Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ten rules for surviving the bar a proctor

 1. Wear comfortable shoes. The proctor over all the other proctors wears a pedometer. At the end of Tuesday it read 11.2 miles. That was all inside the Sacramento Convention Center. On cement. Extremely hard cement.

 2. Be nice. Being nice should be on every list in life, but especially for the California bar exam, a test that has so much riding on it.

 3. Bring lots to eat. All that walking - albeit at a snail's pace - works up quite the appetite.

 4. Consume large amounts of caffeine. It starts early, ends late and involves staying awake through hours of silence.

 5. Bring your inside voice. Whispering is mandatory. Think monks in monastery turned down a notch.

 6. Wear quiet shoes. Don't wear shoes that make a squeaking noise with each step of your right foot. Right feet are needed for walking. Hopping is not allowed.

 7. Bring chocolate. See rules one and three.

 8. Be able to carry heavy boxes full of testing materials with a smile on your face. Don't trip. Don't drop the box. If you lose the box, just go ahead and walk right out with your comfortable shoes and your caffeine filled body, because the box is the reason you are there. Do not think outside the box. Become one with the box.

 9. Proctor with your friends. All that whispering and eating and walking slowly and lugging heavy boxes and limping and coffee and chocolate is much better enjoyed with people you know in the regular loud-talking world.

10. Did I mention the importance of comfortable shoes?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Yellow Flowers. Period.

Crying and being grouchy was an Olympic sport in my childhood. I practiced for years and became quite good at it. I was helped in this endeavor by four older brothers and sisters who excelled in their chosen sport - Make Jessie Cry. After a time I figured out that not crying would be my best strategy in life. But it still amazes me to look back at some of the insignificant things that would get me all worked up. One of my more amusing ones was this plant item, which is blooming like crazy right now in Northern California:

As we would take drives as a family and see these growing in the fields, my brother Jeff would say they were mustard seeds. I would say they were yellow flowers. And then he would say it was mustard and I would insist they were yellow flowers. And then I would cry. Over yellow flowers. Some kids were tormented by real threats from older siblings, I was upset by discussions of plant botany. I'm so glad I survived this horrific childhood to become a functioning adult who loves mustard. 

But Jeff, for the record:

A weekend surrounded by pretty views, wine tasting and lovely spring weather was the result of some nice leg work on our friends' part. We are not great at making plans in advance to get away. Unless it involves a convention or a work related event, we just drift from weekend to weekend and then say "We should really get away." Our trips are usually because our more efficient friends got on the ball and made vacation plans or camping reservations and then asked us to join them. We are Vacation Barnacles. This time is was Russ and Arianne finding a great deal on off-season rates at Cottage Grove Inn in the Napa Valley. Cute as a button and right in downtown Calistoga, this place made for a very relaxing little trip. We packed gobs of board games, enjoyed just a touch of wine tasting and experienced a burst of spring in this most beautiful area. And Jeff, the mustard seed yellow flowers were amazing. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Sad Tale of Two Settees

They had such an interesting little story. Chairs separated and then reunited to again be a matching set. Sitting on our porch, minding their own business, fighting off cobwebs and snail tracks, they tried their best to jazz up the joint.

But in the early morning hours a chair thief took off with them. Yes, a stealer of seats stole our settees from our stoop.

My first thought - How rude!
Second - Why?
Third - Back again to How rude!
Seat stealing, really now. Can't the porch poachers do something useful on a Sunday morning, such as sleep in like the rest of us?

"OK, I blew this one. Next time I'll bite them in the seat of their pants."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Charlie Brown Camellia Bush

Sacramento is known for its camellias. Something about the acid soil, or is alkaline? No matter, they just like it here. They are a wonderful treat in the middle of winter, blooming their little hearts out in February and March when we all need the lift.

Our last house had a great camellia bush. The owners told us we could do anything we wanted with the yard, but don't mess with the camellia. It was very sentimental to them. Large and leafy, it put out tons of compact pretty pink flowers. I liked to pick the blossoms and float them in a large crystal bowl of water on our table. A nice perk-me-up when not much else was going on in the yard.

Fast forward to the Yard of My Discontent. What shall I say about the front? Let's see, any trees? Nope, not one. Bushes? Zero, zip, zilch. There is The Stump of Sadness, I will give it that. And some really bedraggled agapanthas that are trying desperately to prove their worth. A few daffodils are coming up by The Stump. But like the proverbial nose ring on a pig, they are fighting a whole lot of ugliness. The "grass" or "lawn" is not long for this earth. We plan on putting it out of its misery as soon as we muster up the energy.

The backyard is the opposite of the front. Chock full of bushes and trees and plants and more bushes and more trees. Sort of like there was a giant explosion at the nursery and our backyard is where it all landed. Up against the fence. In the wrong order. Willy nilly. The gigantic pecan tree is missing a partner so it puts out dried up shells with no nuts. There is an ill-placed palm tree (aren't they all?) that must go. A tulip tree is blooming between the pecan tree and the fence. That would be like wearing your diamond necklace under your turtleneck sweater. Placement, a garden is all about placement. Plus water and trimming and maintaining and fertilizing. But placement is the key here. The original owner who put all these plants in the wrong places is long dead, so I'm barking up the wrong tree.

I was hoping for a minor miracle with the saddest little camellia bush I've even seen. We thought this fall it was just having the plant version of a bad hair day. Now in the height of camellia season, with no leaves to speak of, it still managed to put out blossoms. Sad, dry pathetic little blossoms. Is is lacking acid, or did it drop some acid? Let's just say I won't be floating these in a crystal bowl of water on my table. Time to put it out of its misery? Any takers?

An E for Effort

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Taylor, the Puppy Love quilt

Roll over

The rule was, no more trips to the Goodwill fabric section until I got through some of my stash on hand. So glad I love to break the rules, because I found some really cute dog themed fabric on a "I'm just looking" peek. There was red dog fabric. There was red and white and black dog fabric. There was fabric with dog bones. And then more dog bone fabric. Like a walk down the aisle at the dog pound, it was all so irresistible. Unlike a walk down the aisle at the dog pound, I could take this all home with me. And then on coming home, I found a project piece of fabric stashed away, in red and white no less, on how to make a stuffed dog pillow. Really now, I must stay away from all thrift stores. But if they have some cute cat fabric...

Lie down


Make like a rag quilt and shed

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lone Shark takes a bite out of the Sea Lion Bowl

Planned for months, this was the weekend for Sea Lion Bowl 2013, held once again at San Francisco State. Our team from the Independent Learning Center in Woodland was as ready as they would be to compete in the Northern California Regionals, which sends a team to the National Ocean Sciences Bowl.

The team started dropping like sand flies on Wednesday night. By Friday, we had only one team member healthy enough to go, a freshman I'll call DR. A call to the organizers encouraged us to come anyway, they would work something out. Although deflated a bit like a flattened puffer fish, we proceeded with the weekend's plans.

Once we reached our digs in Tiberon on a gorgeous Bay Area weekend, Team Lone Shark was no longer flopping like a fish out of water. Our wonderful hosts at the Romberg Tiberon Center gave us the keys to our lovely rooms. I could get used to that place - quiet, clean, historic and charming with the added plus of sea lions barking in the distance. Our fellow guest was a marine biology researcher from Canada who was also volunteering at Sea Lion Bowl. She and Ernst discussed science that was so over my head I didn't even pretend to understand. I decided silence was better than piping in with "Me like sea otters too!"

Having to get up in the dark and leave that place is no fun, but science competitions are like running races and start early. We drove into the city with our one-member team, not knowing what to expect. After the nice breakfast and raucous introduction of the teams, our one surviving ILC competitor was still a fish with no school. The final decision was: Ernst would fill in as a rules judge, DR would join Lodi's Tokay High junior varsity team and I would be the Lone Shark coach. The coach from Tokay was more than Okay. It was nice to spend the day with her cheering on our little group of competitors.

DR is a freshman and he was joining two girls who had just come along to observe. They had never even practiced with the buzzers! Most teams have four with an alternate, they were just three. Their first team was the big tuna of the Sea Lion Bowl, Mission San Jose. While not quite eaten alive, it was a feeding frenzy. Undeterred, they moved on and did fabulous. Out of the seven rounds, they won two, tied one, gave Albany a little scare and came within a minnow's length when playing Sacramento's Mira Loma team. DR's grandparents came for three rounds and saw their two wins. 

Tokay High and ILC joined forces

At the awards ceremony, while Ernst and I feasted on gluten-free pasta, vegan sauce and big green stalks of some sort of healthy vegetable (only in SF) we relaxed knowing that it all went as well as it could have. Surprise surprise when ILC was announced as co-winner of the Team Spirit Award in the JV division! The volunteers recognized the good attitude of DR - coming in as a freshman, having his whole team drop out, joining up with students he had never met or practiced with, actually being competitive and having a great time of it.

Sandy, joining the ILC's 2011 Spirit Award

It was a wonderful experience. I survived as coach and Ernst had a terrific time on the other side of things. Albany High will move on to the nationals. It seems after the attitude of the 2011 competition and the fallout over it in 2012, the mood has relaxed and the top teams are hopefully seeing the "it's only a game" aspect of this all. But you never know, ILC might start circling in next year. Cue up the Jaws soundtrack - has Team Lone Shark survived to swim again?

Anchors away for next year

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Shiny Happy Quilt

Sometimes gifts arrive at just the right moment. I mailed this off for my sister to give to our mutual friend Shiny (spelled differently) who had been sick for several days. Joanne called her and asked how she was. Cold, was the answer. Joanne brought her this quilt, six months in the planning and finally finished, just in time for cold and flu season.

Shiny is a girl who certainly lives up to her name. I have so enjoyed getting to know her with every trip back East to see my family. She is an adorable kid who is growing into a lovely young lady. On my last trip out there in August, we went fabric shopping together and planned out the Shiny Quilt.

Shiny chose most of the fabric. I was pretty impressed with her picks, she knew what she liked and didn't like. No polka dots and no hearts! She chose a very sophisticated flannel print and she also fell in love with a cotton ice cream cone pattern. It was all so unique and fun. I was glad I didn't just surprise her with a quilt, because I would never have gone in this direction without her help. She would have ended up with a quilt full of polka dots and hearts.

This quilt incorporates memories of our trip to the beach, a melting ice cream cone and a very messy chocolate dessert experience at Wing Stop. I added in some fabric I had on hand - some yellow beach fabric and squares of bright pink corduroy which bled a little (grrr) but also frayed nicely (grrreat). To remember the messy chocolate experience, I cut up some chocolate chip cookie flannel pajamas. They were in almost perfect shape, but really, who needs all those calories at bedtime? It is an upbeat quilt for an equally upbeat young lady. Stay warm Shiny girl and I'll see you soon.

Our shiny happy trip to the beach

Monday, February 4, 2013

A memory quilt for Barb

A friend of a friend contacted me about making a memory quilt for a friend. That was three friends removed from me, until I started conversing with her through my Etsy shop. She is sweet as can be and now I look forward to meeting her someday.

When she mailed me the box of her husband's clothes, I wondered what I could possibly do with them. Some of the items just would not work, they weren't the right fabric. It meant being very careful cutting out what was there; no mistakes Jess. I had just enough - just - to make a 56 square quilt, 7 squares by 8, which makes a generous throw. I saved the buttons and sewed them on one of the corners. All that denim material is so tough to work with, but it came together nicely. The Hawaiian shirts gave it a great casual look and nothing frays as well as an old pair of jeans.

Back to the original friend. She has a friend who I made a memory quilt for a while back. I ran into her at an event recently. She said a friend saw her quilt and wants me to make five for her and the family out of her husband's clothes. And she lives about three hours away. Five memory quilts. Even if I only do 7X7 quilts, that is 245 squares. How will I do it? Is there a rag quilt version of "phone a friend"?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

My staycation was sew productive

The plan was to take the last few days of January off and get some projects finished. It would have been perfect if it had rained, but the weather didn't cooperate and the sun continued to shine. But I managed to stay home anyway, except for some doctor visits and errands.

On the list of things to do that got done:

Rearrange the living room. It is not quite right yet and I never did hang up my new botanical prints from the thrift store, but it is better.

Get a plan drawn up for our front yard Kill the Lawn, Plant Some Trees Project. We measured it out and I have been doing some little sketches. This is harder than it seems. You would think in this whole neighborhood there would be one house that is worthy of copying. But after 60 years of bad planting decisions, most of the yards are not exactly Pinterest material. I doubt what we do will be either, because I was really just hoping to plagiarize someone's landscape plan and drink in the compliments.

Sort of the goal.
Finish a quilt that was first planned back in August. It is for a young friend of my sister back East. It turned out very colorful and lively, which will fit the adorable recipient. One of the fabrics bled in the wash and that was a disappointment, that doesn't happen often to me. We'll just call it a pink wash and start a new trend.

Find the fabric for my next quilt. I tried not to howl in the Goodwill as I found some adorable dog based fabric, the Goodwill doesn't need anymore weirdness than it all ready has. I also found a new pair of work jeans. One pair off the rack. One trip to the fitting room. They fit. A miracle.

Take care of some doctor appointments, including seeing my dermatologist who is a mature woman with stunningly gorgeous looking skin. One of the things I wanted to ask was, Did I have enough brown spots to warrant having a bunch burned off at once? I guess the answer was yes because she took her liquid nitrogen - a.k.a. Canister O'Pain - and went to town. The first thing I thought of was, Oh my, do I have any social engagements in the next few days? Too late to think, she was squirting at me like it was World War Wart.

Next time I take a staycation, I must remember to get the brown spots removed at the beginning, not the last day. Maybe I can go around town posing as a bee keeper until this all goes away?

Before the sad bleeding issue in the washer.
All squared up!
Finally all my fabric is in one place.