Plans and Goals for the New Year

I haven’t ever been big on making New Year’s Resolutions for two reasons. The first is that the word “resolution” itself troubles me. It seems to have a whiff of negativity to it, like you’ve been very bad and now must reform yourself. I’m all for self-improvement, but (and this brings me to my second issue) I think it’s important to act upon these inspirations as they occur to me, on whatever arbitrary day that may be. I have started some of the most important things in my life on completely random days (this blog, my photo project, learning Turkish), and I am *so glad* I struck while the iron was hot instead of waiting. So January 1 has never been especially inspiring to me as a day, but, on the other hand, because all dates seem arbitrary to me, that means any day can be a special day, a new day. That is an excitement I embrace when I get out of bed every morning. All of that said, I am all for making goals and plans, and there are some ways in which the new year marks some changes for me. As of December 16, I am done with my dissertation, so now I have a bit more free time, and these are some of the things I’ve thinking of devoting that time to.

1. Reading my cookbooks. We have a pretty awesome collection of cookbooks, most of which were wedding presents from wonderful friends and family, and I use them *all* the time. But I have been thinking that it would be really nice to sit down and spend an afternoon with them, reading all the way through, marking things that look interesting and enjoying being under their magic kitchen spell. A few Christmases ago, my mom gave me Molly Wizenburg‘s A Homemade Life, and I tore through it before New Year’s, savoring every sweet story and recipe, wiping the tears from my eyes, and being incredibly inspired by her honesty and bravery in sharing her life. I can’t wait to do the same with Melissa Clark‘s majestic In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, and I’d gladly spend all my Tuesdays, and every other day as well, for that matter, with Dorie Greenspan. My sweet husband just gave me The Girl and the Fig cookbook for Christmas, and, even though I use it all the time, I have yet to read all the way through The Cheese Board Collective Cookbook. Oh friends, there are some mouth-watering afternoons ahead of me.

2. Reading my sewing books, sewing from my vintage patterns, and cooking up some projects of my own! Eric’s mom gave me the most amazing comprehensive guides to sewing for Christmas last year, some of which she used herself when she was learning to sew (and she’s a master, y’all), and I *love* them. I look things up in them all the time, but I would love to just slowly work my way through them all, and I think that would be a sewing masters course unto itself. It’s been so long since I since I took a sewing class (um, I think I was 9), and a lot of what I’ve done since then has been self-taught. It would be awesome to brush up on the basics and learn some new skills as well. I also have an incredible collection of vintage patterns that I bought for 25 cents each at the Depot for Creative Reuse. I made a cute dress out of one of them, but this kind of sustained project is exactly the kind of thing I didn’t have the focus for while working on the dissertation, and exactly the kind of thing I am really longing to do now! I also have a million and one ideas tucked away for other sewing projects. To the sewing machine!

3. Keep better track of my reading. My husband, who is wonderful in more ways than I can count, has always impressed me with his system for keeping track of his reading. As soon as he finishes a book, he makes a record of it and writes a little blurb about it, maybe the most salient points for him, maybe the things that annoyed him about it, maybe the things it made him think about and consider. It’s all safely tucked away on his computer, and that is pretty amazing. I have been keeping a list of books I’ve read for the past few years (inspired by him), but I have let it slide this past year, and I’d like to get back to it. If nothing else, I believe that the experiences we have, including the books we read, make us who we are, and having a record of that is a powerful thing. I’ve gotten back to this practice already this month, but I am excited to keep working on it next year, especially since I anticipate having a bit more time to read.

4. Exercising. I say this not because I am trying to lose weight, but because exercising is good for you and it makes you feel good. It’s been especially important for me this past semester, since I’ve been working at home, to get out and do something with my body. I always feel so refreshed and glad I did. This year I have been really inspired by some awesome ladies who run and blog about it, and I love letting my feet hit the pavement (er, track, I suppose) too. My sweet husband takes me along to the gym as his guest, and he even runs slow with me so he can talk to me. That’s love. ūüôā When the new quarter starts at Caltech, I’ll be getting my own gym membership, so I can go swim in their heated pool, pump iron, or pound the track whenever I like. I am excited! So, those are the four big things I am looking forward to in the new year. How about you? I’d love to hear your goals and plans too! Happy New Year!

Pumpkin Currant Walnut Scones

We are still eating our way through the batch of pumpkin currant walnut scones I made for Christmas morning, and I have no complaints about it! These are lightly sweet and spicy, and I love the texture that the currants and walnuts give them.

I’d been wanting to make these scones for ages, and I happened to have plenty of pumpkin on hand from baking chai masala spiced pumpkin bread for Eat My Blog: serendipity! I recognize that October and November are the height of pumpkin season, but I’m usually not willing to let them go until I can get my hands on some spring asparagus.

I love how this recipe yields 12-14 scones, so I have breakfast covered for a while, and I love how pretty they look in our cake dome, sparkling with cinnamon sugar.

I think these will be the last scones to squeeze their way into the Great Scone Explosion of 2011, but I also think there will definitely be a Great Explosion of 2012. And also possibly a Cookie Explosion. ūüôā

Pumpkin Currant Walnut Scones
Adapted from The Cheese Board Collective Cookbook 

1/2 c heavy cream
3/4 c buttermilk
1 c pumpkin, puree or canned
3 1/2 c AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
3/4 c sugar
1 c cold unsalted butter, cut into 1″ cubes
1/2 c currants
1/2 c chopped walnuts
For topping:
1/4 c sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon

-Heat oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or use a Silpat).
-In a medium bowl whisk together the cream, buttermilk, and pumpkin.
-Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer.
-Add the salt and sugar and mix until combined.
-Add the butter and cut it in on low speed for about 4 minutes, until it is the size of small peas. (If mixing by hand, use a pastry cutter or 2 dinner knives).
-Make a well in the center and add the pumpkin mixture, mixing briefly, just until the ingredients are combined.
-Mix in the currants and walnuts.
-Gently shape the dough into balls about 2 1/4″ in diameter and place about 2″ apart on baking sheet.
-Mix the cinnamon and sugar together and sprinkle on top of the scones.
-Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer scones to a wire rack to cool, and then enjoy!

Maps of Love

Now that Christmas has passed, I can share one of the presents I gave Eric: maps of love, showing all the places we’ve lived and traveled together. I had seen some similar projects on Pinterest, but I didn’t know if I’d be able to pull them off. I used to work in a frame shop, so I know exactly how hard it is to cut a mat, and especially freehand, and I had no idea how I’d pull off the heart shape. So I just tucked these little ideas away and thought I’d tackle them later. But then I found these heart-shaped frames, and I knew I was back in business!

Maps are so important to me, and so is space, really: the frame in which we live and love. I adore the concept of personal geography, and that is what I was trying to capture in this gift: the routes we carved between our two apartments, the miles we drove between his parents’ house and mine, the places we made our home. I have been collecting maps for a while now for projects like these, so finding these frames was the golden ticket to making this happen! They are inexpensive unfinished wood frames, and, once again, here I am laying them out on the NYT. Old habits die hard.

There is no glass in these frames, but there is a hefty cardboard backing, which I used to cut the maps to size. The hardest part was deciding which part of the map to include. With the map of Kauai, I decided to go with the parts of the island where we spent most of our time on our honeymoon.

I did a bit of scrambling trying to find maps of Tennessee and Illinois, but then I remembered that I still had my tattered old road atlas in my car. The replacement of such items with GPS and other newfangled things is another topic for another day (oh, how I used to love to trace my finger over all the tiny little towns we passed by as a little girl!), but for today, I was just glad to have it!

In the meantime, I painted the frames white to create the look of a white mat. Then, I popped the maps into place. That’s all there is to it!

The first map is of the Bay area, where Eric and I met four years ago over coffee on a rainy night, fell in love and began to build our lives together. We spent Saturdays in San Francisco and lived in Oakland, biking and busing in to campus for work. I lived there for seven years, and Eric for six, and it will always hold a special place in our hearts.

The next map is of Illinois, where Eric is from. It’s beautiful farming country, and I have so many incredibly special memories of the time we spent there with his parents. Going to the farm is always a treat, and I will never forget how magical it was the first time he took me home.

Memphis is where I’m from, where I had a blast showing Eric the sights and feeding him barbecue, and where we were married in June. It’s home, and now even more so. ūüôā

We went to Kauai for our honeymoon, and we spent a week and a half exploring, relaxing, and eating lots of tropical fruit. It was heavenly.

Pasadena is where we live now, and where we created our first real home together. Wherever we may wind up in the future, I think Pasadena will always have that newlywed glow. ūüėČ This isn’t all of the places we’ve been together, but definitely the most central ones, and I bought extra frames so that we can add new maps for places we travel and live in the future. I like to think of our love extending out over the country, putting up little road signs in the places we’ve lived and loved.

Our First Christmas Together

This year Eric and I celebrated our first Christmas together, and it was the sweetest and most wonderful day. We talked a lot about our family traditions, and we added some new ones for ourselves. It was beautiful to see our families melding, and our new family being born. In my family, Christmas traditions begin on Christmas Eve, but we had a serendipitous¬†experience¬†on the 23rd that I hope will become a new tradition. Eric usually goes to lunch with his group on Friday at the Athenaeum, a gorgeous and delicious club built when Einstein came to Caltech, so he’d have a nice place to eat lunch and be his brilliant self in style. I’d been out doing last-minute grocery shopping all morning, and I was surprised when Eric called around noon to say that his group had already dispersed for the holidays, and asked me if I’d like to join him for lunch instead. My answer was something along the lines of “YES!!” (It was sort of miraculous already that I hadn’t eaten lunch, since I usually get hungry by 11 or so). The Ath is¬†beautifully¬†decked out for Christmas, and I was so glad I got to see it, since it was their last day open before vacation. They were handing out free eggnog in the lobby, which made it feel all the more festive! I hope this is something we’ll be able to do every year, at least as long as we are here in Pasadena.

The real Christmas festivities began on Christmas Eve, though. My family always goes out to breakfast on Christmas Eve, a tradition that began when my parents were on their honeymoon. I love this one and convinced Eric of its great merits, and he was happy to go to Europane with me for breakfast this year. I don’t know if you can tell from this picture, but that scone is as big as my head, and even though I didn’t quite eat the whole thing, I was not anywhere near hungry until dinner time. Classic!

When we got back home, I spent much of the rest of the day in the kitchen, which was just fine by me. I think our oven was on all afternoon, getting quite the workout! Above is the aftermath, in part. I didn’t have a dishwasher for so many years (um…11 years) that I’ve gotten into the habit of not washing dishes right away. Even though we do have a dishwasher now, my brain has not quite made that critical jump, and I often leave my tea things on the counter, forlorn and cold until Eric gets home, and I realize I could have just put them in the dishwasher. On Christmas Eve, though, I washed everything right away because I needed to use it again immediately. I told Eric it was a Christmas miracle!

I baked a loaf of bread for our Christmas dinner (never mind that we had so much food that we haven’t even cut into it yet!), but I was also working on my contribution to another family tradition: Christmas morning breakfast. For as long as I can remember, we’ve always had a special breakfast around the tree: pigs in blankets and cinnamon rolls, and plenty of coffee and orange juice, which we imbibe in between opening presents. I gave this tradition my own little twist by baking pumpkin currant walnut scones (the Great Scone Explosion of 2011 continues!) They made for the perfect festive breakfast, lightly sweet and spicy, and I will share the recipe soon:)

I was also making the dough for our annual Christmas cookies. This year we went with a slightly different recipe than our usual gingerbread–these cookies have a touch of ground walnuts, and it makes all the difference. The first year that Eric and I made gingerbread cookies, we didn’t have any cookie cutters, so we tried cutting out shapes with knives, which turned out just about as hilariously as you might imagine. The next year we fared better, and now our cookie cutters feel like old friends. There are our favorite gingerbread cookies ever, so I will also share that recipe soon.

Eric did a bit of wrapping while I was baking, and our tree was bedecked with beautiful presents! I am so happy with how our tree looked, mostly in that it didn’t look too bare of ornaments!

Our stockings were hung by the chimney with care…or at least by the gas fireplace with care;) We took a few family portraits with my husband’s spiffy new camera gear before heading off to Christmas Eve service. When we got home, it was time for dreaming of sugar plums and sleeping until almost 10am, a luxury we may not have in the years to come!

After breakfast we opened our presents, which was, of course, a ton of fun! Eric gave me lots of sweet and thoughtful gifts, and one of them was this adorable card, a gift certificate to buy some new apps for my phone:)

One of Eric’s presents was this little road bike ornament, which he put right right on the tree:)

Eric had wrapped the gifts so beautifully (it is a running joke in my family that scientists make the best wrappers, and I would say that there is definitely both correlation and causality) that I almost didn’t want to open them. He made these innovative little ribbon pigtails that I thought were too cute for words.

I liked this one too, given my penchant for red.:)

After we opened presents, we were able to talk to both of our families, which was a wonderful treat. Thank goodness for Skype and cell phones to make the distance seem lesser! Then it was time to cook our feast! I contributed the veggies, including these little marble potatoes, which we brought back from Berkeley (yes, I like them that much!) They are amazingly good just roasted in oil and salt and pepper, and I have been known to eat them for dessert. Yum!

We also caramelized some parsnips, a perennial favorite of mine, in balsamic vinegar.

Eric made the crowning center of our dinner, a delicious beef roast with rosemary. It was ridiculously tasty, and I am so grateful for a husband who does not mind dealing with bloody meat instead of his recovering vegetarian wife:) All in all, it was a perfect and beautiful day, one I know we’ll always look back on with joy, our very first Christmas together. I hope you all had a truly wondrous holiday as well!

Cranberry Walnut Bread

This recipe used up the last of my giant bag of cranberries, and I think it was my favorite of all the things I made with them. This bread is dense and rich and studded with tartness and a little crunch. In a word: it’s perfect.

It was also a nice break from the lovely yet ubiquitous pairing of orange and cranberry–I just wanted the tart little guys to stand on their own in this recipe, and they definitely did!

This bread would be great for a Christmas morning breakfast, as it would lend itself nicely to being nibbled on the couch in front of the tree. ūüėČ We always had a special breakfast of cinnamon rolls and pigs in blankets for Christmas morning, and I am still thinking about how I will make that tradition our own for our first Christmas. So many ideas! Such limited quantities of butter it is reasonable to intake!

This bread, I think, will become a fall staple for us as we stroll our way through these windy and chilly months. I am already looking forward to making it again next year to ring in the fall festivities I love so much. ūüôā

Cranberry Walnut Bread

4 Tbsp butter, melted
2 c flour
1 c brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/4 c milk
2 c fresh cranberries
1/2 to 1 c walnuts (you can guess which one I used!)
Sugar or sugar crystals for topping

-Heat the oven to 350F and butter a 9×5 loaf pan.
-Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
-Combine the wet ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ones until combined, and then fold in the cranberries and walnuts. Sprinkle the top with sugar.
-Bake for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
-Cool for 30 minutes on a drying rack, and then cut into it and enjoy! Happy holidays!

Button Snowflake Ornaments

I think this will be the last batch of ornaments I make for our tree this year: I have to get on to the baking! Nonetheless, I am really happy I finished these up today and equally glad to have found another creative way to use my huge button collection. I found the idea for this project on Pinterest (source link here), and I tweaked it a little.

Since I didn’t have any popsicle sticks, I used q-tips as the base instead. I am always gluing q-tips together on the most bizarre surfaces, and this is no exception. Here we have some proto-snowflakes on top of the announcement that the NYT rate is going up again. This is only a tiny sadness, though, considering the amount of happiness my Sunday paper brings me. I don’t mind paying for good journalism. But apparently I also don’t mind constructing q-tip crafts on top of it either! (Don’t ming those big blobs of glue–the buttons will cover them up).

Once the proto-snowflakes were dry, I glued buttons on (I stuck with a white and cream theme, but you could use any color you like), starting from the center, and then glued in a little loop of ribbon at the top. That’s all there is to it!

I hung my three little guys on the tree this evening, and, I have to say, they look lovely, and I’m so pleased that our first tree looks so bright and vibrant: hurray!

I have been thinking a lot about ornaments today, and about the ones I remember most from our tree at home. There are a few snowmen I really like, and a globe with a map etched on it that is a perennial favorite, but mostly I’ve been remembering the ones that my brothers and I made: lopsided Rudolphs and falling-apart snowflakes and holiday wreaths, shedding glitter and cotton balls all over the tree skirt. My parents put them up on the tree every year, and even though I have no recollection of making those ornaments, I do remember feeling proud when we put them on display. It feels very strange that it’s December 22nd already and I’m not on my way to Memphis–it’s a trip I’ve taken every year for the past eleven, and it was always such a special one. My dad would always pick me up at the airport and whisk me off to a warm and welcoming home, where the tree was ¬†lit, Christmas music played, and there were enough hugs and holiday treats to last until the new year. This year I have a new home, for home will always be wherever Eric is, and while we don’t yet have any¬†construction¬†paper Santas or clothespin reindeer to display, I’d like to think I’m doing my part with these little snowflakes. ūüėČ

Spinach and Roquefort Stuffed Acorn Squash

This recipe is a bit of a blast from the past, but a seasonal one, at least. In general, I think it’s a good idea to return to old recipes and photos, and I’m currently working on putting together a list of some of our dinner favorites, a classic repertoire of sorts, for those times when we have to make a grocery run and can’t think of anything to cook. I am so glad I stumbled upon these pictures because I remember how delicious this dish was and can’t wait to make it again! These pictures were taken in my kitchen in Oakland, before I ever conceived of the horrors of a kitchen with absolutely no natural light, and when every photo was blessed with generous rays of sunshine. On the flipside, they were also taken when I knew much less about image composition and had blue plates (not so great for contrast with food), so the result is sort of a draw. But a delicious draw at that!

I found the idea for this dish in a cookbook I picked up at a clothing swap (the range of offerings has been expanding in the past few years, and I will never turn down free books, especially cookbooks)! The book is based on the concept of making spectacular meals with three ingredients and whatever staples you have in your pantry. For a dissertating girl in the middle of moving and consolidating two households, that sounded like a big win.

I love how the squash are pointing off in all different directions, like tiny open mouths, in awe of something beyond my line of sight.

The recipe is pretty simple too: cut the tops off the squash and clean out the seeds, season them a bit and stick them in the oven.

While they are baking, saute some spinach until just wilted. Stuff it into the squash, along with some Roquefort cheese, and bake another 10 minutes. Voila! I have a feeling I will be making these several times in the next few weeks. Surely the spinach and squash balance out the cheese, yes? ūüôā

Spinach and Roquefort Stuffed Acorn Squash
Adapted from The Three Ingredient Cookbook

4 acorn squash
9 oz. spinach leaves
7 oz. Roquefort cheese
3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

-Heat the oven to 375F. Cut the tops off the squash and remove the seeds. Place the squash cut side up on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 Tbsp of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until tender.
-Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet and add the spinach leaves. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until the leaves are just wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste and divide between the squash.
-Top with the Roquefort and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. And you’re done!

Orange Slice Christmas Ornaments

Since this is our first Christmas together (yay!), we don’t have too many ornaments, aside from a few very sweet ones that Eric’s parents gave us, so I planned to make a lot of them this year. As the day draws near, these are a great option: easy and inexpensive!

I found the idea on Pinterest, of course, but the original source is here (Martha would never lead us astray!) The procedure is very simple: slice 3 or 4 unpeeled citrus fruits into 1/4″ slices. I used some Cuties that weren’t too flavorful (I deemed them better for decor than eating!), but lemons, oranges, or even limes (ohh, pretty!) would work just as well.

Once you’ve sliced them and your hands smell nice and delicious, lay them out on a cookie sheet.

I put some parchment paper down on mine, but I don’t think these will stick too much, so if you don’t have any, don’t worry about it.

Now here comes the really easy part: bake them at 175F for 4 hours. During this time you can completely forget about them while you wrap presents or do other fun and festive things. I flipped mine over after about 3 hours, to ensure that both sides dried out, but that’s all the monitoring I really gave them.

Then I just looped some pretty ribbon through them and hung them on our tree! I like the orange touch, since most of our ornaments are red and silver.  Fun!

La Note

La Note¬†in Berkeley is a place near and dear to the hearts of many, a place you’d be willing to stand out in the cold for an hour to get into, a place you’d be willing to shiver on a garden patio in December for, if necessary. Oh yes. This weekend was the perfect storm of celebrations: Eric’s birthday, my dissertation filing, and our first trip back to the Bay since we moved down south in August. Eric flew in on Friday night, and this was the first place on his agenda, so off we trotted into the cold:)

Although we arrived at 10 on a Saturday morning, we got incredibly lucky because they opened the garden patio a few minutes after we arrived. We were whisked away to a lovely little table, and at least one of the heat lamps near our table worked, which was a gift. I used to think having to suffer through this kind of weather to eat delicious food was just a crime, but now I find that I am willing to pay the price…and it wasn’t *so* cold anyway, thankfully!

After a quick perusal of the menu of delights, I ordered a double cafe noisette and warmed myself with its delicious and perfect foam.

While we were waiting for our food, I went about exploring to revisit all my favorite little things about this sweet French cafe. Here is the patio, in part, although from this angle you can’t see the lemon tree and the avocado tree.

Here is the narrow wood-planked walkway out to the patio.

And here is the jam-packed and bustling interior, full of warmth and soft light.

Even the bathrooms are French:)

But the most important thing is clearly the food:) I usually get the lemon gingerbread pancakes with poached pears, but this time I went for the raspberry oatmeal pancakes, which were absolutely perfect: so light and fluffy and full of flavor. Eric had the cinnamon brioche French toast, which I found astoundingly good, but alas, it disappeared before I took a picture! I am so glad we were able to come because La Note is truly a special occasion kind of place, where one commemorates the passing of exams, the end of grading marathons, the completion of degrees. How sweet to celebrate here one last time:)

The East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse

I have been having a ball in Berkeley, catching up with dear friends over lavish dinners, traipsing around my old stomping grounds, and eating my way down some of the most delicious streets in the world. Yesterday my peregrinations led me to one of my favorite places on earth: the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse. Eric found it one afternoon when he was out exploring, and I have been hooked ever since. It started as a resource for teachers, a place where they could get supplies for their students at very low cost, since everything in the store has been donated. But now, happily, it is open to the public! It was so high on my list of places I wanted to visit while I was here, and I spent a lovely morning there:)

I now lovingly refer to it as “The Depot,” and it is absolutely my favorite place for creative inspiration. There is so much awesome stuff in there, and it is all so cheap! Even though I go hog-wild sometimes, I rarely end up spending more than $10. That is a big win in my book!

One of the most magical things about the Depot is that you never know what you’ll find. A box full of old reading glasses? Sure! A pile of postcards from the past four decades? Absolutely! More pretty paper and book binding supplies than you can shake a stick at? For sure! I wanted to take you on a little tour of the glories of my recent visit, showing you just a few things that made my heart go pitter patter:) Here is a box full of old puzzle pieces. Imagine what you could do with them! (At least that’s what I tend to do!)

And then there was this pile of beautiful bottle caps!

Usually there is also some scientific-type stuff, like beakers or flasks. Today I found these pretty…fuses? I am not sure what they are, but I like them! In case you might be thinking this stuff isn’t worth buying (I hope not, but I do recognize that one’s woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure!), bear in mind that it all costs pennies. You could get yourself a big bag full of bottle caps or puzzle pieces or fuses (?) for a few bucks. That sounds like a bonanza to me!

Moving along through the store, we come next to these fun little buttons, printed in many different languages. I bought a big bag of Russian ones when I was teaching Beginning Russian, and I gave them away as prizes and for Russian holidays. It was awesome to see them on my kids’ backpacks and coats:)

Another category of Depot stuff might be called Blast from the Past. I present to you…floppy disks and Zip disks! Remember those big hunks of plastic? I think my undergraduate thesis is saved on one of them, which means I may never see it again (that would be okay with me!)

The Depot is a mecca for those looking for all types of outdated musical recordings. Here are some records, but there are also tapes and usually 8-Tracks as well. One time Eric bought an old player piano reel here, in great condition. So awesome.

And, of course, the Depot is full of traditional art and craft supplies. I *love* getting sewing stuff here. Look at these pretty zippers! I totally bought some!

Embossing powder! Pretty!

The Depot also usually has really great fabrics. I got the prettiest silk here for $1 per yard. Unheard of! Today they had lots of nice jersey knits, and I wished I had more room in my suitcase…

My favorite item in this category, hands down, is the vintage sewing patterns. They are *amazing*! I once picked up a bunch of fun 80s patterns, but the ones today were mostly from the 60s-70s. And they are 25 cents each. I tend to go a little wild with these!

I know I have already shown you an incredible amount of awesome stuff, but I have saved my favorite category of stuff for last: Personal History. There are boxes and boxes of old photographs, capturing significant moments, moments worthy of preserving back in the day when we only had 24 exposures instead of nearly limitless memory cards. I love looking through these old pictures and imagining the lives they belonged to, the emotions they captured, the meaning of the moments that someone wanted to encapsulate. There are usually also a lot of old slides (thus combining the Blast from the Past and Personal History categories), which are fun to hold up to the light and decipher, if only in a negative exposure.

The postcards also fit into this category, and I love reading their antiqued messages, but today I found something I had never seen before: a box full of old ticket stubs. This intrigued me, as it indicates a deliberate act of preservation of memory. Someone had an experience and used this tiny object to encapsulate it, to embody a moment that passed them by. I love to imagine what those experiences must have been like, and to thank these past collectors for passing their memories on to us. I believe so strongly in the power and importance of the object in human experience, and especially in memory, and rifling through these treasures at the Depot truly takes me to different times and different places, lets me walk in the shoes of people I’d never have the chance to know otherwise, the beautifully scuffed wooden floorboards creaking under my feet.

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