Jane Austen, blowing minds since 1813

“You shall not, for the sake of one individual, change the meaning of principle and integrity, nor endeavour to persuade yourself or me, that selfishness is prudence, and insensibility of danger security for happiness.”

–Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice

Pointless Straw Hat to Semi-Useful Straw Basket

Because one can never have enough little baskets, am I right? Don’t answer that.

Part of the fun of challenging myself to write every day is that I get to turn many time-killers into blog posts, thereby procrastinating and meeting my goals all at the same time.

In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to transform a silly hat into a slightly less silly basket, saving yourself buckets of money in the process.  


  • Tall ladder (optional)
  • Pointless straw hat
  • Scissors
  • Stitch ripper
  • Smartphone camera to document
  • Binder clips
  • Some sort of glue
  • Needle and thread


Three years plus approximately 10 minutes.


Before: pointless straw hat


First you must store a useless straw hat on a high shelf for approximately three years. This period is called “curing.” While cleaning, moving or packing, discover hat (you may want to employ the tall ladder for this part). Remark upon pointlessness of hat due to its open-weave brim that always seemed to aim sunlight directly into your eyes. Further remark that you should really throw it out. Instead, toss it somewhere at eye level while you mull over ways you might repurpose it without alienating your spouse, life partner, or roommate.

Photograph hat for potential before-and-after value.

Let cure one more week. 

Step-by-Step Instructions:


Semi-interesting trim

With stitch ripper, remove semi-interesting trim and set aside.

Photograph each stage of deconstruction, because these are complicated ideas.


Deconstructing Hatty (sorry)

Cut off pointless open weave brim. Set aside for two weeks while you mull over possible uses for it, then throw it away. (Do not skip this step.)

After cutting, immediately misplace pointless brim while simultaneously forgetting to photograph it for online tutorial. Once found, keep it for two more weeks, as above. In that time, intend to photograph it and then don’t bother.


A little wobbly

At this point you should probably steam the crown in order to shape the bottom (which was the top) so it sits flat like a basket instead of round like an upside-down hat. I skipped this step.



binder clips

Use binder clips to hold down unwieldy trim

Now you should futz with the semi-interesting trim, trying to shape it around the top edge of the basket. Secure with binder clips at intervals. Expect trim to gap awkwardly: that’s okay! It’s rustic! Pick out remaining loose threads, or—don’t. Attempt to adhere trim to basket with Some Sort of Glue. After making a mess, realize it’s not going to stick. Sew it on instead. This is an especially good technique if you’re looking to kill a lot of time. [Pro tip: the thread will almost certainly snag on the rough edges of straw. This is to be cherished as part of the process.]




Clean Up:
Pick at bits of cut straw for about one week or until cleaning lady comes. [Hint: do not reveal the source of the straw scraps. The cleaning lady already thinks you’re a weirdo.]


And there you have it! I bet I paid five bucks for that hat on Trinidad, and a basket like this would have run me north of $1.50 in stores, so I’m calling it six and a half bucks in my pocket (don’t lecture me). Not bad for a rainy Sunday morning. #winning

Gardens of Intrigue

Based on a true story.

It is common knowledge in the colony that these two girls, 30 and 25, with their bicycles and their fat mother trailing regally behind, are thieves. They live in one of the larger houses in the row, with a high gate and an Alsatian dog, and this has somehow given them the impression that they own the whole colony. (They do not. These are private homes, upper middle class, with gates and manicured lawns and servants and good plumbing.)

Nobody minds, much. Fruit hanging over a wall is, one supposes, free fruit for all. It is the manner in which they make their rounds, feudal lords collecting debts on their own land, as if by right. The homeowners rightly bristle at this.

The enormous wire baskets affixed to the front of their bicycles can leave no doubt about intention. They will climb a high wall for fruit, reach over a low wall and snatch roses, filling these baskets. They bring their own pruning shears. They have been seen doing it, and they don’t flinch.

One time they unlatched the gate of the house with the best garden, walked right in and stole a whole tray of seedlings ready to be planted. It was the gardener who noticed it was missing; it was understood who had taken it, though nobody had seen it happen.

The lady of the house with the garden didn’t want to believe it at first. Maybe you left it elsewhere, she said. Are you sure it was there, right there, yesterday, or could you have put it around the side of the house?

But the gardener harbored no doubts. There had been two trays together. Now there was one. One had to admire the girls’ restraint in leaving the second tray behind, but one supposed their baskets were already full of pilfered chrysanthemums and papayas, so tradeoffs were at play.

After work that day, the gardener walked to the thieves’ house and stood outside the gate. Thief Mother had once asked him to work for her, in her own wondrous patched-together garden; he said he was here now to make his initial assessment, if she would kindly allow him to come inside the gate. The old lady refused–further proof. The Alsatian glared slobberingly at the gardener until he left, secure in the information he had come for.

Intentions for 2016

Happy New Year! What could be easier than a blog list to fulfill Intention #1?

  1. Every day, I will write something longer than a tweet.
  2. I will no longer read reviews of my work.
  3. I will lose just five more pounds, and keep it off, and then that’s it.
  4. I will learn to trust my own good judgment while ignoring my more destructive instincts.
  5. I will tell the people I love that I love them. I will also advise these same loved ones when they inconvenience, annoy, irritate or otherwise sadden me, because really.
  6. I will continue to take naps, drink coffee, eat carbs, and drink liquor in moderation.
  7. I will, finally, exercise. Maybe even by February.
  8. I will do a better job of expressing both appreciation and admiration, out loud.
  9. I will declutter. I will not reclutter.
  10. I’ll do a better job of connecting with the people who matter to me.
  11. I will get into the habit of brushing my teeth before noon, assuming I am awake.
  12. Je vais apprendre à parler le français comme un genevoise . Je ne vais pas seulement poser des questions , mais je vais comprendre les réponses , aussi.

What are your intentions or resolutions for the new year? Let’s hear it in the comments.

Love and kisses / amour et bisous ,



Cranberry hamentashen, just like the pilgrims never ate

The cranberry madness has begun #hamentashen

A photo posted by Paula J Freedman (@pjfreedman) on Nov 25, 2015 at 3:56pm PST


Posting this for that nice Tara Dairman, who asked for the recipe 🙂

3 eggs
1-1/4 cup sugar
1 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tsp baking powder
5-1/2 cups flour

Mix all liquids. Sift dry ingredients and add to liquid.  Roll out on floured board to 1/4 inch thick. Cut dough into circles and fill with [whatever you want].

Crimp or fold edges to sort of form a triangle

Bake at 350 F (about 175 C) for 20 minutes.

For the cranberry filling, I use the Frugal Gourmet’s Spiced Cranberries recipe from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American. I’ve seen the recipe on the interwebs, but I don’t know if it was used with permission, so please Google it yourself. If you don’t like that one, any thick, whole-cranberry recipe will do, though canned sauce is probably too thin and runny (I haven’t tried it).

BTW, the mango-filled version of this recipe is included in the paperback edition of My Basmati Bat Mitzvah. The original recipe, calling for apricot, prune, or chocolate filling, is my mom’s.

Tip: don’t overfill. A little filling goes a long way.

Happy Thanksgiving!

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman

Reblogging from yadultreview 🙂

yAdult Review

17290271My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Source: ALA2013
Rating: starstarstarstarblank_star
Buy It:Amazon | IndieBound

During the fall leading up to her bat mitzvah, Tara (Hindi for “star”) Feinstein has a lot more than her Torah portion on her mind. Between Hebrew school and study sessions with the rabbi, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to hang out with her best friend Ben-o–who might also be her boyfriend–and her other best friend, Rebecca, who’s getting a little too cozy with that snotty Sheila Rosenberg. Not to mention working on her robotics project with the class clown Ryan Berger, or figuring out what to do with a priceless heirloom sari that she accidentally ruined. Amid all this drama, Tara considers how to balance her Indian and Jewish identities and what it means to have a bat mitzvah while questioning her…

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My Basmati Bookface Friday!

This is so cool! Thanks, Syosset Public Library!

21st Annual Garden State Teen Book Awards

Here’s some nice news! Just learned that My Basmati Bat Mitzvah is on the ballot for the 21st Annual Garden State Teen Book Award (GSTBA). New Jersey students in grades 6 through 12 are eligible to vote until December 31, 2015. I mean, you certainly don’t have to vote for Basmati–but you should vote! For whichever book is your favorite! And if that happens to be Basmati, well–cool, thanks! 🙂

New Jersey Library Association NJLA

For more information, online voting, or a downloadable ballot, visit:
Direct links: