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2013 April

A Visit to David’s Tea

David's TeaI started hearing about David’s Tea a few months ago, when people mentioned how excited they were when their shipments came in. They have some really exciting flavors and blends (150 of them!), and it’s all loose-leaf, so you know it’s fresh. Am I a tea connoisseur? Well, maybe not, but I am at least an obsessee, and I had never heard of some of the teas they offer. Imagine my glee when I stumbled upon a David’s store in Burlingame last week. I didn’t even know they had stores! I had thought they were all online, but I found out that they are actually based in Canada, with a few stores dotting the West Coast. Lucky me!

David's TeaI waltzed right in with a gigantic grin on my face and told them I love Earl Grey. Did they have any recommendations? Oh, but they did. Any place that has seven or eight variations on that particular theme gets a gold star in my book. I went with Cream of Earl Grey, which has vanilla added. Divine.

David's TeaMy mom wanted a chai loaded with extra ginger, and she had plenty of options too. Hers was strong and sharp and excellent.

David's TeaThe teas are organized by type in these pretty tins, with a little compartment at the top for smelling. Genius. I think I’d be very happy to come here every day. I’d never get bored!

David's TeaThe rest of the shop is also bright and cheery, complete with teal adirondack chairs. I loved it.

David's TeaWe girls, we love our tea. It has become a happy ritual for us, and we love sharing it.

David's TeaAnd here’s all three of us, having just the best time. I think I’ll probably be ordering some tea soon (they send three free samples with each order!) and recreating this afternoon here in Pasadena. And hopefully before too long my parents will be here to enjoy it with me.

A Simple Dinner

A Simple DinnerOne of the things I love the best about my parents is their appreciation for simple things. They love good wine, good bread, good cheese, good olives. All of those things sound like the makings of a perfect dinner to me, so it’s always a treat when we can have an indoor picnic, like we did last night. We spent the whole day traipsing through the East Bay (by my mom’s count, we walked about 5 miles), and then we came back to our little hotel room, almost collapsed with exhaustion, and pulled this divine dinner together. The bread is from Bouchon in Napa, the wine from a wonderful small winery called Failla (we visited the day before), and the rest of the provisions are from heaven on earth: Berkeley Bowl. I have had so many amazing meals in my life, but I think the thread that runs through all of them is this: you can’t separate your enjoyment of the food from your enjoyment of the people around you. You bite into something and find yourself sending up a silent prayer of thanks that such a thing exists and has found its way onto your plate; you look around the room and are just so happy to see the people you love here at the table with you, every time you look up. I wish you so many, so very many of those dinners.

My First Pair of Earrings

EarringsWhen I went home to Memphis about a year ago (time flies!) for my Besfrinn’s baby shower, my mom let me go through all of her beads and take anything that looked interesting. Well, I took almost all of them because they were so beautiful and also because my mom is so generous and wasn’t using them anymore. I used a lot of her seed beads to make bracelets (and! coming soon! some bead loom earrings and necklaces, I think), but I hadn’t done anything with the handful of glass beads she gave me. Someone recently explained to me how simple it is to make this style of earrings, so I decided to give it a try. These are, of course, far from perfect, but I love them. I brought them with me to San Francisco to give to my mom. I thought, since they were her beads, she should reap the first rewards. Purple is her color, and she loved them. I am happy to see these beads going back to their rightful owner, and hopeful that I can make something more with the ones I have left. And maybe I will even master the art of wire wrapping! One thing at a time, I suppose.

PedicureAnd, in completely unrelated purple news, new flip flops and a pedicure. My mom is the best, and we are having such a great time!

I Love My Parents

Me and MommyHello from the Bay area, where I am once again trying to write blog posts before I fall asleep with my glasses on! Ah travel, it seems to do that to me. Thank you all so much for your sweet comments over the past few days. I am hoping to get caught up with you and your blogs soon! And yet, the falling-asleep-with-glasses-on continues! But I shall persevere. We’re staying right now in the South Bay, where my dad is teaching, and my mom and I are out on the loose. We are having so. much. fun. Daddy will be done teaching on Friday, and then we’ll run up to the city and rent a car for more extensive adventuring. It’s so beautiful here that it actually breaks my heart a little, the fact that I was lucky enough to call it home for seven happy years. It makes me nothing but happy to come back, and nothing but elated to be able to share this time with my parents. Those of you who know them need no explanation, but for those of you who haven’t met them, let me just tell you: they are awesome. (And, if you want to get to know them, mom blogs here and dad blogs here. I know, the digital age: it is the best age!)

Sweet DaddyMy parents taught me how to love, by loving me, by loving each other, by loving everyone around them. There isn’t a day that goes by when I am not immensely grateful for that. But on top of that, they are just so smart and fun and funny and interesting and adventurous and generous and all around fantastic. Whenever I am with them, I feel like I am living *the life.* I hope that someday, many many years from now, our kids will feel the same way about us.

Work in Progress: Cross Stitch Design

Cross StitchI have been wanting to create some of my own cross stitch designs for months now, and I am finally getting to it. My idea is to make lots of bright linear shapes, like so!

Cross StitchI have not gotten too far yet, but I am loving it already and plotting all kinds of color combinations.

Cross StitchI will check back in when it’s finished, and, if anybody is interested, I can put up a pattern (made by my spiffy new MacStitch software!)

Project Life, Weeks 31 and 32

Project LifeFinally, I am getting back to Project Life! I was thinking today, though, about the odd lack of pressure I feel about it. It takes a week for the pictures I order to come in the mail, so I am always, at minimum, a week behind, but it never seems to bother me. When I think about it, I just feel happy about the time I spend working on it and the book I’m creating for our family. We’ll be flipping through these pages for years to come, so it doesn’t matter much to me whether I’m working on February pages in March or in May. The point is that they’re getting done. It’s a good place to be, and I’m so glad that that’s where I’m finding myself. I don’t think this project would be very much fun if it felt like a big obligation. So, hurray for being a day late, but never a dollar short!

Project LifeOn this page I was happy to use some rub-ons and striped tape, which I often forget I have. I like it as the side border.

Project LifeThis adorable elevator needed to be memorialized.

Project LifeAs did Eric’s new computer! How many Apple products can we fit in one room? This is a suggestion for a parlor game at your next soiree.

Project LifeI don’t often put pictures from style shoots in this album, but I like adding them because doing them has been a fun joint project for us. Those little hearts were made with an old school puncher I found at the Depot in Oakland last week. *Fun*.

Project LifeEvery now and again I like to use darker papers for journaling and splash them up with my silver pen. I am a magpie, after all.

Project LifeThis week took us on a sunny afternoon walk and to the movies for the latest installment in our favorite series. Good times.

Project LifeAn eye shadow palette is totally scrapbook-worthy, yes? YES. I am heading to San Francisco today (yay!) for a week of fun with my parents, so it’ll probably be another little while before I get back to PL. But in the meantime, my album is in a hilarious semi-exploded state, and I love it. Looking forward to having my dad help me design a missing piece to hold it all together. Science!

Sequins and Sparkle

Sequin Collar DIYI have slowly been working on the tiniest little DIY: adding a sequin collar to an old sweater. Despite my turtle’s pace, it was really the easiest thing imaginable. I bought a little spool of threaded sequins for a dollar or two, cut a good length, and stitched it on, thus rescuing a sweater that would otherwise have been headed for the donation pile.

Sequin Collar DIYHere is said spool in action.

Sequin Collar DIYIt adds just a little bit of interest to a sweater from Old Navy’s clearance rack approximately…ten years ago. I am patting myself on the back for all the mileage I’m getting out of it. When I get tired of it, maybe I’ll make a cut down the middle and turn it into a cardigan. I always need more of those!

Sequin Collar DIYAnd, of course, I paired my new sweater with my most gigantic earrings! These are fairly new (ie, from my after-Christmas clearance shopping extravaganza), and they are, happily, nowhere near as heavy as they look.

Sequin Collar DIYThese purple jeans are new too– a thrift store find! These Nine West heels, believe it or not, came from the giveaway pile in Eric’s old apartment. I am beginning to realize that this whole outfit cost next to nothing. Should I start putting in little charts of where things came from and how much they cost? Or would that be boring? I aim to please!

Sequin Collar DIYThis mustard bag was a thrifted gift from my mom (by which I mean I asked her to buy it for me when we were out thrifting. Mom thrifting trips are the best! And not just for all the swag–a good bargain-hunting partner is essential!) She also got me this awesome bracelet in Amsterdam. (See, she is the best!) The scarf is a special one–I bought it in Sarajevo so I could visit the mosques with my sweet friend Kendra. If I dig for a minute, I might be able to find a picture of me wearing it there…

SarajevoOh, little sunburned me, traipsing all over Eastern Europe and drinking endless cups of tea. It’s nice to see you again.

Sequin Collar DIYBut present me, writing and making and sewing and beading and baking all the livelong day, I like you an awful lot too.

The Monterey Aquarium

Monterey AquariumWhen Eric and I were in Monterey last week, I hot footed it over to the aquarium. I had never been before because it is pricey, and the last time I was in town, my brother and I were in full-on hostel mode. Truthfully, I still wavered a little bit about the price. But I spent several hours there and most definitely had $35 worth of fun! The beauties above are from the iconic jellyfish exhibit. I was truly astonished to see so many different kinds of them. I didn’t even know they existed!

Monterey AquariumI saw all kinds of iridescent fish, in schools and swimming solo, and watched eels and sharks glide by, but honestly I think my favorite part was seeing the deep-sea plants and anemones. They reminded me so much of the wonderful world of the Magic Schoolbus (children of the 80s, represent!), and I know that when I read the under-the-sea edition of that series, I shook my head in disbelief. But here it all was, right before my eyes!

Monterey AquariumDid you know that this is what live sand dollars look like? Covered with purple fuzz and happily camped on the ocean floor.

Monterey AquariumI texted Eric a picture of this gorgeous, yet slightly surly-looking fish. I loved it.

Monterey AquariumLook at this gorgeous eel!

Monterey AquariumThe best part was that this shrimpy-looking guy was trying to climb into this eel’s mouth!  Perhaps it was a joke, but the eel did not seem to like it. (UPDATE: This is a cleaner shrimp, which cleans the parasites from the mouths of eels and other fish. So cool! Thanks for the tip, Jim!)

Monterey AquariumAlso: penguins!

Monterey AquariumAnd more seahorses than you could shake a stick at! My favorite part of the whole experience was probably that they also have these touch pools where you can reach right out and feel a starfish or an anemone. Or a bat ray! I am sure these were designed for eight-year-olds, but I rolled my sleeve up and went shoulder-high into the freezing water. Half of my shirt ended up soaking wet, but I did not care in the slightest!

Monterey AquariumI am not ashamed to admit that I spent a good chunk of my time at the aquarium wandering around with tears in my eyes. I just did not expect to be so moved, but seeing this much beauty in one place filled me with gratitude and wonder. I really felt very close to God, staring at awe into all these brightly lit tanks and seeing things I had never even known existed. This seahorse totally pushed me over the edge. He is the orchid of the sea!  You have to look so closely to see his eyes and his body. As I stood there, overwhelmed by the gorgeousness of this creature, I wondered if, on some level he might feel the same way about us. And then I realized that we really are all this seahorse, unique and incredible in ways that we can’t even imagine, ways that we can’t possibly see ourselves. Whatever you believe, believe that you are beautiful. Because you are.

A Handful of Happy Things

Cappuccino of the GodsIt’s been really fun getting back into the swing of things around here. I missed cooking (and now we have a fridge full of Berkeley Bowl magic!), and it’s good to get back into a routine with work. I am working on the book proposal now, and it is so much fun. I will take that as a good sign! I ambled over to Peet’s this afternoon and decided to have a cappuccino instead of my usual afternoon tea. I used to inhale a cappuccino every single afternoon back when I was teaching at Berkeley, but these days I just put the kettle on around 4:30 and add a hearty dash of milk to my Earl Grey [in off-topic Earl Grey news: I got a bergamot! Shall I attempt to make my own Earl Grey?!] Anyway, it had been such a long time since I had a cappuccino, and it seemed like the thing. I had a card for a free medium drink, so that’s the size I ordered, and my eyes just about popped out of my head when they gave it to me. This is the biggest medium cappuccino I have ever seen. I am not complaining: it was luscious down to the last drop. Way more than medium-sized happiness.

Star of JasmineIn unrelated happiness, the star of jasmine is in bloom in our neighborhood, and it smells like heaven. I love fall so much that I forget every year how lovely spring is. I am definitely savoring this sweet fragrance.

LightIn further unrelated happiness, I have been working at the library in the afternoons, and I love these high windows and their wooden frames. There was just a beauty pageant of light today. I loved it.

MagicThe library has this very high-tech Nalgene filler, operated by a sensor. I will never let go of the idea that it is the coolest thing ever, especially because the water is so bracingly cold.

BirchAnd finally, the earlier part of this week was really windy, and I noticed while I was out running errands that it was actually ripping the bark off the birch trees. It looked so beautiful against the strikingly green grass. Those are just a few of the things that have been bringing a smile to my face this week. Hope there have been lots for you too.

A Map of Days Gone By

OaklandI think it’s really almost impossible to appreciate something fully while you’re experiencing it. We all do our best to focus and be present, but most of the time we find ourselves longing for something so mundane we never would have recognized it as something to remember at the time: rain plinking on a skylight, the bus stop under the maple tree, the little boutique around the corner that we never went into because it looked so expensive. Even though I more or less make it my life’s mission to notice these things and be grateful for them on a daily basis, so many of them still slip through the cracks. The beauty of it, though, is that these little experiences can be relived and appreciated anew one thousand times in our minds and our memories. And that is exactly what I found myself doing last weekend when we were in Berkeley. We traipsed all over our old neighborhood, stopping by our old apartments, places we went on dates and held hands and talked about our future. It was such highly concentrated sweetness.

I have always loved maps, because I like to spatialize anything and everything, including time, and I felt like we were walking on one this weekend, tracing the routes our feet followed for so many years. One of my favorite concepts from Russian literary theory is the chronotope; it comes from the Greek words chronos (time) and topos (space), and it basically means, you guessed it: time-space. Eric actually made one for me for our two-year anniversary, and it just about broke my heart. It was a personalized google map of everywhere we’d been together, with little markers for places we’d traveled, our favorite breakfast spots, the restaurants where we’d splurged on birthday dinners. He also added pictures right at the intersections where they’d been taken. It was just about the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen. And this weekend we got to live it all again. So, without further ado, here is a little mapping of our neighborhood, of our lives and our love.

RockridgeWe lived in Rockridge, close to the Berkeley-Oakland border. It is the most delectably walkable neighborhood, and we adored it. They’ve now made this highly referential display at the BART station where we used to hop trains into the city. I’m clutching a book of California poetry by one of my old professors, Robert Hass, the former poet laureate of the United States, and also a bright red Oakland t-shirt featuring the very charming dinosaur-shaped port cranes. Quintessential East Bay purchases!

51BThis is also right where I used to catch my daily bus in to campus to teach Russian and fetch endless books from the library. The ride down College Avenue was always slow as molasses, but it was a pretty one. Everyone’s relationship with the bus is complex: you curse all the collected hours you spend waiting for it, and, perhaps, the not exactly floral scent of its interior, but when you’re running late or it’s raining, how majestic it is to see its headlights coming down the street! I say this with all sincerity, even though there was, I kid you not, a Facebook group of Berkeley students called “Waiting for the 51 is like Waiting for Godot.” Good times.

LibraryThis was my little library around the corner from my house. In the spring it is covered with wisteria blossoms, and it’s a little like heaven on earth. So beautiful, so fragrant. I used to wait here for the bus before they split my line, but long after that I would stroll by almost every afternoon on my neighborhood walks, popping my head in to see what was new.

HomeAnd this was my home for four years. Not much to look at from the front, but such incredible morning light and all the storage space you could dream of. When I walked up these steps, tears filled my eyes, but I told Eric I wasn’t crying because I was sad, but because we just had so many happy times here.

My LoveAnd this was Eric’s home before we got married. I loved this building: elegant hardwood floors, big windows, vestigial Murphy bed structures. It’s almost 100 years old, and it’s aged so gracefully. Eric and I spent so many laughter-filled evenings cooking dinner here, and after one of them, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I said yes before he could get the ring out of his pocket! And I still say yes, every day. It’s hundreds of miles away from us, and yet this building, and the love that filled it, are in my heart all the time.

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