September! Part 1!


September! It’s Fall! Back to School! Virgo birthday season!

It’s also that time again when I announce all the cool stuff going on. There’s so much, actually, that I’m dividing into two posts. Because I like sequels.

1-- I'll be heading to Palm Springs at the beginning of October for Quiltfest Oasis. I'll be teaching and lecturing, alongside some other awesome quilters, including Libs Elliott. Check out the details here or by clicking on the photo. See you in Palm Springs! (I'm so excited, by the way, I've never been to Palm Springs!)

2-- Next up! The following week, I'll be back in the Bay Area teaching for my second year at the Pacific International Quilt Festival. And this time, you'll recognize right away who else is going to be there.

There are still spots open in some of our classes, so head over to the website to sign up. See you in Santa Clara!

2-- Next up! The following week, I'll be back in the Bay Area teaching for my second year at the Pacific International Quilt Festival. And this time, you'll recognize right away who else is going to be there.

There are still spots open in some of our classes, so head over to the website to sign up. See you in Santa Clara!


Part Two of the September updates to come... including some dates for your calendars and fun projects to announce! Stay tuned.

Oh, and if you aren't already doing so, follow me over on Instagram to keep track of my comings and goings:)

See you soon,


Washing Instructions- Hats, Pop-opens, and Sleep Masks

I took several of my handmade products with me backpacking to Emigrant Wilderness a few weeks ago. When you come home from a trip like that, all you really want to do is take a long hot shower and sit down on the most comfortable chair in the world-- which, after sitting on granite for days, is any chair, by the way. Then you look over at your backpack, which you can smell from across the room, and contemplate how long you can put off the task of washing its ENTIRE contents.

But don't feel too sorry for me:


There's my reversible sun hat! In the wild! It was the perfect hat to bring because it had a large brim, and was lightweight and highly packable. But man, did it get dirty! I'm talking sunscreen-sweat-bug spray-dirt-dirty. Washing it an alpine lake is a fantastic option for cleaning out in the woods... but back in San Francisco, I wanted to get everything CLEAN-clean. Which, by that I mean actually using soap.

So I'm taking the opportunity to share some important washing instructions for a few of the products I make.

Photo by Isabel French.

1.) Pop-opens:

This felt like a good opportunity to make a really grainy GIF. Please enjoy!

Basic instructions: Hand wash exterior, sponge wash interior.

Detailed instructions: Pull the interior out of the bag. Using lukewarm soapy water (I use a clean and free detergent), hand wash the exterior. You can soak it up to the zipper, just avoid soaking the interior. Then, take a sponge and wipe down the interior. Hang to dry or rest on a drying rack. Just 'pop' the inside back in once dry!

This is where I'll point out that people DO wash laminated cotton in the washing machine, and have no problems. It's up to you, in the end. :)

2.) Reversible Sun Hat:

Basic instructions: Machine wash, hang dry.

Detailed instructions: Machine wash with cold water in a regular load of laundry. To dry, I used a vase to prop the hat up so it dries in its original shape, but this is not necessary.

3.) Sleep mask:

Basic instructions: Hand wash, dry flat. That's it!


All of these items came in handy on my backpacking trip, by the way. Some things that I'd add to my list of handmade items to bring for next time: A variety of bandanas (for ascot purposes) and several small drawstring bags for separating and sorting items inside backpack.

All in all, 31 miles, four days, one blister, and a lot of dirt. But worth every bug bite.


Happy Times- A Patchwork Show Recap

Wow, that was fun.

As a two-time Craftcation attendee and steadfast devotee, I already knew that I loved Nicole and Delilah from Dear Handmade Life, who are the organizers of both events. The atmosphere that these women foster is not only one of immense inspiration and creativity, but it's one that's free of pretense or opulence. So it may not come as a huge surprise that I find myself quite at home around this crowd.

It was a busy day at Jack London Square, full of familiar faces... A friend brought her mother, another brought a group of girlfriends on the ferry, I even saw a fellow quilter who I met in Austin at QuiltCon! And that's just to name a few. It seems like almost all of my dearest peeps made it (if they weren't on their honeymoon!) and OH did they make it special. Flowers, photography, snacks, customer service, manual labor, moral support... It made all the difference.

But ultimately, you know what else made all the difference? My customers. Thank you to all of the people who stopped by, and whether you shopped or not, your feedback and enthusiasm about my bags made it all worth it. Robin the Flight Attendant, you are my hero. Also, I met so many of my amazing fellow vendors, including my neighbors on all sides, and fell in love with a local leather bag maker.

If you did not get a chance to check out my friend and photographer Isabel French's post about my booth, check it out here. And, if you ever have seven spare hours and need to hear someone gush about something they love, just ask me about Craftcation sometime.

Talk to you soon,


Photo courtesy of Isabel French

To Infinity, and Beyond

This must be what it’s like when you come home from Burning Man. I’ve been on an emotional high ever since I came back from my big-fat-love-fest QuiltCon, and for some reason I’ve been thinking a lot about Buzz Lightyear. This feeling of awe and excitement about the world, it reminds me of what children must feel when they are growing up and want to be the President, or win the World Series, or dream of being an astronaut. You feel like anything is possible. Nothing seems out of reach, and why shouldn’t it?

Forget that I’m talking about a quilting conference. What I’m referring to is that universal feeling of purpose, the sense that everything makes sense. That I’m surrounded by my people. That there’s no financial, psychological, or logistical obstacles standing in the way of achieving greatness. That I figured out what I want to do.

Attend conferences, you might ask? Is that what you’ll do now? Gonna keep chasing that high? Cuz that’s not-really-a-job. No, as much as I love spending eight hours a day in dimly lit convention centers, it’s not the actual conference that I want to pursue. It’s what’s within the conference. The community. The spirit. The ART. Someone asked me last week what I want to do in this field, and all I could say was, “I want to do it ALL.” And I’m not even really exaggerating.

Originality, authenticity, tradition. These were all big takeaways for me. Within a community that feels comforting to me because I grew up immersed in it’s warmth, I feel like I’m finding my own place within it. But it will be new, and it might not be what I was expecting. After all, my old pal Buzz keeps telling me not just to go to infinity, but beyond as well.


Need a pick-me-up? Watch Spanish-speaking Buzz again, or for the first time!

Photo: Geometric Rainbow by Nicole Daksiewicz, Chicago IL

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

¡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.)

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.

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.

C is for Craft Party

Nothing screams “Wild Night” quite like a Craft Party, am I right?


There are few things I look forward to more than a good old-fashioned crafternoon. I mean, can you blame me? Let’s talk about it for a second. You've got sassy conversation, healthy and unhealthy snacks, some kind of needle and thread, and (if you're lucky) at least three types of crafting adhesive. It’s pretty much the perfect way to spend an evening. (Okay, well maybe I’d like there to be a baseball game on the radio, but I can survive without that one.)

And last night’s Etsy Craft Party at the Creativebug HQ was no exception.

If you’re ever in the search for creative inspiration, I highly recommend that you check out Creativebug. They offer affordable online classes for everything your little heart fancies... from quilting to paper crafts to making lip balm. They not only have top quality videos, but they have coralled the crème de la crème of instructors... some of my ultimate crafting idols are teachers for Cbug; Melanie Falick, Radmegan, and of course, the woman who LITERALLY gave birth to Alphabet Summer, my very own mama, Sue. (When you do go to their site, you’ll see why it’s not just because of my mom that I love the site! But also watch her bio video... it features my Grandma Tiny, among other Alphabet family members!)

I was first introduced to Creativebug back in January when my mom was filming her classes here in San Francisco. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some of the rock stars behind the scenes; Jeanne, Kelly, Courtney... who are not only inspirational artists in their own rites, but are proof of what amazingness can happen when truly good people put their creative minds together.

So last night I headed over to Potrero Hill with my new 50mm lens and my all-around-life-partner-in-crime, Molly. Paper art genius Courtney (Paper Musings) was leading an activity in making ATCs (which, it turns out, does NOT stand for Air Traffic Controllers, but Artist Trading Cards) and faster than you could say “black and white chevron washi tape,” we were crafting our night away!

Now, Molly and I are no strangers to being around Craft Royalty (back in March we attended Craftcation together, but more on that later), but we were, as usual, humbled by the openness and warmth of the Creativebuggers. And, in other serendipitous news, it just so happened that we were ATC-ing across the table from Ali and Emily from the Makerie, the creative retreat in Colorado that we had been swooning over for months. Ridiculous! It was a crazy night, that’s for sure.

Thanks for having us, Cbug! We are inspired.

Scroll down to enjoy the pictures of Courtney’s GORGEOUS studio design for last night’s party.

1CB1 YES 2CB2 YES 3CB3-BOARD 4CB-YES 5CB-Jeanne16CB-WORKING-YES7CB-Dancing 8CB-Studio 9CB-10CB-Board-3

J is for Jewelry

Today, I thought of all of us who have ever struggled to carry jewelry around. I used to put everything in a small zipper pouch, until I un-snaggled one too many necklaces. The silky cases from Chinatown were an inexpensive solution, but they were quick to unravel. Sooo...

Voilá! This little guy is perfect for a "light" jewelry traveler. It has a hook for necklaces and earrings, plus a pocket for rings and bracelets, and easily can hang from a hook or doorknob.

And... It can roll up like a burrito.

Thanks for reading:)

Oh, and the view from my favorite park was ridiculous today. What a pretty city.

Photos taken on Instagram.

Z is for Zeitgeist! (The End.)

True to it’s definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary (the general intellectual, moral and cultural climate of an era), Zeitgeist has been more than representative of this era in my life.
The closest bar to school, I have spent many sunny (read: chilly) San Francisco Friday afternoons on the patio at Zeitgeist.  For those of you who have not experienced this place, I am sorry to say that I have no picture proof.  Because of the “flexibility” on what you can smoke outside on their enormous open-air terrace, the “photo police” are on constant patrol.  So, I am challenged on my last blog entry (sad sigh) to photograph the big Z in words.
Picture (for those Ann Arborites) a very large Dominicks, minus the family vibe, plus a large biker-bar contingency.  Wallet chains, tattoos, suped-up hipster road bikes hanging from the bike rack with the warning to not leave your bike or else it will be gone.  Four Port-O-Potties, delicious hamburgers, and the occasional Tamale lady.  The best Bloody Mary in town, according to some.  Sunglasses, skinny jeans, card playing, giant heavy glass pitchers of beer, American Spirits and Parliaments as far as the eye can see.
Check out their website for a few actual photos!
I chose to celebrate the end of my blog drinking the only beer with a Z in the name, the Franziskaner Hefeweisen.  Delicious.  Now, here comes the Zeitgeist-induced self reflection!
Favorite blog entry:
I really enjoyed talking to my Grandma.  I think that was the most fun, in terms of process and final result.  In terms of a crafty activity, I really like the DIY skinny pants I made!
Hardest blog entry:
Well, naturally, the most physically and mentally demanding one was that bloody Patchwork Quilt.
Most enjoyable to make blog entry:
I had so much fun at the Tea Party!  That was a great day.  The X-tra credit research was also fun, in that dorky way. And obviously, Vacation was unbeatable.
Favorite thing about blogging:
My favorite thing about this experience has been the writing.  It turns out I really enjoy writing!  I was scarred by graduate school, and assumed the process of writing and editing was always painfully boring.
What have I learned from this experience?
That when I get set on something I like, I become stubbornly obsessed with it!  I had several minor panic-attacks when something went wrong (paypal sucks) or when I would have trouble coming up with ideas.
What would I change for future Alphabet Summers?
Not a lot.  I think I would like to have more photography skills in order to properly capture the experience.  I would also love more web design and HTML knowledge.  And while I’m asking for things, I’d also like a bigger work space!
I would like to say thank you to everybody who kept up with my little summer challenge. Thanks to my devoted comment-ers, who made me smile. Also important to me were those silent partners out there, too. You guys rock.
This is just the end for now.
Thanks and adiós por ahora!

V is for Vacation!

This could be the most well traveled blog entry yet! 3,411 miles, five states, many mountains and several pounds of ice cream later, the letter V has earned it’s victory as the most liberating activity in the alphabet.
In a post-vacation downer today, I sought alphabetical inspiration in Ken Burns´documentary on the National Parks. America´s Greatest Idea Ever, it seems! Don’t get me wrong, I am not taking for granted the fact that I got to see not only the breathtaking Grand Teton National Park but ALSO the awe-inspiring Glacier National Park in one ten-day journey. And surely these places have inspired many a writer, politician and tree-hugger. But where documentaries, pictures and words cannot do justice, I will just say that you must see these places. And hurry! The World’s Greatest Destroyer Ever, Global Warming is making the glaciers go bye-bye.
Besides the “ooohs” and “wows” and “holy mothers,” there were other highlights from this epic natural expedition. Montana, it turns out, is a heavenly place to be, especially in the summer. Now I truly understand the meaning of “Big Sky.” And the license plates! They have 135 different options! Talk about complicating the license plate game, sheesh! (We got 34/50 by the way.) Also, they have the tradition of slapping a giant letter on the town mountain in a very abbreviated Hollywood sign style. My alphabet brain was truly enjoying figuring it out, especially when there was an “M” in Butte and and “L” in Missoula. Perplexing.
Anyway, to conclude, I would like to give a special thanks to: The Salvation Army in Twin Falls, ID for the $.75 belt that held my shorts up; Libby Paglione, for not only reading my blog but for being the best tour guide in Victor, Idaho; The mechanic in Victor for fixing the headlights for free; The Bureau of Land Management for the free camping along Highway 50; The Sleep Inn, Idaho Falls for the first shower after four days of camping; Chris’ mom, Martha, for the GPS unit that persevered where the iPhone failed; Nick Hornby, for writing Juliet Naked so that we could listen to the audio book for nearly 8 hours; The voice actors on the Juliet Naked audio book for doing unintentionally hilarious American/English/Scotish accents; and last, but certainly not least, Doodle Jump, the best/worst iPhone game since Angry Birds.

U is for Used Books.

A lot of people were curious to know what I missed about the US while living abroad for so long.  Big hamburgers?  Giant parking spots?  Spatial awareness while walking down the street?  Nope. Used bookshops!  And, I arguably chose the best neighborhood to find these dusty treasures.  Although most recently my favorite has been Half-Price Books in Berkeley, the Mission is loaded with second-hand reading material.  In honor of my one-year anniversary of being back in the US of A, I decided to take a used book tour and look for U authors. Unlikely?  Perhaps.  I started out at my house on 16th street and ended up at the ultimate used-book center: the Mission branch of the SF Public Library.
My first stop wasn’t a long journey: Adobe books, literally across the street.  By far the most chaotic in terms of organization, Adobe is also the coolest and the quirkiest bookshop in the neighborhood.  It’s full of dusty paperbacks, worn-out lounge chairs and even more broken-in SF natives.  Today, I went to the Spanish section to look for my U book:  Score!  An staple from any undergrad Spanish lit course: Miguel de Unamuno, San Manuel Bueno, Martir.  On the inside, a bookplate proving its origin at the UT Austin Department of Spanish and Portuguese.
Next up, Community Thrift.  Usually fairly reliable for $1 books, but unfortunately today’s trip was quick.  Their “U” section?  One book.
Further down Valencia street, I thought I would try out the sci-fi specializing Borderlands, whose U/V combined section contained approximately zero books by U authors.  Next door at Modern Times Book Shop, another fruitless search through their used book section, which consists of a cart on the street.
On to Dog Eared Books, also known as the place where I purchased my first used book in San Francisco (Armistead Maupin’s More Tales of the City.)  Here, I noticed a slight obsession with John Updike.  An entire shelf!  My interest is peaked.  Anyone have any opinions about this author?
My last stop was the library.  Frustrated and fed up with the letter U,  I took on a different mission:  Audio books for my upcoming road trip to Montana.  A sparse selection, but I managed to walk out with a few, including Jack London’s Call of the Wild.
Conclusion? There are not many authors whose names begin with the letter U.

Tea Party!

Yesterday, Molly, Claire and I indeed "took some time for tea" at Lovejoy’s Tea Room in Noe Valley (  We were truly transported to your English grandmother’s country house for tea and crumpets.  What a tea-rrific place!  Mismatch china to perfectly clash with the mismatch antique furniture, lace and doilies as far as the eye could see.  A mixture of tables full of families, giggling girls like us, and the one standout all-male table.
The Earl Grey and China Rose Petal tea was bottomless, and the sandwiches were crust-less and triangular. Our favorite was the Pear & Stilton sandwich. With two thirds of our party convinced we remembered what Stilton was (me claiming "mild, like a white cheddar" and Claire sure it was "not strong at all"), it turns out to be of the stinky, strong blue variety! The scones were pretty much authentic (according to Claire, an actual Scottish person) and the Double Devon Cream was richer than butter.  Having become a self-proclaimed coffee snob since moving to San Francisco, Lovejoy’s took me back to my days of living with English gals, who would not really consider themselves fully hydrated if they didn’t have at least one cup an hour.
After we finished what the menu referred to as “Light Tea,” involving about 15 cups of tea and 12 pounds of butter, we headed across the street to Lovejoy’s Attic, where you can purchase tea paraphernalia, including (to Claire’s delight) Branson Pickle and McVitie’s biscuits.  And what tea party would be complete without trying on kitschy English party hats?
Afterwards, because for some reason the caffeine in tea doesn’t make your head spin around until you’re sleepy in the same way that coffee does, the three of us were fueled with enough tea energy to take our wallets over to Fort Mason for the Renegade Craft Fair (, a place which needs no explanation.  As if the day needed more terrific-ness!

S is for Science.

The California Academy of Sciences +21 evening.  Half-price tickets, alcoholic beverages, DJs, and hundreds of twenty and thirty-something “singles looking to mingle.”  Was it science, or simply chemistry?
Full access to the rain forest, the aquarium and the Extreme Mammals exhibit.  A Capoeira show.  All the cool and dorky science fun, minus the kids.  Only, this was really just a bunch of grown kids in a giant adult-sized playground.  Grown women shrieking as they ran to the children’s eel cove.  Some guy shouting things at the sharks.  A museum dude showing a special exhibit of baculum, or penis bones (he was particularly proud of the one belonging to the walrus, which the Eskimos use as a club to hunt.  “It’s really heavy!” he exclaimed!)  It was surreal.
Up with the Extreme Mammals, I learned what it takes to fit into this category, and quite frankly, I felt like a mediocre mammal. I have no large tusks, no enormous antlers or a crazy-long tail! But I was particularly taken with the AMAZING ADJECTIVES they included in all of the descriptions.  Someone was having fun with their thesaurus!  Things like “the biggest brain ever!” and “massive metatarsals” and “unbelievable arm strength” and “the most mind-blowing creatures to ever walk the earth.”  Props to the crafty wordsmith who wrote the clever catch phrases.  My friend Susannah would have been in heaven at the marsupial display, where it explained the “awesome pouch births” with the title, “Hang in there, kids!”  Oh, bless them, trying to make science fun!
Down in the aquarium, it was a pretty dreamy scene.  The lights were low, the house music was turned up, and the cocktails were flowing.  I half expected to find a couple making out near the nautilus tanks.  But alas, it all seemed fairly PG-13, and I managed to get some great shots of the underwater party animals.  My last image was seeing a group of friends plopped down in front of the Phillipine Coral Reef, staring up at the scene, mesmerized while the DJ played Men at Work’s Down Under to close out the night.
Outside in the foggy night, groups of excited mammals were saying their awkward goodbyes, perhaps exchanging phone numbers, perhaps wondering how the hell to get home from the middle of Golden Gate Park. All in all, the evening was very amusing.  A very entertaining way to witness science in action.

H is for Happy Hour

Before I start (I feel like Ira Glass when he asks for donations from podcast listeners) I just want to point out that this will be the last post before the eBay auction ends on Monday. Things are heatin’ up! Four bidders. Lots of smack-talk going on (one person claims they are the “only horse in this race”, one is taunting the other’s sewing machine preferences, another wants their item made of velour so they can drape it over themselves in victory.) Who will be the lucky one to get a “custom-made piece of art?!!” Did I say it is custom-made? Here's the link: eBay battle


Okay, I confess. I tried all day to figure out how to make my evening plans fit into the letter “H.” Neither the place or the activity began with the letter. But then I consulted the Alphabet Summer rule book (myself) and decided that this was well within the boundaries. It was a social event slightly after the hour of 6pm involving beer, talking, and crafting; Therefore, I will designate this event "Crappy Hour."
I met my fiery (and punctual) crafting partner-in-crime Claire at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art (the MOCFA. I know, it sounds like a curse word. You MOCFA!) What could be better? A museum dedicated to crafty things hosting a Craft Bar with Etsy Labs event! Warm beer and appetizers, awkward social mingling between crafty people, and best of all, felting.
Now, I’ve been pretty skeptical about this whole felting thing. I knew one person (at my former place of employment that rhymes with Crapston) who was an avid “felt-er” and I never really understood what she was going on about. But, I didn’t have much else going on in my life yesterday evening, so it was either continue playing Angry Birds on my iPhone until my eyes popped out, or go poke my fingers multiple times with a felting needle. Honestly, it was a tough call.
The concept of this event was to go around from one craft station to the next, trying out different activities. Felt penguins here, felt necklaces there, felt caterpillars and knitting outside on the windy terrace (My heart went out to the "Stitch and Bitch" woman, who sat knitting quietly in a circle of empty chairs while the felting tables overflowed with humans.) With so many thrilling options, where to start?!
We chose the caterpillar station, because it seemed easier and more confidence-boosting. When mine came out looking more like a piece of edamame with a toupee, I was reassured by Claire that this was about "learning to felt," not about being perfect. Alright, fine. My felting finger was turning white from the brisk San Francisco evening, so we went inside to check out the scene. Yikes. We tried to elbow our way to the penguin table, but it was mobbed with over-eager bird lovers. And who would want to make a felt necklace? Please. So we decided to go rogue and make our own projects. Oh, the dirty looks! “You’re not making a penguin?” “Where did you get the instructions on how to make a pig?“ Awww. Such cute, inside-the-box crafters! I mean really! You take some wool and stab at it with a needle! You can make a turkey sandwich if you set your mind to it!
I have to admit, the penguins were pretty awesome. But my little red hog (H for Hog!) and Claire’s turquoise monster were symbolic of our philosophy on crafting: Why make a gray and black non-flying bird just because they tell you to, when you can just as easily make a red pig or a blue monster?
We are two crafty MOCFAs.

E is for eBay!

Finally!  ¡Jesús! (pronounced Hay-SEUSS, like Dr. Seuss) The powers that be in eBay land were not appreciating my last-minute lifestyle.  PayPal!  You are a crafty mo-fo.  But two can play at that game.  Here it is... the long awaited E entry. So... this letter is a mixture of an activity and a destination, resulting in something crafty.  It’s the perfect storm of this project!  eBay started in the San Francisco Bay Area, therefore, I feel like I’ve gone somewhere local.

The only time I have ever used eBay was five years ago, when I bought a pair of those Nike sneakers with the separated big toe... remember those?  Yeah, I used them so little that I don’t even know where they are.  I mean, who can afford to buy the socks!?  But Alphabet Summer is all about taking on challenges and trying new things, so I must restore my faith in this website!   My dad buys actual Volkswagen cars on eBay!

So here’s the deal.  I am auctioning off a piece of art.  This piece of art does not exist yet.  Well, it WILL exist, but not until someone bids on it.

Go to this link: This is a win-win situation for you!  I’ve started the bidding at 99 cents.  And if you add in the $5 shipping, you could end up getting a piece of original artwork by yours truly for only $6*!  For simply clicking and bidding.

*That's four whopping pounds for you Englishmen, and 4 euros 80 centimos in España.  Hello!?

You have one week.

May the alphabet be with you!

Keep tuning in for updates on the eBay-Alphabet summer fling!

C is for Castro.

No, not the Cuban revolutionary, and as much as I would love to write an “Ode to Isabel”, not her either. The Castro. At least I thought I was going to write about the Castro.  Well, correction, I did write about the Castro. I embarked upon a walking tour of my next-door neighborhood and world famous hotbed and headquarters of acceptance and rainbow flags.  How exciting!  My first destination piece of the summer. I wrote a thrilling, emotion-ridden piece where I preached my feelings about gay marriage and rejoiced in the wonderfulness of San Francisco and of tolerance in general.  It was exhilarating!  But then, shame on me, I committed the ultimate no-no in new blogger etiquette (and well, in life really.)  I had my professional (a.k.a. bossy) writer boyfriend Chris copyedit my writing.


In his fruitless search for missing commas, mixed-up clauses and poor punctuation (thanks, Middlebury!) he did manage to scavenge some, yes, constructively critical suggestions for improvement.  He wanted more of me in the writing.  Something interesting must have happened on your walk, he says.  Did your feet hurt while you were walking?  Did you embarrassingly drop a pair of edible underwear in front of a shop attendant? Well no, darling, it was just a normal walk into the Castro: I got a Phil’z coffee, a woman at the puppy adoption booth set up outside the B of A offered me some hand sanitizer, I pondered getting a manicure at the Hand Job nail salon, and then on my way up to the library I walked past a guy wearing a very revealing pair of running shorts (no underwear).  A relatively benign Castro experience if you ask me.

So, was it not interesting to go on a rant about Prop 8?  Am I not allowed to shout out to the world about gay rights?  He might find the mundane anecdotes about my neighborhood walk interesting to read, but surely a political statement is more thought-provoking.  But alas, he threw a brand new, blood-red sock into my load of white laundry, and there was no turning back.

Here’s to the Castro, to Chris, and to copyediting.

P.S. Enjoy the photos of my Castro-hopping.

P.P.S. If anyone wants to read the original, flawlessly written editorial, please let me know.