Richardson Bay in Mill Valley

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings  Richardson's Bay San Francisco Mill Valley Mi-Wok Indian Tribe.

This beautiful scene came to mind last Friday as I waited for word of what effect the tragic tsunami might have on the West Coast of the U.S. Luckily, as reported by my sister Sandy who has lived on Richardson Bay in Mill Valley for the past thirty years, the only impact in her area was patches of dirty water. Whenever I visit San Francisco, as I did last month, I marvel at the beauty of Sandy’s frontyard with its bird sanctuary, view of Mount Tamalpais (not pictured), and the Marin Headlands in the distance. In fact, it was hard to tear myself away from the windows.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings  Richardson's Bay San Francisco Mill Valley Mi-Wok Indian Tribe.
After four days of rain the sun finally came out the morning I was heading home. It was so cold the first few days I was there, I was amazed Sandy’s lemon tree continues to thrive with the chilling winds blowing off the Bay.

I had a little “lemon envy” when, in addition to seeing the bounty growing on the balcony in Mill Valley, a niece who lives in the East Bay brought a bag of lemons picked from trees in her yard to a family gathering. I’ve had sticker shock for the past six months paying $1 for a single lemon…haven’t you? Wondering whether I might be able to grow lemons here, inside in winter of course, I inquired at Bowood Farms about the availability of a lemon tree. I was told they only had one large plant in the greenhouse–too big for my situation–and that they are hard to come by now that current restrictions block the shipment of fruit trees across state lines. I plan to keep asking.Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings  Richardson's Bay San Francisco Mill Valley Mi-Wok Indian Tribe.

I have walked around Strawberry Point, shown above, on many occasions to gaze at the spectacular view of San Francisco across San Francisco Bay. Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings  Richardson's Bay San Francisco Mill Valley Mi-Wok Indian Tribe.
Traffic zips up and down Highway 101 from the Golden Gate Bridge past Sausalito and DiSilva Island, shown above. Developers were blocked from building condominiums at the base of the hill since it contains a burial ground for the Miwok Indian Tribe.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings  Richardson's Bay San Francisco Mill Valley Mi-Wok Indian Tribe.

Egrets, Blue Herrons, Wood Ducks, and Sanderlings, below, feed in the estuaris.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings  Richardson's Bay San Francisco Mill Valley Mi-Wok Indian Tribe.

Watching nature from this privileged vantage point made the overwhelmingly difficult world news seem blessedly distant.

Sewing for more than a cause

 Nicki's Central West End Guide For Children Handmade  Martin's Variety Making a Difference Little Dresses for Africa CSNBC Brian Williams Brasserie by Niche

When my four sisters and I were growing up, my mother dressed us alike on Christmas, above, and other special occasions. She made our dresses on a Singer sewing machine that was set up in our playroom. I have no idea how she could concentrate while the five of us swirled around her, but I am sure it was a way for her to be there….and not be there, if you know what I mean. Also shown in the background is a handmade "supermarket" playhouse made by my father, who was a talented woodworker.  As we got older my mother taught those of us who were interested how to sew and to knit, another of her many talents.  By the way, we were not always a family of girls. My wonderful brother finally made his debut, and by the time my parents were thirty they had six children…not unusual for those post-World War II days.

Now that my mother is 88, her notion of a dull day is a) when the sun isn't shining (most of this winter), and b) when she doesn't have a lunch date. My siblings count ourselves lucky that our mother can live in her own house and still drive, but she is always looking for something more to do.

She had lost interest in sewing until we both saw CNBC's Brian Williams air one of his  "Making a Difference" segments–this one on The Little Dresses for Africa  earlier this year. I called her right after the broadcast to ask if she had seen it. Indeed she had, and the more we talked about making one of the dresses ourselves the more enthused she became. Soon she retrieved her old Singer from my sister Jody, and was whipping up the little sundress shown below, right.
Nicki's Central West End Guide For Children Handmade  Martin's Variety Making a Difference Little Dresses for Africa CSNBC Brian Williams Brasserie by Niche

My mother dolled up her dress with a cute little bow on the pocket. Mine is on the left and is made from a sarong that I cut apart. I photographed the dresses in our laundry room under a tin Haitian sculpture that makes doing the laundry a little cheerier. A couple of weeks ago, I mailed the dresses off to the Little Dresses charity, which is based in Michigan. My mother and I hope that before long two little girls in Africa will feel just as pretty as they are when they wear our creations.

If you are so inclined, the instructions for the dresses can be found on this website. One version uses a pillowcase and promises minimal sewing. So, here is where this post is going: If I didn't have fabric and the tools needed to complete the project in my stash of supplies, I would have found myself treking to the county to get them. So on my wish list for the neighborhood is a home-goods store…a Ben Franklin, perhaps, where we could find fabric, sewing needles, buttons, and more.

Many years ago there was such a store on Laclede where the fabulous Brasserie by Niche is now located. Martin's Variety was a riot of a place where there was merchandise everywhere, including hanging from the ceiling. Despite the apparent disarray, Martin, the proprietor, could somehow find just what you needed, or at least some version of it. It was the kind of place where you could find a last-minute inexpensive birthday gift, a spool of thread, and children could come up with a treasure for less than $1. It was fun—