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2012 September

DIY Felt Ruffle Garland

My friend Lisa and I are already plotting our holiday decor, and we’ve been talking a lot about working with felt, so I guess I must have it on the brain. This little project is not exactly holiday related, but it’s filling an empty spot in our dining room, and that makes me happy. The whole project took me about half a hour. And it’s pretty! So, double win!

I chose some colors of felt that I liked from my little stash (stockpiled last year when it was on super sale) and cut them into even strips.

Then I knotted one end of my yarn and used an embroidery needle to work it through the felt, seven or eight times for each strip.

Then I just pushed the strips down to the knotted end of the yarn, and they formed these little ruffles. It came together really quickly, and I really like the look of it.

Here’s to projects that are as quick as they are easy!

Canon in D

I want to remember this. Over the weekend my parents were in New York visiting my brother and my sister-in-law. On Sunday afternoon, I got an email from my dad with this picture. While they were strolling through Central Park, they heard this cellist playing Canon in D. This is the music that played when my dad walked me down the aisle, and I love that he thought of me when he heard it. It’s our song. I’m so grateful I get to share it with him.

Hope Springs Eternal

I’ve always been an optimist. In my undergrad course on Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, the professor asked us one rainy afternoon if we were all caught up on our War and Peace reading. A usually quiet girl who sat in the back answered, “Hope springs eternal.” I loved that answer, and now I find myself saying it all the time. It’s really, I think, the answer to almost every question. Tonight I’m deep in the throes of dental woes (a poem, forsooth!) and looking for cheer in my pictures from the last week or so. Of course, it’s really not that bad in the grand scheme of things. But I’m still recovering from a bunch of drilling and shots (so many shots) and that icky burned metal taste that makes itself at home in your mouth after you’ve had cavities filled. (Gross, I know, sorry). That was my day, and I’ve got more coming on Friday. Apparently my teeth didn’t fuse properly, which is what causes my cavity prone-ness. But enough about my teeth. On to the hope that springs eternal!

Last Saturday Eric and I went to dinner at our favorite local spot, Lemonade. I heard they’re releasing a cookbook soon. It will be glorious, I have no doubt.

I got this awesome birthday surprise from my brother and his wife! I am already making some jewelry out of this amazing stash, and I can’t wait to share it with you. Almost done!

Eric was away at Palomar for a good chunk of last week, and I asked him to stop at our favorite produce stand on the way home. I put together a little list, but he brought me some surprises too: pumpkins! My love for them knows no bounds, and now I feel like fall can really begin.

On Friday I went to hear Luisa Weiss read from her new book My Berlin Kitchen at Vroman’s. And I was standing right behind her adorable baby! A lovely evening, all around.

On Saturday Eric and I went swimming at the Caltech pool and got in a pretty decent workout. It was so good to be back in the water.

Yesterday I made the first pumpkin soup of the season in our Le Creuset. It was, strictly speaking, in preparation for not being able to chew for a week, but still. Pumpkin soup!

And tonight I assembled all of these marvelous candidates for mulligatawny stew. Oh my goodness, what a treat. The smell of an Anaheim pepper cooking in butter is so heavenly. No solid foods for a week. But at least I have this. Hope springs eternal.

Roasted Corn and Chickpea Salad

It’s so funny how things go in the kitchen. One week I’m making a new recipe every night, and the next week I think, “I’ll just eat beans. And poblano peppers.” Despite these ebbs and flows, I am glad we’ve tried so many new dishes this summer. I know we’re getting into the swan song of summer (at least as far as produce is concerned), but this one’s too good not to share. Especially if you’ve got access to some fantastic sweet corn.

Anything that starts out this beautifully seems like a guaranteed winner. I got to chopping while the chickpeas were cooking.

Because my tomatoes were yellow, there is a bit of a monochromatic look, but monochromatic can still be delicious!

This recipe calls for roasting, which makes for this pile of beauty, but it could easily be adapted for the grill, should it also be treacherous to turn on the oven in your town during the summer. (In only slightly related news, I cannot wait to bake bread again! I miss you, crusty loaves!)

Oh so pretty.

While all the veggies are cooking, you can whip up the simple vinaigrette with herbs and chop your avocado. And then it all comes together.

I think this salad was a summer favorite of Eric’s so we will be seeing it again next year, I’m sure. Summer, I won’t be sorry to see you go. But I will be happy to see corn again next year!

Roasted Corn and Chickpea Salad
Adapted from How Sweet It Is 

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 poblano pepper, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
4 ears of fresh corn, corn cut from the cob
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 c dried chickpeas (Or use 2 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
1 avocado, chopped
3 tablespoons freshly chopped basil
3 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon freshly chopped mint
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey

-Place dried chickpeas in a pressure cooker and cover with water by several inches. Add a small splash of olive oil, seal the cooker, and cook chickpeas on high for 30 minutes. (Or, soak chickpeas overnight and cook on the stovetop for 2-3 hours).
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and add tomatoes, peppers, corn, onions and garlic. Drizzle with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, toss, then roast for 10 minutes more. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
-While veggies are cooling, whisk together remaining olive oil, vinegar and honey in a large bowl.
-Add veggies, chickpeas, chopped avocado, and fresh herbs to the bowl. Enjoy!

Button Collar Dress

I got this little dress at a clothing swap party back in Oakland, and I love its comfortable feel,  its warm color, and its slightly asymmetrical hemline. And, let’s be honest, light dresses are my summer uniform, and I can never have too many of them. However, there was just one little problem with this dress…

The neckline was so low that it could only be described with this word from my genteel Southern upbringing: inappropriate. I could wear it with a shirt underneath, and I sometimes did, but I didn’t really like the extra bulk of it, and, here’s another gem from my childhood: “It’s too hot for that mess.”

I had this idea, though, that I could simply stitch the two sides together to raise the hemline. Voila! And then I had another idea.

Why not sew buttons along the neckline? I have these great buttons in fall colors that I thought would complement this dress really nicely. So I started sewing! That bottom button conveniently covered the awkward little spot where the two sides of the neckline came together, and that was an added bonus.

Here is the finished look. I arranged the buttons pretty randomly, but I like how they came out.

So this weekend I took it for a test drive, and, I must say, it is now one of my favorite dresses! It’s jersey knit, so it’s super comfortable, and I love its slightly swishy skirt. Red heels seemed obligatory (brown would have been too matchy matchy), and I wore some of my favorite accessories.

These are my new earrings from Made in July, which I cannot stop wearing!

I made these two beaded bracelets, but many long years apart. I started the solid pink one when I was in high school, and then I left it, and the loom, behind when I away to college and grad school. I just brought it back to California with me in February, and it was really nice to finally finish the bracelet! I had so much thread still on the loom that I decided to make another bracelet right away and went for stripes. I like the way the two of them look together, and the little metal closures clink so pleasantly when they move. The silver snake bracelet once belonged to my awesome aunt, and I love wearing it. (And kudos to my husband for coming up with this shot idea!)

Eric helped me put my hair up in this simple twist–it’s getting too long for me to do it myself! It’s still too hot to wear my hair down, but finally there is some positive news: we are now in the 90s instead of the 100s, and it is so…bearable. Oh 80s, how I long for your approach!

I love how the buttons kind of provide a built-in necklace. Score!

Hope you all had a lovely weekend!

Project Life, Weeks 8 and 9

I am still playing a bit of catch-up on this project, but now that the office is organized, it is going so much more smoothly. I had a lot of fun with these pages, and I feel like I crammed in a few more stories from our everyday life, which has been one of my goals.

Week 8 features the map from our visit to LACMA–I love putting maps in wherever I can!

I am really happy we have this picture of the two of us, and of some of our summer grilling.

For Week 9 I went with polka dots and a little border.

As much as I hated getting a cavity filled, I am glad I recorded the ignominy of it. That little stamp is from Palomar, and I love it.

I hope someday we’ll laugh about the death and miraculous resurrection of our A/C on the way to Palomar, and it’s in that hope that I wrote it down here!

This picture is particularly special to me, since, as I am typing this, Eric is at Palomar, observing in that dome. I am so glad I got to see it with him. I have been reflecting on the summer as a whole this week, and I think I will put some journaling about it in one of my next pages, but this project has really heartened me: we have done and seen so much this summer. It’s also been the most crazy busy summer we’ve ever had, and, while I am sure I will always remember that, I might not have remembered all these weekend treks and dinners and exploratory missions and the funny things Eric has said to me (Example: Me: Thanks for loading the dishwasher, babe. Eric: It is a service I provide.) I am so happy that I have all of this in writing and in pictures. For, as one of my favorite bloggers says, it was life, and we lived it.

Day in the Life, in Photos

One of my favorite bloggers organizes a week in the life project a few times a year. The idea is simple: really make an effort to capture your everyday life in photos, no matter how small or insignificant your daily activities may seem. I did it for the first time in April, and, wow, I learned so much. We always take care to record the big occasions in life: birthday dinners, vacations, graduations, and the like. But I find more and more that the further behind me my experiences fade, it’s not those moments that I wish I had some record of. It’s things like the buttons on the department elevator, the way the leaves fell on a rainy day, a Saturday morning grocery run, and all the little rituals that are so much a part of our lives that we don’t even notice them anymore. I would love to have pictures of sun-dappled Sunday mornings with the New York Times in my old apartment, or even the bus stop where I spent so many (many!) hours of my life. Those are the things I long for when I think of times and places past–the years that I lived in Berkeley, the early years of my relationship with Eric. So those are the kind of things I’m trying to record now, even if they seem mundane. I had an extra impetus for recording this day, which was Wednesday of last week–I’ve just started a new routine, since I’m now working from home, and the new-ness of it has been making me feel a little unsettled. I somehow felt that this exercise would ground me and sort of inaugurate this new season, and it did. So, here goes! Every morning begins with one cup of very strong coffee, made in my filter drip in our utterly dark kitchen. At least it matches the way I take my coffee. I look forward to the day when this little detail will charm me as part of our early married life!

My coffee time in the morning is spent catching up on the interwebs before I get to work. I love that there’s so much to read every morning. I guess it helps that I’m three hours behind the East coast. As a side note, I really love our coffee mugs. They are the perfect size, if I do say so myself.

This day was actually a bit of an unusual one, since Eric had time observing overnight this week. He’d been up all night Monday and was set to head back for more on Wednesday night, so I was being careful not to wake him. I was a bit under the weather and wanted to make soup for lunch, so I soaked these chickpeas overnight, instead of using our awesome (and very loud) pressure cooker.

It takes me a while to get hungry after I wake up, so I usually don’t eat breakfast until 10 or so. This has been my staple for weeks: banana cardamom walnut oatmeal. As soon as I run out, I make more. It’s the best.

After breakfast, it was work time.

And then time to paint a few circles on my painting.

And then time to call a bunch of pharmacies to see who might have my eye medication.

And then time to water our plants. The 100-degree weather has done a number on them, but this little basil plant keeps on kicking. I’m especially proud of it because I planted it from seed.

I made lunch and loved all the pretty spices. Last week I was just starting to get sick, so the only thing that sounded good to me was hearty and spicy soup. This one definitely fit the bill.

Here’s lunch: chickpea, red lentil, and quinoa soup. So satisfying.

And a nectarine! We missed the farmer’s market last week because I could not bear to stand in the unimpeded sun at noon, so our grocery store produce was all kinds of disappointing. I guess now my new mantra will be: the produce is worth it!

Then I went to Target to fill a few prescriptions. Since I had to wait for them, I wandered around and marveled at all the fall stuff. Yay!

Even the Kleenex boxes were in on it.

Live pumpkins!

And pretty necklaces. Whenever I see things like this, I wonder if I could make them.

But this was probably my favorite sight of the whole day. I was wandering through the office organization stuff to get ideas, and I saw this: the Virgin Mary peeking out from behind a little shelving unit. It made me so happy that I saw it, and this moment made me realize what I love the most about doing day in the life photos: it makes me a collector, a hunter of beauty, in ways I never would be otherwise. I firmly believe this: all lived experience is beautiful and full of art. We can’t possibly see all of it, but we can celebrate the things we do see.

And here’s something else to remember: this summer Pasadena passed a city ordinance banning plastic bags in stores. We try to bring bags with us wherever we go (otherwise we’d have to buy paper ones), and these little guys fold up into little pouches I carry in my purse. Eric gave them to me after we’d been dating for about a week. He is so sweet. It’s funny how quickly this has become a part of our life. Once we picked up a few things for dinner at a grocery store a few towns over, and we were so weirded out when they packed it up in plastic bags! It was like being in some alternate universe.

By the time I was back, Eric was up and working on preparations for the night of observing. I spent some time writing in my journal, which I try to do every day. I love the sound of the pages crinkling when I turn them and the faint scent of glue it mysteriously exudes.

Then I prepped some coconut ice cream for my birthday. I find that it goes much better if I make the base and let it chill in the fridge for a day before churning it.

I made a big pot of chamomile tea (for my cold!) and put most of it in the fridge for the next few days. And I had a cup in my owl mug.

You can’t have tea without…book reading time! These are a few of the library books I’m hanging out with these days.

Then it was time for a bit more computer work before dinner, the zucchini poblano tacos that I make probably every other week.

By this time Eric had headed off the control room for the night, and I was getting to work on my blog post for the next day.

I squeezed in a quick bit of knitting (down to two skeins!) before going to meet Eric at the control room.

It was my first time there, and it was pretty impressive, as is the fact that the Keck telescopes can be controlled from a little room in Pasadena. Eric was on video link with the telescope operators in Waimea and at Mauna Kea, and that was pretty cool.

I spent some time hanging out with my Kindle on the couch while Eric focused and took data, and eventually I headed home for bed. It was so odd saying goodbye to Eric at the end of the night–it reminded me of when I used to drive him home in the pouring rain when we were dating (or of the nights when he’d take off into the cold on his bike). Now as I write this, Eric is at Palomar for a few nights. He doesn’t typically observe this frequently, but it has made it a busy few weeks, for sure. And now, I’ll always remember what it was like.

A Few Bright and Happy Things

We all need a few bright and happy things to give us cheer in the middle of a long week, don’t we? Especially if that week contains a cold. Blech. Hopefully I am on the mend now, but bright colors help me nonetheless. So here are a few little things that fit the bill. I made this little page above with a beat-up old atlas, my circle cutter, and my sewing machine. I have been wanting to try sewing on paper for a long time, and it went beautifully! My machine has all these pretty stitches that are going to be really fun to play with. Those are six places I’d like to go with Eric (six among dozens!)

This is a midway shot of my ribbon organizing project. Hurray for ROYGBIV!

On my birthday, I bought these bright plastic bracelets for fifty cents each. Fun!

And this weekend I finished this little bracelet too. It turns out that beading is a good project when you have a cold! In other happy news, I now have the entirety of War and Peace on my iPod! If that doesn’t put a smile on my face, I don’t know what will. 🙂

Office Makeover

Now that I’m working from home, I spend most of my time in our office/studio/guest bedroom. Over the past six months, it has really started looking like a disaster zone, since I didn’t really have the storage I needed for all my art supplies. This weekend we got a new little storage cube, though, and that, my friends, has made all the difference! Every time I walk into the office now, I just want to sigh a contented sigh. I was going to show you the before pictures too, but I just cannot do it. Trust me that it was…very haphazard looking. And now there is so much more space! When I finished organizing everything, Eric came in and danced a little jig in all the newly open space. I love him.

So, in lieu of before and after pictures, I will take you on a little tour. Here is my desk, which really has to be organized every day, but which has now been made a bit more functional with some subtle rearranging. Now this looks like a place that’s ready for work. Or maybe painting my nails. My goggles are there to remind me to hit the pool, and Vladimir and Vera provide a benevolent gaze.

Eric heroically moved my filing cabinet into the corner for me (after I took all the stuff out, of course!), so I could get to these little drawers more easily. This is all of my scrapbooking stuff, which used to be spread out all over the guest bed. This is so so so much nicer. There are a few canvases propped against my desk, and my calendar is blowing in the glorious breeze of our box fan.

Along this wall is my craft table, which used to be covered with all kinds of stuff, and had lots of stuff underneath it. I am so excited to have a place to sew and paint again! There is nothing more beautiful than a clean work space, is there? In the corner is my dress form, which Eric and I made together. He wrapped me in duct tape, and then we cut it off, stuffed it with Poly-fil, and mounted it on a broken lamp stand. Voila! It really helps with alterations. The Poly-fil is so big that it has to live under the table like that, along with some pillow forms, but at least they are the only occupants of the under the table region. That makes me happy. In those small baskets on the floor I usually keep current knitting projects (at least the ones that will fit in there). Hanging from the wall are all my ribbons, wound around cardboard tubes. (This is super easy, by the way: wind ribbons, tape them down, string some yarn through the tube, and tack it to the wall.) This way I can easily get to them and actually see what I have, a major goal of this office makeover!

And finally in this corner we have the new acquisition: a storage cube. Now I can actually see my fabric and supplies, and those little drawers make a great home for all the ungainly stuff, like bags of buttons and beads. I love it! That’s my Project Life album leaning against it, and our guest bed on the other side. On the other wall is Eric’s desk and a big bookcase. And that’s it! I am so glad that this little project is done, and I look forward to many happy hours spent between these four walls.

Circle Painting

You guys, it’s still 100 degrees in LA, and I have a cold. It’s very…confusing. And also really unpleasant. I hope I’m nearing the end of it (really really really hope), but at least in the meantime I have color therapy. I have been working on this painting, circle by circle, for a few weeks, and I am so happy to have it ready to hang! The idea came to me after we saw a lot of beautiful Kandinsky paintings at LACMA–I suddenly became obsessed with shapes.

I wanted to try to use my circle cutter on canvas, but with a pencil instead of a blade. (They’re not at all expensive, and you can get one here.) I started tracing overlapping circles in all different sizes, and I loved them so much I just kept going, all the way to the edges of the canvas.

I wasn’t sure how smoothly it was going to go with paint, though. There are an awful lot of fine lines.

I was really happy to find, though, that with a very small brush and a steady hand, it can be done! By the way, I just used simple acrylic paint from the craft store here–nothing fancy.

It was really fun to play with the colors and watch this painting take shape. It made me think a lot about my Dad, who does these incredibly precise and beautiful paintings of buildings–lots of lines, lots of color.

I learned a few things along the way, for sure. It makes it a lot easier to go over the outline of the circle first, so those edges are taken care of, and then you can just fill in the color. A minimal amount of paint is optimal here, so you don’t get blobs along the lines. Also, I found that every color really needed mixing with white, even if only a tiny bit, to give it some opacity.

I am really kind of bummed that it’s finished, since I enjoyed working on it so much–that’s the sure sign of a good project! I might just make another one.

I think I will hang this one next to my pinwheel painting, to further add to the color explosion in the living room. You can never have too much color, or at least I can’t!

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