The Best Books I Read in 2013

It’s never too late to talk about good books, right? This little “best books” post is one I hope to make a habit of. I had planned to write it around the beginning of this year, but I was sick from about December to February and wasn’t able to do all my favorite year-end posts. But now the time has come! Like last year, I have ten gems to share with you. I’m putting them in the order that I read them.

1Q841Q84 was on my list in 2012 because I was just starting it, but I knew it was going to be important. I finished it this year (eyes glued to Kindle). I don’t know if it’s my favorite Murakami ever, but I don’t think that matters. I think some of our love for certain books is bound up in the memory of the experience, and entering a world of Murakami’s for the first time is something you never forget, something that probably can’t be topped, at least in your own mind. In any case, I actually read Murakami’s Underground (on the sarin gas attacks in Tokyo) a few months ago, and it really illuminated a lot of this novel for me. I recommend it!

In the WoodsI picked up Tana French’s In the Woods on a whim at the library. I had seen several of her novels on my mom’s shelves, so I thought I’d give her a try. I was completely mesmerized: the narrative, the character development, the mystery at the center of the text, the unexpected fallout. I also loved reading about Dublin and heartily enjoyed the lingo. This is really a recommendation for ALL of her books. When I finished the most recent one, I was so sad that I’ll have to wait for another one.

The Brothers KaramazovI am a dyed-in-the-wool Dostoevsky girl. I also love Tolstoy, just to muddy my position on the eternal dichotomy of Russian literature…but if I had to choose, I’d take Dostoevsky’s gritty, desperate, intense realism any day. I love that he is so unafraid to plumb the depths, to seek out the dark underbelly of humanity; he exposes it in all its ugliness…and then he finds a way to shine a light upon it. I have loved The Brothers Karamazov from the first time I read it, but I read it again this year for my book club. The very same passages moved me still, and I delighted again in how utterly funny Dostoevsky is (yes, it is true!). It’s hard to describe the place this novel has in my heart. It’s the warmest cup of tea on a cold day. I would recommend it to anyone.

What to EatSometime this past summer I got really interested in nutrition. I am constantly amazed by the bounteous array of food in the world: shiny eggplants and tiny mustard seeds, rich cream and tart rhubarb. I wanted to know a little bit more about the vitamins and minerals we get from our food, and I discovered What to Eat. What’s so great about it is that it’s structured as a stroll through the grocery store with a nutritionist, and one who is entirely level-headed and impartial at that. This is not a diet book or even a guide to shopping–it’s a fascinating history of lots of the elements that make up our modern grocery stock and a balanced consideration of the issues we face when we choose what to put on the table. It decodes the terms we hear thrown around all the time and makes a clear case for what’s worth worrying about and what’s just fluff. There’s no preachiness, and that is so refreshing. I read an older version, but there is an updated one now. Come on, library, order it!

Homeward BoundI read a review of Emily Matchar’s Homeward Bound in The New Yorker and knew I wanted to read it. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and a book with its finger on the pulse of the DIY movement. Matchar identifies the reasons for the resurgence of interest in domesticity, and I agreed with every one. Eric read this book after I finished it, and we had some great conversations about where these issues crop up in our lives. I have to admit that I was a little bit afraid before I started it that the book was going to condemn women for leaving the workforce to pursue non-traditional career paths, but I was pleasantly surprised by Matchar’s empathy, understanding, and humor. The truth is that there are still just an awful lot of policies in our national work culture that make it a difficult place for women, or at least, a place where women have to make difficult choices. Having chosen my own path outside of the field I was trained in, I was left with a sadness about the current state of affairs. I am so very happy with my decision and would not change it for the world. But I still wish that the workplace were a friendlier place for women in general.

GraysonHillary lent me Lynne Cox’s Grayson, and I devoured it on a flight to Seattle. It’s an incredible true tale of a young woman helping a lost baby whale to find its mother. The writing is so beautiful, and the descriptions of the animals she sees along the way are luminous.  But the heart of the book is this rare interaction between a human and a mammal of enormous size and intelligence.

Night FilmMarisha Pessl’s Night Film was my lunchtime company while we were in Santorini. I loved the multimedia aspect of it, and was completely drawn in after a few chapters. I loved her first novel, and while this one is very different, it’s very compelling. Some have complained of some of the storyline seeming impossible…but the whole premise of the novel is the suspension of disbelief. And I will say this: it is a powerful author who can have a reader so invested in something she cannot see. The end was like opening a treasure box. And that’s all I’ll say, for fear of giving too much away.

A House in the SkyI read an excerpt of Amanda Lindhout’s memoir of her captivity in Somalia, and I had to read the book. A House in the Sky was the most riveting thing I read all year. I read it every second I could, including standing up at the laundromat. It is a harrowing tale, of course, but it is also a story of finding humanity where it has all but disappeared. It’s beautifully written and utterly heartbreaking. You will not be able to put it down.

Daily RitualsMason Currey’s Daily Rituals is a compendium of the creative routines of a wide range of artists, writers, musicians, and philosophers. It was fascinating to read about the some of the stranger quirks, but also tremendously inspiring to have a better understanding of how these great artists shaped their days. What I loved most was finding out how many of them had a daily walking habit, which was integral to their creative process. Makes me feel like I’m in good company (even if the company consists of giants towering over me!)

Life After Life And finally, Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. I’ve never read a novel with such an interesting narrative structure, and I loved following the main character through all of the twists and turns her life might have taken. I also have a soft spot for historical novels about war; they can illuminate individual experience so much more richly than history books can.

Even though this post is much later than I expected it to be, I have enjoyed thinking about it these past few weeks. I must say, it was a magnificent year of reading. Wishing you all the same!

30 Days of Lists

30 Days of Lists is one of my favorite projects. It happens a few times a year (usually in March and September), and the idea is very simple: there’s a prompt every day, and you make your list however you like! The most fun part is sharing them–I love seeing others’ lists and have made some truly wonderful friends through this project. Also, this year I got my mom and my aunt to list along with me, which was really fun! Now that the project has wrapped, I thought I would share a few of my favorite lists. I am totally laughing at the different lighting on each one–usually I was taking photos late at night and scrambling to find an Instagram filter that made the words legible.

30 Days of ListsWe actually hit a lot of the highlights on this list during our trip to Carlsbad. I hope we’ll hit the rest of them in Hawaii!

30 Days of ListsAh, nostalgia!

30 Days of ListsI’m so happy that this precious day was recorded here.

30 Days of ListsThis was a fun one.

30 Days of ListsAnd this one too!

This is an almost totally random smattering of my lists, but I wanted to record a bit of the project here (and also hopefully entice you all to do it with me in September!) It’s an amazing fact that creativity flourishes under limitations. It is incredible to see the range of lists that people come up with. Everyone has one page and one topic, but every single list is different. That’s the kind of inspiration I’ll sign up for whenever I have the chance.

April: Currently

AprilBasking in the afterglow of a wonderful weekend getaway with Eric.

Feeling triumphant for getting my book proposal draft off to my readers today. Planning to officially submit it to the agency on Monday!

Making a hilarious slew of mistakes on baby’s quilt, ripping the stitches out, and trying again. Forget diamonds–a seam ripper is a girl’s best friend!

Reading Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal and feeling inspired.

Enjoying getting back into my daily routines.

Celebrating the enormous leek we bought in Leucadia with an impromptu lemon couscous and summer squash salad. Delicious.

Looking forward to our babymoon in Hawaii!

Thinking I need to get a maternity bathing suit? And a wagonload of sunscreen.

Trying to find the best place to order our glider for the nursery.

Finishing up my online painting course.

Hoping to get to a million and one other things done this week while waiting for proposal comments from my readers.

Feeling so grateful for Eric and for my family and friends (hey, that’s you!), who have been so supportive of me as I’ve worked on this book project. You are the best!

Adventures in Pregnancy: 25 Weeks

25 WeeksI think this will forever be my favorite pregnancy photo backdrop. This weekend we took a little trip down to Carlsbad, north of San Diego, as part of a long tradition of romantical getaways (I started calling them “romantical” to distinguish them from the romantic movement in literature, and the name just stuck!). It is so good to get away for a little while and just enjoy each other and a new place. These flower fields are the whole reason why I wanted to come: ranunculus as far as the eye can see! It was spectacular. More on the trip to come this week, for sure. But first, ye olde update!

I am really feeling rather rotund these days! I know I have a long way to go, but I just noticed tonight that…my belly button is shrinking…or just like sort of closing in on itself? And it is officially becoming difficult to get up from deep chairs. But in some clothes I still hardly look pregnant at all. This morning at the farmer’s market, a vendor called out to me, “Hey, mama-to-be! You need some hemp seed oil!” I passed on the offer, and another mom walked by, took a look at me, and said, “How does she know you’re a mama-to-be? Maybe you just had a lot of pizza last night!” That was pretty funny, but the truth is…I did eat a lot of pizza/pasta/salad/soup or whatever was for dinner last night because I am perpetually hungry. And food is soooo delicious. Really grateful for that little pregnancy perk!

This week we got our infant carseat and the stroller frame it snaps into (thanks, Mom and Dad!), and it is so adorable. Something about it has made this whole thing seem very real–that tiny infant insert is so adorable, and it’s amazing to think that our sweet baby will be sitting in it in a few months. Eric and I took turns gleefully pushing it around the apartment. I will share a picture of it next week.

25 WeeksYou can also be sure we are expectant parents because we passed by a really nice baby store on our way home from Carlsbad and were really pumped to go in and sit in all the gliders and compare the diaper bags. If you or anyone you know ever gets pregnant, Buy Buy Baby is the best! So calm, so clean, so well-organized, such amazing selection and helpful staff. Pregnant lady’s dream. Also, special parking!

I am mostly feeling really great and am so grateful that I didn’t have any trouble this weekend. I am taking my iron supplement at night with a glass of orange juice to prevent nausea, and it’s working beautifully. It is pretty funny to waltz into a liquor store on a Saturday night and buy a bottle of orange juice, but at least I can get my hands on it! I really don’t like orange juice, and I never have…but I am willing to admit that it has a refreshing quality. Rebellious pregnancy tastebuds!

The one real bummer this week is that I’ve experienced a flare-up of my chronic eye condition. I have a great doctor, and it’s very treatable–really more of an annoyance than a serious problem. But still, a bummer. Hopefully it will clear up quickly this time!

In general, I am doing great and loviong carrying this sweet boy around with me. He makes me laugh with his kick parties and his protests when I absent-mindedly rest my arms on my belly and take up some of his space. We are just so thrilled that he’s ours and we’ll be meeting him soon. Can’t wait!

Downtown Los Angeles

DTLABefore it recedes too far in my memory, I want to share some of the pictures from our DTLA date last weekend. I had so much fun mapping routes from Grand Central Market to The Last Bookstore and then on down to the fashion district and the flower district. What can I say, I’m a planner! And most definitely my father’s daughter! Our day started at Grand Central Market, which opened in 1917. It’s a big open space full of vendors, and there’s plenty to look at every way you turn. Cheese, glorious cheese!

DTLAThis is actually where we ordered lunch: delicious!

DTLABut this is by far the most popular restaurant in the market. The line was absolutely insane. Luckily for me, I really don’t like eggs, and even pregnancy hasn’t changed that. So no line for me!

DTLAThis walk-up coffee bar won the cuteness award from me.

DTLAWe bought some produce and spices…

DTLAand wandered through the aisles.

DTLAA lovely sight!

DTLAThey even have a little craft bar for kids!

DTLAAfter a morning inside, we headed out into the sunshine. We had packed sweatshirts, but the weather was really just perfect. This is looking up the track at the Angels Flight funicular across the street from the market. Sadly, it was closed for renovation, but maybe we can ride it some other time.

DTLAI loved these succulent wall planters at Pershing Square.

DTLAI snapped this out of pride for my adopted state.

DTLAI would venture that this might be the raddest door I’ve ever seen.

DTLAEventually, we made our way to the fashion district. Which is really more the fabric district. Jean quilt! And tired husband, heroically carrying the books I bought at the bookstore.

DTLAWe weren’t exactly prepared for the chaos of it–it was like being in Manhattan: cars and people and huge bolts of fabric everywhere. But it was pretty!

DTLAFabric feathers!

DTLAHillary had told me about Michael Levine, so I knew I wanted to go there: sewing lady’s paradise!

DTLAAnd this was the scene at the Michael Levine Loft: all fabric $2.50 per pound, with huge gorgeous bolts lining all the walls. This picture is for my mom: come back to my town!!

DTLAAnd finally we made it to the flower district, although we were really faded by then. I just took a few pictures, but this was the scene: flowers in every store front, warehouses and alleys full of flowers, all of it enveloped in that misty cool fragrance of florist shops.

DTLAI wanted to buy some freesia, but no one had any. I did have Eric plant an experimental bulb for me here at home, so you will be informed if it arises from the dirt!

DTLAAnd finally, one of my favorite sights in DTLA: the quinceañera dresses! I’m more than twice 15, but…I would still not mind wearing this dress at all.

A Day in the Life, in Photos

I love doing a day in the life posts, even though they are a good little bit of work. They are so worth it. I did two of them in 2012, but haven’t done one since! I was inspired mostly by the idea of celebrating this special time. My life is about to change in a huge and awesome way, and I thought sometime in the future, I might like to look back and remember what these days were like. And maybe someday our children will want to know what Mommy did all day before she was rocking them and pushing them on swings in the park. I also wanted to try to get comfortable using the TimerCam app (free!) on my phone. Elise has been taking such great pictures of herself with her sweet baby, and I really want to be able to capture those moments when I am home with our baby too. I only managed to take two, but it’s a start! And so, without further ado, let’s begin the day!

Day in the LifeThis exercise makes me think of young Tolstoy’s first literary experiment, a short story called “A History of Yesterday.” It was unfinished and only fairly recently made available to the public (but not in English, sorry!). It’s a fascinating text–Tolstoy, ever the diarist, sets out to record the events of yesterday in full, only to find himself backtracking to the day before in order to explain the circumstances. He really can’t ever get to the present moment, which explains a lot about his future aesthetic and also probably explains why the story was unfinished. All this is to say: the same is true for me. My days depend on how the nights go. I am up at least once in the night to eat some yogurt or cottage cheese, and ideally it’s at 4am, so I can go back to sleep. But sometimes I wake up at something like 2 and 6, and I can never go back to sleep after 6. I end up sleeping late to try to make up for the lost time. And this day (last Tuesday) was such a day. But here is my breakfast, such as it was last week: a wheat bagel with cream cheese. For such a long time, this was the only thing my stomach would tolerate in the morning. Even the switch to wheat was an accomplishment. But now I’m happy to be eating oatmeal again, which I hope is a bit more nutritious. I like that my purple robe is in this picture because I put in on every morning for breakfast and catching up on the blogs I read. My parents gave it to me for Christmas when I was in high school, and it’s still going strong.

Day in the LifeAfter breakfast, I got to work on the book proposal. Mornings are usually my best thinking time, so I try not to schedule anything before the afternoon.

Day in the LifeThis is a lot of what my life looks like right now, and I love it. These are some of the books that have been so helpful to me in putting my proposal together. (As a side note, Eric thinks I should write a post on which ones are particularly helpful. Would that be something you guys would be interested in?)

Day in the LifeWhen my brain got tired, I got up and laid out a row of triangles for the baby’s quilt. Good to have a little change in posture too. (Also, color trouble: that’s not black, it’s navy blue!)

Day in the LifeAnd then, lunch! This my leftover half of a burrito from Chipotle the night before. Not the healthiest lunch in the world, but I did get brown rice and extra veggies, so I can at least feel good about that. I was reading Los Angeles magazine, which is really great, and also a good accompaniment to a messy meal (wouldn’t want to get salsa on a library book!). I also had a Cara Cara orange, one of our favorites this time of year.

Day in the LifeAnd then I flipped through this Paper Source catalog, which gave me the idea for my next quilt: solid color rainbow!

Day in the LifeAfter lunch, it was back to work. Ah, not good posture. But I am happy to have this view of the other side of the office, which will soon be dismantled and reincarnated as the nursery. I like that you can see my word for this year, nurture, up on the wall, and my DIY mannequin for sewing. After another session with the proposal, I took my almost daily nap–usually about an hour.

Day in the LifeThis was my afternoon snack. Not my favorite flavor, but good in a pinch.

Day in the LifeI headed out for my walk around 2:30. It was a gorgeous day, and I loved seeing the clouds above the mountains.

Day in the LifeI always walk past Eric’s building on my walks, and sometimes I text him to come to window and wave. It’s one of my favorite things. I call this his “C for Cameron” shirt.

Day in the LifeI was back home by 3:30, having done my usual 4-mile route. I am probably already embarrassing our child with my garish attire, but oh well! That little hand-held water bottle has been the greatest addition to the walking regimen. We got it on Amazon, and it’s great–not too heavy, not too big.

Day in the LifeAfter a quick shower, I got to work on making dinner. On days when I cook, I have to get started by 4pm at the latest because I am so hungry by 5. Today I made cauliflower and quinoa chowder.

Day in the LifeI used this pretty broccoflower, which…

Day in the Lifeturned the soup totally purple! It was pretty good, and it was chased by two clementines (I have to keep the citrus routine varied!)

Day in the LifeAfter dinner I worked on some freelance editing. This little sheet is my constant companion.

Day in the LifeEric had some big proposals due today, so when he got home he decided to make himself a celebratory drink. He caramelized some oranges in brown sugar for a garnish.

Day in the LifeThe drink looked really beautiful, but obviously it was only for him! I think it was an old-fashioned, but I can’t totally remember.

Day in the LifeBy then it was time for my second dinner, just a few slices of fresh wheat bread and some cheese. (It’s funny how quickly you get tired of things…last week this seemed like an awesome treat, but this week…ehhh.)

Day in the LifeAt 10 to 8, Eric and I set out to go to a talk by three astronauts on the future of human spaceflight. It was so cold, and I was shivering in my coat. When we got there, the auditorium looked strangely dark, and we realized we had the date wrong! So here we are back home again.

Day in the LifeSince I had the evening free, I finished laying out the quilt triangles. Huzzah!

Day in the LifeThen I read a few lessons in my online painting course. My access to it expires at the beginning of May, so I am kind of in a crunch to cover all the material. It’s always uplifting, always inspiring.

Day in the LifeWhile I was working on that, Eric was playing his bass. Adorable. That box on his desk for the iRig, which allows him to plug his bass into his computer.

Day in the LifeI wrote my blog post for the next day, which I always do before going to bed. I wish it weren’t so impossible to take a picture of a computer screen! Ah well.

Day in the LifeAnd then, since it was April 1st, I changed my calendar page. This one lives on the ledge of our kitchen chalkboard, and I love it.

Day in the LifeAnd, of course, I was hungry again. This is my totally uninspiring bedtime snack, a PBJ. I am not a huge fan of them, but when you’re hungry, you’re hungry. At least it had some protein! (As a side note, I had my glucose tolerance test the next morning, and I didn’t fast. I am now even more overjoyed that I passed because I had a lot more bread and sweet stuff than usual on this day).

Day in the LifeFinally, bedtime reading. This is Great with Child. I loved this passage and found it so apt. And I am happy that our sweet baby is in this picture. I hope some years from now, I will show him this post and say, “Look, there you were!”

Lemony Fennel with Lima Beans and Dill

Lemony Fennel with Lima Beans and DillMore fennel, you ask? Yes, more fennel! Can’t stop, won’t stop. But I might have stopped if I hadn’t seen this recipe on Heidi’s blog. I was particularly taken with the “giant beans” part. The only way to improve upon beans is to make them GIANT, and they reminded me of my favorite Greek dish, gigantes (gigantic beans!) You can actually order said gigantic beans dried here in the US, but they are pricey. Lima beans are a great substitute, and I am happy to be successfully cooking them in the pressure cooker again after the Lima Bean Incident of 2014.

Lemony Fennel with Lima Beans and DillI made a handful of changes to the recipe, but I’ll post the original one below. I juiced the lemon onto the fennel while it was cooking instead of slicing it and tossing it in as Heidi does. I needed a lemon explosion! And I left out the honey and white wine because I have aversions to them at the moment. But I am looking forward to trying this again in my non-pregnant days!

Giant Lemon Fennel Beans
Recipe from 101 Cookbooks

4-5 small fennel bulbs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
Half a lemon, scrubbed and sliced or cut into wedges
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups cooked white beans (corona, cannellini, etc)
1/2 cup water (or reserved liquid from cooking the beans)
1/2 cup roughly chopped dill

-To prep the fennel, remove each bulb’s tough outermost layer. Trim each bulb’s base, and slice along the length into 1/2-inch thick wedges.

-In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. When the oil starts to ripple and move away from the center of the pan, add the fennel. Scatter the wedges across the surface of the pan rather than gathering them into a clump, and let them sit without stirring until the sides touching the pan caramelize and brown a bit, roughly 2 minutes or so. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes or so, until the fennel has cooked through. Add the honey, lemon, salt, and wine to the pan, stirring to combine. Let the wine heat and reduce for a minute or so before adding the beans and water. Cook until the beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes.

-These beans are good at just about any temp- hot, warm, or at room temperature. Serve topped with a big handful of chopped dill and a drizzle of your best olive oil.

Adventures in Pregnancy: 24 Weeks

24 WeeksFirst things first, let’s break out the confetti and party hats: I passed my glucose test! With flying colors! I was really worried that I was going to fail it because I had read that you aren’t supposed to fast before this one-hour test. And then when I got there the lab tech told me otherwise. So I was pretty sure I had a three-hour version of this test coming up, and a 10-12 hour fast. To put this in perspective, if I don’t eat something roughly every two hours…look out. The worst part is that you have to chug this really sweet drink in 5 minutes…on an empty stomach. I have learned (the hard way!) that if I had even the tiniest sip of water on an empty stomach, I throw up immediately. So, great dread and trembling were my companions before getting the news. But hurray and hallelujah, apparently my body is doing a good job of processing sugar! And huge thanks to saintly Hillary, who not only got a sitter for her kids so she could come with me, but also chugged a Mountain Dew in solidarity. Friends like this come along once in a lifetime. I am so grateful for her!

We didn’t have an ultrasound at this appointment, but we did hear baby’s heartbeat, and that always makes me cry, even more than an ultrasound does. There’s something about being able to hear but not see that makes it all the more mysterious and magical. The Doppler was so loud that it startled him, and he kicked, which was really adorable too. Sweet baby.

I have now gained a grand total of 11 pounds, which is good, and I’m measuring right on track for where I am in the pregnancy. My iron is a little bit low, so I will be taking a supplement for the rest of the pregnancy (I think?), but hallelujah again, so far it has not made me sick. Apparently orange juice is the key–Vitamin C helps with absorption!

24 WeeksThe doctor said that baby’s next growth spurt will be at 28 weeks, but I am feeling happy to at least be obviously pregnant now. Huzzah! In other happy news, we got the carseat and stroller frame this week (thanks, Mom and Dad!). There is much work to be done in the nursery and in general thing acquisition, but there is time, and that’s a good thing.

Physically, things are about the same, which is fantastic. Every now and again I have a rough night and ask Eric if he is still interested in having the next baby, but on the whole, I feel great. Tired, of course, and hungry like the wolf, but great nonetheless. It’s funny to realize the pregnancy markers I don’t have–my nails are not really stronger, and my hair does not seem to be any thicker or more awesome. Oh well. At least the cocoa butter I am using to prevent stretch marks smells delicious, like melted chocolate. Let it never be said that pregnancy doesn’t have its perks!

The Last Bookstore

The Last BookstoreA quick note: we have our 24-week appointment on Monday, so I will write a pregnancy update on Tuesday when we have new information! Today I want to show you one of the awesome places we went this weekend. I constructed this whole date out of fun things to see in downtown LA: Grand Central Market, The Last Bookstore, the fashion district (really the fabric district), and the flower district. I wore Eric out! But we had a great time. I want to share a lot more about it, but this bookstore deserves its own post. It was so amazingly inspiring. The building was originally a bank, and the huge columns and vault doors are still in place. What is it that makes something that’s been repurposed for something else so charming? Maybe we just like to imagine the people whose heels once clicked on these floors as they came in to make deposits.

The Last BookstoreIt’s a gargantuan bookstore full of well-priced treasures, but honestly my favorite part was the book art. Just look at this beauty.

The Last BookstoreUpstairs there are more books, a yarn shop, and a collection of artist’s galleries. I know! I was pinching myself too.

The Last BookstoreThis is a fantastic thing for a book lover to lay her eyes on: 100,000 one-dollar books?!

The Last BookstoreA book window!

The Last BookstoreAnd a book tunnel!

The Last BookstorePart of the one-dollar book room is organized in rainbow colors. Magpie’s delight!

The Last BookstoreI love that they have art galleries. Lots of impressive stuff.

The Last BookstoreBut the yarn shop was my favorite, of course.

The Last BookstoreI feel quite confident that I could have spent an entire day here. The book desk at the checkout made me very reluctant to leave indeed.

The Last BookstoreAs did the cozy leather armchairs.

The Last BookstoreAnd this lovely display in the building’s entrance. I am so happy that I randomly saw a picture of this bookstore in Los Angeles magazine. (If you’re at all local, it’s totally a great buy: $10 for 12 issues, each of which unfailingly introduces us to something cool in LA that we had no idea about. And the articles are pretty interesting too.) More downtown delights to come!

The Getty

The GettyA few weeks ago Eric and I went to the Getty. We’ve lived here for almost three years, and we had never been! This was part of our project to get out and explore a bit before the baby comes, and we had an awesome time. The Getty is built out of huge rough-hewn blocks of Italian travertine, and the whole complex is just gorgeous. It reminded me so much of Europe. And before I forget, I have to tell you one of the best things about the Getty: it’s free! You have to pay $15 to park, but when you divide that between the people in your car, that is really dirt cheap for so many galleries and gardens. Attention, future out of town guests: you will be coming here with us!

The GettyFrom the garage, you ride a little train up to the Center. It was a gloriously sunny and cool day, and we spent our time waiting for the train reading the little schedule for the day that they gave us. There was such a fun feeling of being transported to a magical world of art!

The GettyThis is a bit off the beaten path, but it’s a great view of the travertine.

The Getty

And a view through one of the walls.

The GettyThis is the cactus garden out at the edge of the property. I love the castle feeling!

The GettyWe went out to explore the main garden first because we knew it would get hotter as the day went on. We fell in love with these bougainvillea “trees.”

The GettyAnd the central pond. I didn’t realize I matched the flowers!

The GettyThere are many excellent things about Eric, but one of them is that his arms are long enough to get us both in the frame when he’s holding the camera. Oh yes, I married well.

The GettyAnother charming thing about the Getty: sun umbrellas.

The GettyAnd this. Tell me you didn’t just think this was Paris for a second.

The GettyAfter exploring a few galleries, we had lunch out on the patio (random fact: best pickles I ever had in my life!) and headed to the map exhibit in the Research Center. Yes, maps! I didn’t take any photos inside, but clearly I needed to make a note of this book for future reference.

The GettyMy favorite exhibit, though, was the one on hatching. There were some incredible drawings in both pen and ink, and they even had magnifying glasses so that you could see the lines close-up. Drawing with ink is something I’ve wanted to try for a long time, and this gallery was very inspiring.

The GettyAs we were about to leave, we discovered this: the sketching gallery. They give you paper, charcoal or pencils, and a place to sit and draw. *Amazing.* I wish I hadn’t been so tired because it would have been really fun to try. Ah well, next time!

The GettyIt was a really fantastic day, and we didn’t see even close to everything. I like knowing that more treasures await us next time.

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