Headin' For The First Round-up

Over the past few months I've attended the 40th Anniversary screening of The Wild Bunch at the Million Dollar Theater in downtown L.A., a pre-release showing of Wyatt Earp from the PBS documentary series American Experience at the Autry Museum, and a double-bill of The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid at the Billy Wilder Theatre in Westwood. All events were well-attended, even the Earp, which took place during a brief lull in a series of rain-storms. But it occured to me that I found all of these events as a matter of dumb luck -- I missed several Jesse James and Billy the Kid-themed screenings at the Wilder, and today I missed a Clint Eastwood documentary at the County Museum of Art. So I've decided to try and build a resource, a blog where fellow western-movie fans can go to find out what screenings are taking place, what programs are running on TV, what series are coming out on DVD. And maybe most importantly -- because westerns are not dead -- what new westerns are in production and soon to be released!

I plan to update the blog every weekend, so you can check it and find out what interesting events are coming up in the week ahead. I'm located in Los Angeles, and that's where I know what's going on, but I want this blog to be a resource for folks around the country and around the world -- and for that I'll need your help. E-mail me at swansongmail@sbcglobal.net, and let me know what events are happening where you are that should be included. I need to know what museums, revival houses and other venues should be on our radar. I also need your comments -- if you watch a program or attend an event that we've mentioned, let's have your reactions.


True Grit -- Brothers Ethan and Joel Coen, who brought us No Country For Old Men, 2007's Best Picture Oscar winner, are tackling the Charles Portis novel that Henry Hathaway first filmed in 1969. Playing U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, one of John Wayne's best-loved performances, will be Jeff Bridges, who's currently starring in Crazy Heart. Matt Damon will play La Boeuf, the Texas Ranger that Glen Campbell portrayed, but no word yet on who'll be Mattie Ross, the Kim Darby role. Josh Brolin is also in the cast. Bridges will be the third actor to play Cogburn. Wayne did it again, opposite Katherine Hepburn in 1975's Rooster Cogburn, a western haircut on The African Queen, and Warren Oates played the part in 1978's TV movie, True Grit: A Further Adventure. The new True Grit is scheduled for a Christmas Day, 2010 release. True Grit (1969) plays on TCM Friday, Feb. 5th at 8pm, Pacific time.

6 Guns -- From The Asylum (no, I'm not being cute -- it's the actual company name) comes the story of a young woman who enlists the aid of a bounty hunter to teach her to be a gunfighter, so she can hunt down the men who killed her family. Sounds a little like a 'girl-power' version of Nevada Smith (1966), or a re-tooling of the Raquel Welch starrer Hannie Caulder (1971). The direct-to-video release stars Sage Mears and Barry Van Dyke, who was a regular with his father, Dick Van Dyke, in the Diagnosis: Murder series, and is directed by Dick's grandson, Shane Van Dyke (and a director named 'Shane' certainly should be making westerns). Also top-billed is Greg Evigon, star of the series BJ and the Bear (1979-1981). 6 Guns should reach your video shelf March 30, 2010.


NEW STUFF: Wyatt Earp is the newest episode of the PBS documentary series, American Experience, and presents a convincing telling of the life of one of the west's most controversial figures. It's startling to imagine that a man who is today generally revered was so worried about his reputation that he begged William S. Hart to play him on film, and set the record straight. In addition to the commentary by several historians, the beautiful background footage is a cut above what you generally get in documentaries -- the slow-motion gunfire during the O.K. Corral sequence was so purty I kept rewinding and watching it again. Check your local PBS affiliate for airdates. Also check out an episode from some seasons back, The Donner Party, which is also currently playing.

Note - All listings are Pacific Standard Time. TCM = Turner Classic Movies, FMC = Fox Movie Channel, AMC = American Movie Classics

Tuesday 2/2
10:00 a.m. - Broken Arrow (1950) James Stewart, Jeff Chandler, D:Delmer Daves, W:Albert Maltz(another writer's name may be one the credits -- Maltz was blacklisted and had someone 'front' for him)
12:00 p.m. - The Undefeated (1969) John Wayne, Rock Hudson, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr.,D:Andrew McLaglen, W:James Lee Barrett
12:30 p.m. - Billy The Kid (1941) Robert Taylor, Brian Donlevy, D:David Miller, W:Gene Fowler. (Robert Taylor's 1st western!)
2:00 p.m. - Bandolero! (1968) James Stewart, Dean Martin, Raquel Welch, Harry Carey Jr., Jock Mahoney, Don 'Red' Barry, Roy Barcroft, D:Andrew McLaglen, W:James Lee Barrett (If you want to see an incredible list on stuntmen, check out the listing on IMDB)

Wednesday 2/3
5:45 a.m. - Viva Villa! (1934) Wallace Beery, Fay Wray, Leo Carillo, D:Jack Conway, W:Ben Hecht (This one has uncredited help on direction and script by Howard Hawks and Wild Bill Wellman. Stu Erwin's part was being played by Lee Tracy, but during production, Tracy got drunk and urinated off a balcony onto a Mexican military parade -- they had to rush him out of the country!)

Thursday 2/4
2:00 p.m. - Flaming Star (1960)Elvis Presley, Steve Forrest, Barbara Eden, L.Q. Jones, D:Don Seigel, W:Clair Huffaker, Nunnally Johnson

Friday 2/5
2:45 p.m. - Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Earl Holliman, Dennis Hopper, D:John Sturges, W:Leon Uris
5:00 p.m. - True Grit (1969) John Wayne, Kim Darby, Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Strother Martin, D:Henry Hathaway, W:Margeurite Roberts
7:15 pm - The Shootist (1976) John Wayne, James Stewart, Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, Richard Boone, John Carradine, Henry Morgan, D:Don Siegel, W:Miles Wood Swarthout, Scott Hale. (John Wayne earned his Oscar for this one)

Saturday 2/6
1:30 a.m. - Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, D:John Sturges, W:Millard Kaufman
6:00 a.m. - Call Of The Wild (1935) Clark Gable, Loretta Young, Jack Oakie, Buck, D:William Wellman, W:Gene Fowler - from Jack London's novel. (Great stuff, and Gable at his best - no wonder Loretta got impregnated by him on the shoot!)
6:30 a.m. - How The West Was Won (1962) James Stewart, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, D:John Ford, Henry Hathaway, George Marshall, W:James Webb, from his series of LIFE Magazine articles.
9:30 a.m. - The Magnificent Seven (1960) Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, James Coburn, Horst Buchholtz, Eli Wallach, D:John Sturges, W:William Roberts.
11:45 a.m. - Maverick (1994) Mel Gibson, James Garner, Jodie Foster, D:Richard Donner, W:William Goldman from the Roy Huggins series. (Fun, and countless cameos by cowboy actors and country music stars.

That's all for today, but in my next post I'll be adding more info about westerns on TV, radio, podcasts and more! Let me hear from you!


Familar Face in Foreign Lands - Day Four

If anything getting up is becoming harder, but after a few strong coffees I get going again. The first thing on the itinerary is Bennetts Lane Jazz Club. It’s not just being a dedicated venue open seven days a week that this place has in common with the Stand comedy club in Edinburgh; it's small, dingy and tight too. Although we’re there at 10am, it definitely feels cool. The owner is there too, still visibly drunk from the night before, wearing a t-shirt several times too big for her. The fact that she quite obviously doesn’t give a cat’s cock about meeting a foreign journalist like this is to her credit. When I say where I’ve come from she puts her hand on my shoulder and offers her commiserations, which I accept with sincerity. At one point she mentions a New Year party that had people partying in the streets. It’s a pretty bland story but when A shouts “Fair dinkum?!?!” in her face, she nearly falls off her seat.
Composure regained, we talk jazz, about which I know very little, but she paints a picture of an exciting, passionate crowd who turn up nightly to enjoy the different shows they put on throughout the week. In some ways it’s disappointing to hear that even before the smoking ban, no one was allowed to light up in here; with the purple walls and low ceiling, it would have housed a debilitating cloud very well.
Tony drops me off at the National Gallery of Victoria to explore on my own. The place is big and airy and, in many ways, the building itself is as interesting as a lot of the pieces on display.
After lunch I meet another woman for another walking tour of the city. This one is much more general and the guide a lot less exciting. Between my general fatigue and the knowledge I’ll see one of my best friends in just a few short hours, I am obviously distracted. I apologise several times for this ignorance and worry a bit that I’m not absorbing enough information. There a couple of things she does drum into me though: Melbourians love cafes, and they love being creative with use of space. The council frequently grants short-term licenses so, for example, someone can open a bar in an alleyway for three months or until such times as someone comes in with a better offer.
The city has also fiercely guarded its tram system, meaning this ancient form of public transport still provides the most cost-effective, efficient way of travelling around town. I board one to take me to St Kilda, a part of the city that has the feel of an English seaside town; all beachside restaurants, bars and ice cream parlours.
I head to the Prince, a five-star boutique hotel and spa facility. I’m surprised by the fact no one is on hand to check me in almost as much as I am by this fact irking me. Does this mean I’m becoming a proper travel journalist or just a prick? I know instantly that I won’t be able to enjoy of the extra luxury it has on offer, but the bed does at least look very comfortable.
I’ve got the rest of the day to myself and force myself out into the streets to take more pictures. There’s a big dramatic sunset to shoot too and the number of people there with cameras is amazing; I need to get a better one as soon as I can afford it.

Dinner is at a small designer restaurant and while I sip wine at my table for one I can’t help check my watch and phone. George is here now, which – including Marco and Jenni – takes the total number of people from home to five; five people on the other side of the world from where they met. What a weird fucking coincidence.
I continue my policy of ordering the most bizarre things I can from the menu, which this time includes pureed eel ravioli. It’s not as bad as it sounds.
A while later I’m back in my room waiting for some kind of signal to meet my friends. Sitting down is a problem as I immediately want to fall asleep, but getting five minutes wouldn’t be a problem. If I just close my eyes for a sec… The phone goes. It’s time to go out. I scrape myself from the bed, put on a shirt and head out into the cool night.


I was in Kindred Quilts yesterday and oh how I love Valentine's. I bought some fabric to make a little quilt. The colors are so sugary sweet. Darling! I'm going to have fun! I started to make a drawing for the applique in the quilt. You can see a hint of it below.

I bought this book too. I love all things zakka. Do you? I adore linen and this book will make me cut into some of that wonderful Japanese fabric that I have in my stash.

Do you remember this quilt? This was the quilt that started it all. My quilt career was launched with the publication of this quilt pattern. It was a BOM pattern and now, I am proud to offer it as a complete pattern. It will be available next week and you can order it from Kindred Quilts. It is called "Believe" [there is a boring story as to why this wasn't named "Dream"] and it was fun to make. I'm interested to see how you will color this quilt now! Do send me a photo when you're done. xo, L

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chip Streusel

If you look here, here, and here, you could easily conclude that I am a lover of all things banana bread. And you would be right. I do love this humble loaf and am always up for trying yet another banana bread recipe. I cannot resist the perfume-y moistness the bananas give the cake. It’s also a fantastic way to use bananas that have been sitting on the dining room table, fast moving past their prime. If you are part of a small household, and bananas come in big bunches, you will know what I mean. With a new member on board though, perhaps I can look forward to the day when we won’t always end up with a few rotten bananas. Which is not to say that I will ever stop letting some go “bad” for my bread :)

Now, you may not be up for reading yet another banana bread recipe over here but the fact of the matter is, and I might as well admit it now and get it out of the way, I will most likely continue trying all manners of banana bread recipes, and posting them in this space (unless of course it was totally heinous then you can be sure nobody would hear of it). I hope you don’t mind :)

This recipe is from Tessa Kiros’ book Apples for Jam, one of my very favorite cookbooks just because it is such a beautiful book written in such a lovely way. It’s a book I tucked into bed with me many times when I was pregnant. More than any pregnancy or baby book, Apples for Jam, with Tessa’s lyrical snippets from her childhood and that of her two (adorable!) daughters, would keep my pre-delivery jitters at bay much more than any account of “what to expect”. I still look over its pages and dream of the good things I want to make for (and with!) Little C someday.

This banana bread is one of them.

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chip Streusel
(Banana bread from Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros, streusel adapted from Ramblings From a Gypsy Soul)

For the banana bread:
  • 125 grams butter
  • 180 grams dark brown sugar
  • 350 grams ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 250 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons warm milk

For the chocolate chip streusel:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cold
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips

- Make your streusel: Mix sugar and flour together. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or rub with your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips. Set aside in a cool place where the butter will not melt while you get on with your batter (I stick mine in the fridge).
- Cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Mix in the mashed bananas.
- Add the eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt to the mixture and stir until everything is mixed well. Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix until just incorporated and smooth.
- Mix baking soda into the warm milk and mix this into the batter.
- Scrape the batter into a loaf tin that’s been buttered and bake for about 50 minutes in an 180C oven, or until a skewer poked into the middle comes out clean. Turn out onto a rack to cool.

Tessa’s recipe is for just the cake. I added the same streusel topping I used here, adding chocolate chips to the mix just because I had them around…although who really needs a reason to add chocolate to cake? I certainly don’t :)

**#@! Take Me To Your New Art Page !@#**

I'm redoing parts of my website.
I've updated my art page and I'm now working
on the book page. I found a robot I illustrated in
1999 for Make Yourself A Monster
A Book of Creepy Crafts written by Kathy Ross.
The original robot is holding the craft supplies
needed to make the Alien Necklace and the
other illustration was transported into
the future with a little Photoshop.

Familar Face in Foreign Lands - Day Three

When I was a nipper, my dear mum was kind enough to take us to the Museum Of The Moving Image in London. It was amazing, the sort of thing that seared onto my brain and in another life may have inspired me into a career as a filmmaker. The original King Kong model; the story about Boris Karloff having to have his Frankenstein bolts attached to his neck with industrial glue… It was an excellent afternoon.

Perhaps the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) never stood much chance with me when it’s competition is a cherished (and no doubt partly fictionalised) childhood memory, but people I speak to later on agreed that its current installation is quite uninspiring. A bit too general, a bit too rubbish; it’s too flat and far too much of it has been dedicated to the meandering yawnfest that is Baz Luhrmann’s Australia. I’m as polite as can be with the PR, but truth be told, I’m clock-watching.

My next appointment is at 11:30, but I have plenty of time. In fact, my plan is get to a pawn shop I’d noticed the other day in a bid to punt an ill-fated diamond ring I’d bought a month earlier.

The first place is populated by two old women who buy and sell antique jewellery. While they’re passingly interested in the ring, they’re a little put off when I tell them how much I paid (obviously adding a good few dirhams onto the real total). I pop next door to an Indian guy who doesn’t look it as the bespoke piece of finery that it is, but rather a collection of not especially value shiny things. The diamonds (all five of them) are worthless, according to him, and the white gold is only worth about 25 quid. I’d rather swallow the thing and shit it into eternity than sell for that, so I leave indignant and poor. Next stop is Pellegrini’s, an Italian café that is apparently a Melbourne institution, but given that anything over ten years old is, according to A, an institution, that doesn’t say much.

Truth be told, for somewhere that’s both very famous (and it is) and very busy (and it certainly is), it’s pretty hard to find. A small, nondescript café on a corner that, back home, would have blended into obscurity and ruin, here it’s narrow walls instead house a hive of Italian theatricality; all passionate shouting and wild gesticulating. Empty it would feel tight – a long narrow bar stretch back to the kitchen, with barely enough room to walk two abreast. But Pellegrini’s is never empty, and for lunch and dinner, it’s rammed full. Co-owner and host Sisto, is an Italian from Ancona, who is so over-the-top, it’s hard to imagine any other nationality getting away with behaving the way he does: a Glasgow equivalent would be some fat dick in a ginger wig shouting “hoots mon!” and serving only haggis, whiskey and rainwater. Being Italian, though, all that cliché and theatricality instead feels genuinely warm and welcoming. His place is laid out like several Italian-owned ice cream parlours or fish and chip shops you find all down the west coast of Scotland and as a result, what the locals find quirky-cool, I find familiar in the best possible way.

The food served is outstanding too and the coffee is easily some of the best I’ve had in months. Sisto’s amateur dramatics impress me less, but I’m happy enough to listen while he gives me a history of his place. Soon I’m joined by two senior figures from Tourism Victoria. They’re keen to learn more about my job and Dubai and as usual, I paint a bleak picture, but play up Abu Dhabi. Between a slight nervousness and a second atomic coffee, I find it hard to put the brakes on – blasting out bullshit like Amnesia’s ice cannon. I’m so wired, it actually feels like I’m a bit steaming, but the big cheese from the tourist board seems to be in a similar nick so I feel less out of place. After an hour or more of this insanity I leave shouting “Ciao Sisto!” as I go, immediately cringing for sounding like my bloody father.
After that A comes to pick me up and take me to Brunetti’s, another Italian place, that specialises in cakes and yet more coffee. I’m pretty sure I’ll shit myself if I have another drop of caffeine, but while he lets me off on that front, he insists that I eat at least two slices of cake. Poor A – he describes himself as a “heavy fella”, but it’s pretty clear he’s over the moon at hosting international guests – it means he can get torn into three course meals on the company at all times. For this week, I am little more than his enabler.
An hour later, he’s dropping me off at my next hotel in the city centre. We go through my itinerary a few times to make sure I know what I’m supposed to be doing for the next few days. I leave him and head into the lobby and what happens next is all really weird.

I’ve had dreams like this; where I walk into a room and there are people from home and I’m so fucking happy to see them and just as we start to talk… Then I wake up in the Middle East, alone in a room without a door or window. But this time – this time – they’re definitely here in front of me. I hug Patch and Louise hello and am immediately ripped for my International Speaking Voice while checking in. It doesn’t matter how many things change; thankfully some things stay the same.
After an hour of frantic talking they’re leaving for dinner and I can’t help but feel sorry to see them go, despite knowing I’ll see them again over the next few days. A while later I’m sitting in the dark in an expensive seat at the Prince’s Theatre for a production of Wicked. It’s pretty good, but between being a bit drunk and the heat of the place, I sit stewing in my fatigue like an unflushed turd. Embarrassingly, the people either side of me are old enough to be my grandparents and have no problem in staying awake. But what do they know?

So Behind!

Postings have been a bit scarce. I have been working, working, working. I keep things in my brain but once I'm ready, everything starts coming out like crazy. This is what I've been looking at. Just what's around my desk. Hm, I should spruce it up a bit.

I did pop into my LQS, Kindred Quilts a little while ago to be their video camera chick. I helped them film their video for the Saturday Sampler. Toby was kind enough to demonstrate this wonderful "toy" that she's selling in the shop. It's the Accuquilt Go! The machine is a die cutting machine for us quilters.

Very crisp, and precise.

Here's Mary getting ready for the filming.

I thought that the colors in this quilt were rich and lovely.

See you next week when everything slows down a bit. xo, L

Familar Face in Foreign Lands - Day Two

The next day I creek my eyes open like pistachios and, after some buggering around in various parts of town with A, my tourism man, I head to an art tour with B. This largely involves trying to keep pace with the diminutive little Italian as she buzzes from one place of artistic interest to another around Melbourne. The trips are planned a week in advance, though the itinerary kept secret from the tourist in order to avoid inevitable preconceptions about artists or their works.

Melbourne is one of the top six cities in the world for street art and, while still technically illegal, the council have provided areas dedicated to the cause. These spaces tend to be intensely colourful and creative but with the unfortunate habit of larger, more elaborate pieces being ruined by the cancer of tagging.

Amusingly, Melbourne is, or rather was, also home to an original work by Banksy. After some debate about the pictures' authenticity, it was decreed an original and a piece of plexiglass installed to protect it. While this may have fended off the rain and birdshit, it did little to protect it from a large amount of silver paint that was poured down the inside of the plastic.

Before long, I'm being led into a dingy studio to meet N, a sculptor, and M, a jeweller who's been resident in this same place for 20 years. And it certainly looks that way; the place is a marvellous jumble of paint brushes and tools and paper and scalpels and toys and 1940s ballads.

N's speciality is carving shapes into books, which might sound like the work of a troublesome teen, but is actually quite a skilled process. He has a big exhibition coming up and feels quite nervous about it. Marcus, meanwhile, is much more extroverted and blasé about whether or not things go well from one day to the next. The place is filthy with creativity; for both the men, their artistry and their life are one and the same. Perhaps it's the relative squalor and faint hint of grass in the air, but something about it all reminds me of going round to older friends' flats to listen to band practise and new demos as an impressionable teenager.

Next stop is a painter's studio in the suburbs. We talk about the creative process, about how much time it's possible to spend just thinking, rather than actually working, and about how being an artist isn't a choice, but a life that chooses you. I wonder if my writing is at all comparable: if someone told me I couldn't do it any more, could I simply slide into something else, or is it a bigger part of who I am? If it is, why don't I find it easier? Why can't I dedicate myself to it more? Why, quite simply, am I not better at it?
Thus the self-doubt starts on the train back into town with Bernadette. To distract myself from this morbidity, I play peek-a-boo with a kid of about four or five. Her mum smiles at the interaction.
"What's your name?" Asks the wean.
I tell her and ask hers.
"Allana. Where are you from?"
"Me? I'm from Dubai."
"Dubai? Where's that?"
"It's a place where bad men like me go to make money. There's a lot of cars and sand." Here her mother's gormless grin fades to a look of mild concern, so I put a lid on it. Even with a pre-school child I can't mask my contempt for the place. Poor A has already made up his mind never to visit, despite clearly having an interest in seeing the carnage first hand and, upon learning of some of the preposterous facts and figures, exclaiming "Fair dinkum?!?" again and again without any hint of irony.
I follow B to a cafe for some cheese, wine and a debrief. With that out the way, we then get talking about Spain and inevitably Ibiza and inevitably narcotics. Before I quite know what's happened, I'm loudly recommending that this 34-year-old woman with a history of brain trauma gets herself to the White Isle and gets feral on the digits.

That ends an altogether weird, but fascinating afternoon after which I go to the Crystal Club for complimentary canapés (which I eat enough of to cover dinner) and drink. I sit alone at a table across from a slightly sinister poker player, his minion and their professional girlfriends, who get $100 each pocket money to accompany a pat on the arse as they head out. Wearing dark shades for no obvious reason, with greasy blond hair slicked back from his wolfish face, he looks like he’s fallen out of a gangster movie into the real world. When we find ourselves standing next to each other at the feeding trough and he offers me a prawn, I can’t help feel a bit scared.
A bottle of wine later, I'm in the casino. As someone with a diabolical history as a gambler, I've avoid these places – in fact I've only ever been in one before, for a friend's birthday with £17 that I lost in half an hour. I've only once tried to get into another one at the end of a night out – I accidentally-on-purpose got a knock back by falling out of the taxi and squealing like a Deliverance tribute act. But now here I am, my entire week's allowance in my back pocket, quite drunk and with no one to regulate my behaviour. It can only go two ways, but I surprise myself by not turning a cent.
Instead, I walk around surveying the misery, becoming self-righteously smug towards the rows of unhappy punters. There are the Chinese with their super-stressed looks of desperation; and there are the pensioners refusing to slope off and die in dignity; and – look! - there's a gaggle of stupid white macho dickheads who are essentially doing nothing more than trying to prove that they know better than their friends, the casino and all of human history. I leave rich but depressed and decide to take some drink to my hotel room instead. Head nodding as though I'm having vertebrae progressively removed, I collapse onto my enormous bed and blink into immediate unconsciousness.

One Month! (and a spice mix)

One month...yet another month has passed since I last dropped in here. I suppose I need a lesson in mum-time-management (mums across the world: how do you do it?). Would it suffice to say I've been distracted by the most delicious little feet and hands I have ever had the good fortune to encounter? Not to mention cheeks and bums and pata-jamon legs. That's not even to talk about the seemingly endless expressions she has, that no doubt would bore another human being to bits, but leave me hopelessly captivated. Enamored. Smitten.

My kingdon for all the time in the world to just watch her.

Unfortunately my kingdom doesn't fetch a price as high as that, so it's back to work I go! And back to all the other things I've (tsk, tsk, shuffle, shuffle) let fall a bit to the wayside (hello housework! hello home accounting! hello bills filing!) while I have been otherwise occupied.

And hopefully back to more regular visits here! Perhaps you won't believe me but I have been cooking despite the nourishment I already get from nibbling on chubby baby appendages. There's been some chori-gamba pasta using a newly discovered local chorizo purveyor. There's been some Asian-style steamed fish. Some wonderful steaks with potatoes roasted in duck fat. And even a lovely loaf of banana bread to use some old bananas and a new recipe (will share this soon!). The only thing is, the jump from cooking to actual photographing and posting was just not happening.

Well, it's a new year (hello 2010!) and (fingers crossed!) I aim to journal more of my cooking and baking adventures here. I'm not only writing for me (and for you kind folk who still come back despite my wonky posting) but for little C as well...something for her to read in the future when (fingers crossed!) she discovers the joys of creating her own food :)

Before we move forward however, let me share a look back at what I made for my Christmas gifts (yes, I did manage some homemade gifts!) in 2009. Because of the move and renovation, and my iminent delivery, I couldn't make anything as involved as chutney or jam, or even manage baked goods of any kind. I did want to make something for Christmas though and I found the perfect goody in Jen's all-purpose red rub! No-cook, easy to throw together, and a wonderfully flavorful --- it certainly fit the bill for Christmas 2009 :) It's a great spice mix to have on hand and can work with so many different things. I've tried it with chicken and pork ribs to excellent results. I'm thinking of using it on some fish fillets next, and maybe in some baked beans!

I wish you all the best in 2010! May many dreams come true this year! :)


I think that my undeclared word of the year is refresh. My husband's wondered what's possessed me! I have been tossing things, making changes in my life and starting to do minor renovations. I'm even itching to move but that is not something that will happen soon. [You see, my theory in life that movement, motion or change is a great thing. I think that people need to get out and see things even on a daily basis. I also believe that moving every five years is a great idea. Unfortunately, it doesn't always happen. My husband is warming up to the idea though!]

Instead, I have been refreshing things around here and going the renovation route.  I wanted to make something fresh and fun for the kids' room so I made this little stencil from Little A's photo. We have a lot of photos around but I wanted to put up something a bit more artsy.

After I made the stencil, I thought that it was too boring. I added turquoise. Did you know that turquoise is supposed to be the color of the year? I love turquoise!

It's spunkier, don't you think? I put it in a frame that I had around but I'm not sure that it will be the final one.

Sorry for the bad photo. I was just too darned excited when it was all put together!

There, this photo makes me feel so happy! Is anyone else feeling the same way? Let me know and let me know what you're doing about it! I think that it is going to be a fun year trying to freshen up our lives and surroundings. xo, L

Familar Face in Foreign Lands - Day One

The flight time is 13 hours and the time difference from the UAE +7. I spend part of it reading, which sends me immediately to sleep, as well as watching Appaloosa (pretty average), Igor (better than average), City of Ember (better than average), Bottle Shock (abandoned) six episodes of Arrested Development (inferior to Scrubs, but better than Friends), an episode of 30 Rock and an episode of Family Guy, both of which I've seen before. Between that lot and eating three times, the journey is nowhere near as arduous as it probably should be.
There's a three hour delay at Sydney which added to a layover means that by the time I'm picked up from Melbourne airport, I've been travelling for 24 hours. My eyes look like someone has dug them out with dirty nails and I occasionally lose control of my looming, spherical cranium. But it's 3pm and I have a day of meeting and greeting ahead of me so I cannot – will not – be tired.
I arrive at the Crown Tower, part of a large, luxurious complex that hosts a casino. It's one of the nicer hotels in town and when I turn up, I'm shown to the Crystal Club Lounge, a 29th floor executive area for the very rich and wanky, and me, for whom only half is applicable. I'm greeted by the PR manager for the hotel complex who gives me about five minutes to sling my bag in my room, mash cold water through my greasy hair and follow her to Nobu, an up-market Japanese fusion restaurant on the ground floor. Despite looking like a hairy smackhead, I'm treated to some quite wonderful food, much of which is Japanese with a Mexican twist. The sashimi tacos are especially excellent, as is the king fish with jalapeños.

Some time later I'm back in my room with a chance to acknowledge the fact that it may well be the poshest one I've ever stayed in. Over lunch my friend had accidentally-on-purpose mentioned just how much it would cost for a member of the public - $500 Australian a night, or roughly £250. I'm not sure if this included the Crystal Club entrance or not, but that's £75 per night on top of room charges.

For all that money, though, what you get is quite magnificent – a view down the Yarra River, a plasma TV in the bath, an iHome if you are unfortunate enough to have an iPod and even a phone in the bog. If, for example, you were dumping out and the guy you were supposed to be meeting from Tourism Vic called to tell you that he'd be 15 minutes late, you wouldn't have to hop shitty-arsed through the bedroom worrying about leaving a Hansel and Gretel trail of turd in your wake; you could simple grunt, scratch, fart and answer from the throne. The place has been recently refurbished and just about achieves the all-too-rare trait of making you believe that your room is unique.
I've to meet my man from Tourism Vic in a couple of hours. I look at the bed and discount it – if I go to sleep now, I may never get up again. Instead, after setting up my computer and falling asleep for an indeterminable amount of time with my eyes open, I head out into the streets of Melbourne with my camera.

There's something very Glasgow about this place – and I don't mean maurading maniacs, widespread depression and general clattyness, none of which are here. It's hard to place exactly, but something to do with the grid-iron streets and tall buildings and the fact that a lot of the best places have to be sought rather than viewed from afar.

While abroad, I tell anyone who'll listen that if you're visiting Scotland for a weekend, then go to Edinburgh – but if you're staying for a while, then live in Glasgow. According to most locals, as Edinburgh is to Glasgow, so Sydney is to Melbourne. In other words, it's my kind of town.


It has been an busy week filled with everyday little events. Have you been inspired to start a lot of new projects yet? I had hurt my wrist last week so I was limited to what I could sew. I finished this little card holder. I picked up this kit last fall in Houston at Quilt Market and made most of it but I had to finish up the circles. I love the colors.

Then, I dug out my wool stash. I haven't decided what I'm going to make but I think that the colors reflect a Valentine's sort of color scheme, don't you think?

Then, this week, Big A had a violin recital. How did he grow up so fast? One day, he's my little baby.

And, the next, he's all grown up and so excited to wear a tie! Great job!

Awww, so handsome! xo, L

Three Little Pigs

There has been a theme around here lately. Our most favorite story is the Three Little Pigs, hands down. We love the story told in any way and from any perspective. We have the traditional story, of course, where the Big, Bad Wolf comes along and causes all sorts of trouble. Then we have A. Wolf's version of the story in The True Story Of The 3 Little Pigs. It's only fair.

As you know, my little guys have creative minds. When  Big A was asked to write his version, the pig ate the three little dogs.

Now, momma is in on the action. I just bought some lovely Japanese fabrics. Trains are a big part of our lives.

Little pigs are too. I haven't decided on what to make with this fabric but I think that it's darling. Any suggestions?

See you! I hope to get back on track soon. [I hurt my left wrist and it is healing.]
xo, L

Frakkin' Ceylon - Day Eight

Our final day in old Ceylon starts with a manic dash to the Pinnewalla Elephant Orphanage, and with our guide trying to rip us off, obviously. We insist that he takes us to the famous, legitimate sanctuary instead of the ramshackle joint he is doubtless on commission for, and make it just in time for the baby feeding.

In fairness to the fat bastard, once he realises that we’re at the end of our holiday, finances and tether, he gives up with trying to scam us and actually goes as far as to explain some of the tricks of the trade. The upshot is that nowhere in Kandy (or Colombo) can you really relax or trust anyone. Over the course of our week, our split has been some about 60/40 in the good guys/wanks ratio and it’s impossible to deny that it’s affected my overall feelings about Sri Lanka. But don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of stuff here that is genuinely amazing. Like the elephants, including this big blind basturt:

I mean, even when some wanker comes up, tries to read my palm and asks for £20, I don’t let it distract me from the prehistoric scene ahead:

Hell, even Jaws' Quint makes a return from the Davie Jones' locker. Turns out he's a elephant handler these days.

Glorious hours pass before we find ourselves back on a train, heading towards the dreaded Colombo. Mercifully, we’re not actually going to the city centre, but to a boutique hotel not for from the airport (which of course we aren’t paying for).

I wonder if the trains have been changed since the British handed the place back in 1948. The fact that it has seats individually designated for various afflictions (disabled, pregnant, clergy) suggests not. At every stop, someone gets on, trying to earn a little money. The majority of them are selling greasy pastries, or ripe fruit but once in a while an out-right beggar will have a go too. A woman singing a wistful lament while holding a picture of a (presumably dead) child is particularly heart-rending; half a man dragging himself across the floor is beyond pitiful. My compassion has hardened into an obstinate ball, though, and my hand stays in its pocket.

In years to come, I hope I look back on my time in Sri Lanka with fonder memories, but by the time the plane takes off the next morning, there’s a part of me glad to be rid of it. One thing the whole sweaty, occasionally fraught, week has done however is wake me up to the realities of travelling through a desperately poor country. The remedy to much of it will be to dump about 30% of my polite bumbling and replace it with anger, Glesga style. We'll see how that pans out.

Old Decade. New Decade.

Wow. 2010.
Over the holidays, I relaxed and enjoyed the time off but my mind is always thinking and dreaming. I had time to think about the past 10 years and to start dreaming about the next 10 years.

I thought about the big events in my life in the past 10 years. [Pardon me for coming across as vain, I'm not trying to. This exercise is necessary for me in order to be able to process things and to put things into perspective.]:

* I had my first, beautiful baby boy
* I had my second, beautiful baby boy
* I celebrated a lot of years of marriage with my guy
* I lost my father, grandmother, father-in-law and uncle in a year
* I wrote a bunch of books on quilting, knitting and scrapbooking
* I was profiled by American Patchwork & Quilting
* I designed a lot of magazine projects
* I designed a lot of fabric for Henry Glass Fabrics
* I appeared on Quilt Out Loud!
* I met and worked with many wonderful people in this industry
* I went to Quilt Market many, many times and had loads of fun
* I met a lot of wonderful people like you via my blog, website and Facebook

I laughed and cried, and succeeded and failed. I came out a stronger, wiser and better person. I am lucky!

What about the next 10 years? I'm not exactly sure yet but I know that I am ready for more. More of what I'm not quite decided. Still thinking. I've spent the last little while trying to forcast in my mind the direction that I want to take my design work. I've started to refresh my inspiration wall too.  I do know one thing though, I've got a lot of excitement in my body and that's a great feeling. Now, I've got to get to it! I hope that you will stick around for more adventures with me. xo, L