Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My friend Eilleen

The December bag was donated to a non profit group suggested by and in honor of my friend Eileen, so it is time to say a little about this dear person. Eileen is a tiny woman with an enormous heart. She is the most generous person I have met. Despite that fact that she lives on a small retirement pension she is constantly giving to others. She not only makes monetary gifts, she gives of her time and energy. She picks up breads and pastries to donate to food shelves, several times a week. She organized a quilt project for patients at a Kidney Dialysis center. She buys quilts to donate to our Quilt Guild's annual sale at Loring Park, which is used to raise money for several non-profit community programs.

I have only known Eileen for a few years, but we have recently become close friends. She is better than a stand up comedian, and constantly makes me laugh (deep, hearty laughs) with her story telling and impersonations. Last month she spent a week in Mexico with Michael and me, and we had a great time together. This included a lot of laughing, as well as good times eating and drinking. Eileen loved Mexico as much as we do, and she motivated us to use our limited Spanish and get to know the people around us, learning the names of taxi drivers, street vendors, and waiters on the beach. She defnitely enhanced the quality of our experience, and I would love to travel with her again.

Eileen is more than a generous volunteer and natural comedian. She is a skilled and dedicated teacher. She is trained in Special Educaiton, sign language, ESL, and early childhood. Although now retired, she has returned to her former school to work with the students there part time. Even if the school had not be able to pay her, she would have continued to help out anyway ,becuase that is the kind of person she is. She is a life long teacher and I know that she has touched many children's lives in ways they will never forget. She is also a devoted mother and grandmotherand I enjoyed learning more about her family as she searched for the perfect gifts for them on our vacation.

This year (2009) Michael and I are going to try to do one service project together each month, to help those in need in our community. Eileen has not only inspired us to do this, she is helping us to locate places in need of our time and effort. The world is a better place because of Eileen, and I am very proud to have her as my dear friend.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I just can't stop making bags!

It is still December and I have made one final bag for the year. I was shopping at Anthropolgie with my neighbor Kris, and I saw some vibrant, semi-quilted placemats. I folded one in half and could see that it had the potential to make a cheerful, colorful little bag. I bought it, brought it home, and tried to figure out the design and handle. It already had a perfect lining, so I just sewed up the sides, added corners to the bottom, and attached some plain wooden handles using yellow grosgrain ribbon. And here it is, just as cute as can be. I am not sure what to do with it (the perennial problem). I might take it with me to Mexico to use as a purse, unless I hear that someone has fallen in love with it and would like to claim it for their own!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The December Bag is ready to give away

Here is my cute little December tote bag. It is made from woven placemats I bought in Puerto Vallarta, last winter. The outer fabric is from two matching, multi-color place mats and the inside lining (see below) is made from two yellow placemats.

I took the multi colored place mats and pinned them to plain white flannel, then quilted them with a simple criss cross pattern. I used flannel, rather than batting, to keep the bag light weight.
After the bag was made, I decided to fill it with Mexican food items. It is now full of tortilla chips, salsa, guacamole mix, mole mix, refried beans, Spanish rice mix, and taco shells. I even added a bottle of hot sauce. I attached a card (hand stamped by my friend Carol) and it is ready to go.
Where is it going? To the Freedom in Wheelchairs program in Hopkins, for their holiday party and fundraiser. This is a non profit organization that supports people in wheelchairs. My friend Eileen told me about this group and she is donating two more filled bags to their fundraiser, which is next week.
So there it is, my last bag of the month. The project is complete. I feel good that each month I made and gave away at least one bag. It is not a big thing to do but it was my "giving" program of the year. Now I am thinking about a new program to begin next year, maybe with my husband Michael. We are heading to Mexico for a vacation and I will do some thinking and planning about our new project while we are there.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Four November bags are finished!

For November I made four bags to donate to Rebecca's nonprofit bookstore: In Other Words (in Portland, Oregon). They can sell these at the store and donate the money to the store (which always needs money!) These four bags are made from quilted place mats from Morocco. Each bag is made of two two matching, solid colored, quilted place mats. First I sewed pockets on them so there are big, roomy pockets on each outside surface of the tote. Then I sewed black cotton webbing on to secure the edges of the pockets and also become the handles. I found this pattern on the Internet, but it did not include a lining. I wanted to add a lining. So I made a fabric lining the same dimensions of the tote, and sewed it in as the final step. For the blue bag I used the same fabric for the lining and the outside pockets. But for the other three bags I had to use different fabrics for the pockets.

Here is the orange tote, showing the different fabric for the lining:

The bags were fun to make and fairly easy. But even so, each one has at least one big flaw so I am afraid that they will not bring in much money for the bookstore. I am also not sure if we will fill them with anything, because that would add to their cost and I think that might prevent them from being sold. I'll consult with Rebecca when I see her at Thanksgiving in a few weeks.
The placemats have a very tight quilting pattern (they came that way) and it makes for a nice looking bag. I tried out the blue one (which I made last month) and it worked very well as a tote for papers and a laptop at a meeting I attended in DC last month.
One of the nice things about this project is that it used up some very old pieces of fabric from my stash, which were used as lining an pockets. They came from a box of fabrics that Rebecca labeled "Browns and crap colors" when she sorted and organized fabrics for me three years ago. These fabrics were bought early in my career as a quilter and do look quite different from the colorful French and batik fabrics I tend to favor these days. But I must admit, they look very nice as linings and pickets of the quilted tote bags.

It pleases me to see the four bags hanging on my fabric board, and to know that they are finished except for cutting a few stray threads. I am eager to make my December bag or bags, which will be donated to a fundraiser for People in Wheelchairs. This was suggested by my quilting friend. I had bought some colorful woven placemats in Mexico last year, and I want to make these into tote bags. They are different from the placemats Iturned into the February bag. I will have fun figuring out how to turn those into attractive totes, and Eileen will fill at least one with products from Mexico for the silent auction.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Farmers Market Bags have been given away!

I have just given away the second ill-fated farmers' market bag, along with a copy of Local Flavors cookbook by Deborah Madison, to my cousin Cheri. She was here this weekend helping to celebrate my son's wedding (held last June in NC). She admired the bag when visiting my quilt studio and exclaimed when she saw the cookbook, that she had been looking for a copy. So it seemed like she was the logical person to receive the farmers market bag and cookbook. Cheri offered to make a donation to our neighborhood fundraiser (since I had originally made the bag for that purpose) but I suggested she give a nice donation to the charity or nonprofit organization of her choice. She suggested In Other Words Bookstore, where Rebecca works, which was listed on Harlan and Paula's gift registry as a place to make a donation in honor of their wedding. So In Other Words will get a little boost to help it keep serving Portland (see

I am so glad that the two Farmers' Market bags have found good recipients, and now I will focus my efforts on the remaining months. I had planned to make a bag for the fundraiser for the American School in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, that is run by Michael's cousin Jerry. That will most likely be my December bag. For November, I have a few choices for non profit groups here in town. I have made one "place mat" bag (photos still to come) and have a few more lined up to make in different colors and fabrics. But I am so busy for the next two weeks it may not happen until life calms down again in November.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

October Bag Giveaway

I am very happy to have found a recipient for one of the September farmers market bags I made, originally for the Fulton Neighborhood festival. I gave it to my cooking teacher and guru (for over a decade), Robin Asbell. I first met Robin when I enrolled in her Vegetarian Thanksgiving cooking class at my neighborhood over 10 years ago. My children were vegetarians at that time. I learned how to make vegetarian entrees, a terrific cranberry chutney, and a creamy tofu pumpkin pie. I went on to take several more classes from Robin at various locations: community centers, cooking schools, and Whole Foods. I took many vegetarian classes (Chines, Indian, Thai, Italian) as well as classes that feature regional cooking (Tuscany) or foods from our local farmer's market. Robin is so wise and knowledgeable about food and cooking. Every time I take a class from her I walk away with a better understanding of cooking, ingredients, and cultures of the world. Last year Robin's first cookbook was published" The Mew Whole Grains Cookbook" (see her website at It is a gorgeous cookbook, beautiful color and photos, but best of all, fans tic recipes. I have given copies to just about everyone I care about who cares about good food. She is publishing a new vegetarian cookbook next year and I can't wait to get my copy. I love the recipes Robin creates because they are healthy, feature whole grain and whole foods, and offer unique combinations of ingredients. For example, her African mock chicken stew combines peanut butter, yams, and millet, as well as many other ingredients. Her squash tart is topped with aged Gouda and toasted hazelnuts. These are just a few of the recipes she has created that I have made again and again receiving rave reviews.
Yesterday Robin came over for for tea and we had a wonderful afternoon together. She was giving me advice about my food writing and cooking memoir and we managed to talk about many things revolving around food. Since she is a passionate patron of the St. Paul Farmer's Market, I decided to give her one of the farmer's market bags. I gave her the one with the orange pumpkins on it and she said it matches her hair (see photo above). I also gave her the copy of Local Flavors, the Deborah Madison cookbook which she did not already have.

That night at my quilt guild I received information about two non profit organizations that have silent auction fundraisers. So I should be back on track with the next bags I make.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bags to giveaway

October is here and I still haven't given away the two September Farmers' Market bags. I have my monthly quilt guild meeting this week and I will bring them for show and tell and see if anyone knows of a fund raiser I can give them to. I have roasted and pureed the two pumpkins, cooked and eaten the squash, and used the two jars of honey. So all that is left to fill them with are the two Local Flavors cookbooks.

I haven't made another bag since the quilted placmat bag last month, and now it it is already mid October. If I can't come up with another person or place to give it to, I guess I will see if my daughter Rebecca will take it back to sell at her bookstore and keep the money as a donation. This is a busy month with my kids coming home, my son's in-laws visiting us, a post-wedding party for my son and daughter-in-law (see first January post), and then a workshop in DC.
But I hope to make at least one more quit led bag this month!