use this for an actual TRIP TO JAPAN!

I is for Ice Cream

Number of bowls of ice cream eaten in my life: more than 1,000Number of years worked as a professional ice cream scooper: 4 Number of countries in which bowls of ice cream were eaten: more than 4, less than 20. Number of times made ice cream myself: 0

These statistics are skewed! It was time to change that big fat ZERO. I have happily admired, eaten and served ice cream for years without ever trying to make it myself. That's crazy. I don't know if any of you have ever tried to make ice cream, but I can now put myself among the elite. And I have two words to describe the experience: WOW, and YUM.

At home in Ann Arbor with my folks, we spent a lot of time this weekend watching Wimbledon and making things. I had found this recipe in the July Real Simple magazine, and was really excited to make my favorite ice cream flavor: Mint chip.

The ingredients are "real simple:"

2 bunches fresh mint

1 cup whole milk

1 cup sugar

2 cups heavy cream

6 large egg yolks

4 ounces semisweet chocolate

The mint leaves I found were definitely spearmint, and they reminded me of the tea we drank in Morocco, the kind that isn't really tea, it's just mint leaves and sugar.  The recipe called for two "bunches” and since who knows what THAT means, what I included could very well have been 4 bunches, or even 8! It was MINTY.

First step: The MINT.


What a beautiful bowl of mint!

Not quite as attractive after it takes a sauna with whole milk and heavy cream...

Second step: The CUSTARD.


It was at this point that I realized: Green ice cream can be naturally green in color! This was 100% natural green color.

This part was highly labor intensive. Thankfully, I had two sous chefs.

Third step: CHURN, baby CHURN.

Oh, this is the fun part... The Kitchenaid mixer doesn't have a lid so you can watch the show.


Fourth step: The CHOCOLATE. And a little nod to San Francisco!


Fifth step: The EATING.


Even Mabel enjoyed the mint... Mint-Ice-Cream-with-Mabel

Ooh my. If I had to give this ice cream a name, it would be Moroccan Mint Chip. You're transported to Marrakech with each bite. Exotic, calming, delicious.

And it will always remind me of tennis.

H is for Hands

What’s the first thing you think of when you think 4th of July?

No, not fireworks...

Not grilling...

It’s natural beauty products, duh! On the 4th of July here in Michigan, we had a discussion about this very topic. My mom and aunt were talking about how my grandma used to go to this place called Merle Norman because (pre-Clinique) they had the only hypoallergenic makeup around. Even nowadays, the search for makeup that doesn’t irritate our skin still endures, and we spend a lot of time talking about chemicals in what we use.


Not to get on a (natural, chemical-free) soap box or anything, but I was doing some fancy “internet research” about the topic, and I couldn’t get the image of us essentially rubbing lighter fluid all over our faces, arms and legs. Using natural products makes a lot of sense to me, really. When I stopped using a face cream with chemicals, I no longer felt a burning, tingling sensation every time I put it on. Now, I don’t know a lot about biology or chemistry, but that has got to be a good thing.


Back to the fun part! I have been longing to try this Creativebug homemade apothecary tutorial by Amy Karol from Angry Chicken for months. And in the intro to the lip balm section, Amy speaks my soap box-y mind. She says, “You use it next to your mouth, so you want to know what’s in it... because you’re kind of eating it.”

The ingredients are so simple, and so delicious: Cocoa butter, shea butter, sunflower oil, vitamin E, and an essential oil for scent. I used tangerine, and a bit of lavender for some of the hand creams. The mixture of the scents of shea butter, cocoa butter and tangerine is quite delightful! And, it is SUPER easy to buy empty lip balm tubes (I did not know that a week ago) and violà... Homemade lip balm.

So please enjoy the making of his "handy" little cream!


G is for Granola


I’ll just start by saying that the adjective “granola” was a mystery to me. I had heard the words “crunchy” and “hippy” before, mostly to describe the Haight street dwellers (as well as Californians in general) but had never myself understood using granola to describe people. If you look up the definition of “granola” in the Urban Dictionary, you get the following humorously long-winded response:

“An adjective used to describe people who are environmentally aware (flower child, tree-hugger), open-minded, left-winged, socially aware and active, queer or queer-positive, anti-oppressive/discriminatory (racial, sexual, gender, class, age, etc.) with an organic and natural emphasis on living, who will usually refrain from consuming or using anything containing animals and animal by-products (for health and/or environmental reasons), as well as limit consumption of what he or she does consume, as granola people are usually concerned about wasting resources. Usually buy only fair-trade goods and refrain from buying from large corporations, as most exploit the environment as well as their workers, which goes against granola core values. This definition is sometimes confused with hippy.”

Oh my God, they just described most people I know. With the exception of the “animal and animal by-product” part, and since they also added the qualifier “usually,” (thanks for that, by the way, nobody’s perfect,) they also just described me!

I am [usually] granola!

Yes! And what better way to celebrate one’s granola-ness than a Granola Gathering in Golden Gate Park on Pride weekend in San Francisco. Boom.

You’ve heard of a wine “tasting” or a coffee “cupping.” Well, what we had was a granola “bowling.” Four bowls, four recipes*, four gals who like to gab.

*You’ll find links to all four recipes below, with comments describing each one, followed by some glorious photos.

1. Smitten Kitchen: Big Cluster Maple Granola (From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman)

I have been making this recipe for months, and I cannot get enough. Her magic touch of an egg white creates chunky clusters if you let it cool completely. It's simple, yet the coconut and maple add a little pizzaz. The girls described it as a great “everyday” granola.

2. Iowa Girl Eats: Maple Almond Granola

Holy crap. This granola was hands down our favorite. The only thing I changed about this recipe was that I added a whipped egg white right before baking it, a là Deb Perelman. It worked like a charm. The girls decided this one “tasted like a bakery.” I think it was the vanilla and almond extract that gave it that flair. It tasted like heaven.

3. Emily Levenson: Peanut Butter + Honey Granola

I HAD to try a PB granola. And this one did not disappoint. I substituted flax seeds for the chia seeds, and the PB flavor was subtle and not overwhelming. Wendy said something like, “I don’t usually like peanut butter flavors, but this is delicious.”

4. Allrecipes: Ultimate Irresistible Granola

Molly brought this batch, and it was outright finger-lickin’ good. A chewier variation, it had all the elements of a classic, everyday granola: crunch, salt, and a little sweet. We all agreed we could eat this granola every day (and probably will.)

1Part1Granola 2GranolaMakingCollage 3Part2Granola 5GranolaCloseup 6Part3Granola 7Part3ParkPhoto 8Part4Granola

And so they don't kill me for ONLY including pictures of them eating:


So pretty. Oh! Don't forget the doggie bags! 10DoggieBagHey you! Do you have a favorite granola recipe? I'd love to try it!

Also: Check out the 2010 "G" post here. One of my favorites from the OG Alphabet Summer.