tiny violinistMy great aunt took great joy in giving possessions away during the latter years of her life. I recall one afternoon when she told me she’d had “a talk” with her long-deceased mother-in-law, and that they agreed it was time for the old German chair – a bit of a family heirloom I long admired – to go home with me. She insisted it leave that very day, despite my uncertainty as to whether it would fit in the backseat of the car. (It did.)

She loved knowing the chair had a new home and would frequently ask about it. The chair continues to make me smile, and it gets used every day. But this story isn’t about the chair.

When she passed away I acquired a handful of meaningful items I continue to enjoy. The smallest of these was a tiny silver violinist.

During the years I visited and sipped many cups of tea with my aunt, this little guy and his instrument sat behind me atop the mid-century modern buffet and china cabinet. To me, this was the material manifestation of the proverbial sad song on the world’s tiniest violin. (You know it: the song you mime by rubbing your thumb and forefinger together while making a faux sad face as a friend tells you a story that is far from pitiful.) But I also found it to be quietly uplifting and inspiring. My great aunt and her husband were fans of classical music and loved attending the symphony. Her father (a.k.a. my great grandfather) was a violin teacher.

Up until a few weeks ago, the figurine lived on a ledge above my desk, fiddling a tune for an equally diminutive dancing Ganesh. When I was presented with an invitation to a dear friend’s middle school graduation party, it took no time for me to ponder and determine the perfect gift. A passionate and dedicated violinist since her single digit years, I had a hunch she’d appreciate the story attached to this slightly tarnished fellow. It’s better than anything I ever could have found in a store. Passing along this little token from my biological family to someone who is part of my chosen family felt like the right thing to do. After opening it, she decided it needed to live on top of the piano.

Thank you so much for the tiny violinist! It’s very motivating and it will definitely be a good reminder to practice the violin, in addition to the piano.

Did I mention my great aunt played the piano, too?

When you think of love songs, I bet lines like “Oh baby, baby, baby, baaaaaaaaby, I love you” and other word conglomerations of that ilk come to mind. These songs run the gamut of happy, sad, mournful, or even overly goopy.

Leave it to my sweetie to write a song for me that speaks to what we value, not to mention what I spend my days navigating in varying degrees while I make a living. The lyrics go like this:

Shed
by Sven Eberlein

I’ve got a closet full of things
don’t know how they made it in
there’s that sweater I don’t like
and the tapes left behind by my friend Mike

I’ve tried to clear it out before
but all that stuff keeps getting more
my house is looking like a store
and now I can’t even close the door (more…)

One of the happiest joys and honors is an invitation to witness friends unite their lives. As a natural observer and sometimes documentarian, my eyes are always drawn to the quiet details that make each event so unique. In recent years, I’ve notice a proclivity to incorporate incredibly personal handmade or D.I.Y. (a.k.a. do-it-yourself) elements, and this has been most notable in the flowers.

A wedding I attended last year featured arrangements and a bridal bouquet lovingly homegrown by the bride’s sister. I consider this to be a brave and stunning undertaking, especially when one is at the mercy of Mother Nature!

flowers arrangement with wine glasses

(more…)

A long ago discarded pair of pants are hanging over my desk. Well, that’s partially true. To be precise, parts of my pants and parts of two other peoples’ pants are hanging over my desk in a wall warming creation called The Traveling Elephant Quilt.

quilt hanging on office wall

detail of elephant quiltdetail of pants in quilt

The elephants are parading through space to an unknown destination, but the “traveling” part of the piece hails from my insanely talented, creative, and silly friend, Sharon. Throughout the earlier part of this year, I received sporadic emails from her that read, “Now where? Hee hee,” and “Elephants in Orleans, CA?” (more…)

Time was up. I could no longer defer the inevitable: I had some outdated wall calendars that I was unable to part with. Keeping them any longer was ridiculous, but recycling them meant discarding something I felt was not disposal-worthy. What was an organizer girl to do? (more…)

Christmas treeFrom a distance, it looks just like any other bedecked Christmas tree. But this one, residing in the back room adjacent to my neighbor’s kitchen, is a little different from the one in the living room. (Yes, she has two.) You have to get close to see what I mean. This tree is aptly and affectionately called the shoe tree. (more…)

using a canvas bag at the farmers market

Here I am, caught in action with one of my favorite canvas totes!

For anyone who has yet to practice forgoing the plastic bag from the store cashier upon checkout or a restaurant waitperson when leftovers are packaged to go, learning to just say no is a simple yet powerful act.

We’ve become accustomed to the presence and regular flow of these rustling little critters in our lives. They are versatile and always at the ready when needed – until you notice that there’s a hole in one, and you know how quickly these bags tear. The reject gets tossed in the trash, and you have to dig in the cupboard to find one without a hole.

But imagine, if you will, life without this convenience, or in the case of  bags with a hole – this inconvenience. Imagining is one thing, but practicing is another.

Can you live without single-use plastic bags? Absolutely.

Where to start? (more…)

plastic bags knitted or crocheted into a reusable bag“Paper or plastic?” may soon be obsolete…at least in California. On June 2, the California State Assembly passed a bill (AB 1998) to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. The bill goes to the Senate later this month, and if it passes, the golden state will become the first in the union to ban the option.

In San Francisco, there is already a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags at chain grocery stores and pharmacies, and today, an expansion of the existing legislation is being introduced that could lead to more extensive city-wide elimination of plastic bags. This prospect makes someone like me very very happy.

The SF Department of the Environment provided a startling figure at their booth at a local farmer’s market last week: 380 billion single-use plastic bags consumed in the U.S. each year, and that translates to 1,500 per person. California consumes 19 billion of those bags each year – more than any other state. These numbers are astounding. Things have to change, and thankfully they are…slowly but surely. (more…)

Photo courtesy of Paho Mann (www.pahomann.com)

The ubiquitous junk drawer. It is the centralized repository where a plethora of useful and not-so-useful, like and not-so-like items seems to congregate. Think about it. Where else might you find a yo-yo with a broken string, rolls of tape, keys to unknown locks, full and half-used matchbooks, loose buttons, an undeveloped roll of film, outdated menus, loose change, and questionable batteries in one place?

The junk drawer seems to be a socially acceptable place for disarray. My professional organizer ears have heard few people express embarrassment about the condition of theirs. The drawer offers regular opportunity for impromptu treasure hunts. It also serves as a safe haven for things that are in the process of finding their way “home,” or that have no place else to live until, perhaps, they eventually find their way to the trash. For many, this collection and dispersal system works just fine.

But what if you wanted to rethink the junk drawer and remove some of the junk to make way for the more functional? (more…)

holding a child's artwork and wondering how to recycle it

"The World," by Drew, age 6

It’s a world that brings joy, but it will cause pain if handled without care. This world is made of a crayon-marked crumpled piece of paper gingerly held together by straight pins and a rubber band-as-equator. A hand-drawn American flag impaled by a toothpick marks the location of the creator’s home.

“My brother was making a globe in science class, so I wanted to make one too,” said six-year-old Drew about the inspiration for this piece when I interviewed him via his mother via e-mail.

His mother, my friend Barb, told me about this sweet creation and how she didn’t quite know what to do with it. (more…)

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