Project Life, Weeks 33 and 34

Project LifeThe thing about traveling is…you can’t really take all your Project Life stuff with you. This isn’t exactly a bad thing–in fact, I count it as a good thing, since I’m always so happy to get back to it after being away. I’m about to order a new gigantic batch of photos, and that’s always a happy thing. But for today, we’re taking a trip back in time. To February!

Project LifeI somehow ordered one of the wrong pictures for this week, but I like that that’s part of the layout too. Why not get meta?

Project LifeThis week I really got into the groove of working on my book at the library. It was awesome.

Project LifeI added a tape border here and played a little with writing alongside the paper pattern. I love this picture of Eric. The sweetest.

Project LifeAnd here we have the fateful whoops.

Project LifeThis book, it’s the greatest.

Project LifeThis week was full of fun and silliness.

Project LifeExhibit A.

Project LifeExhibit B.

Project LifeAnd Exhibit C! I totally had to beg them to play hip hop at this dance, but no matter! We had a cheesy blast. And there was a chocolate fountain. I rest my case!

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie

Giant CookieOn Saturday night I had a serious hankering for dessert. So, naturally, I went rummaging through the kitchen in search of inspiration. I lit upon the idea of oats. And peanut butter. And chocolate chips. I found a recipe in my beloved Dorie Greenspan cookbook, but alas, I didn’t have enough butter. So I halved the recipe. I also only had natural peanut butter, which is usually not highly recommended for baking, as the oils tend to spread and mess up the form of whatever you’re baking. So I decided to pour the batter straight into our iron skillet, in which it could spread as much as it liked. And let me tell you, it was a tremendous success. It’s a bona fide oatmeal cookie, but somehow the cinnamon and nutmeg really work well with the peanut butter. It’s kind of amazing finding both of those flavors in one bite. And, of course, I used chunky peanut butter, so there’s a little bit of a crunch.

Giant CookieI took this picture on Monday, so you can see that, er, we really liked it. I am so glad I put it in the skillet (so much faster than shaping, baking, and cooling 36 cookies!), and the halved recipe is kind of perfect for just the two of us. One dear reader of mine loves peanut butter and chocolate more than anything else in the land (she knows who she is), and to her, I clink my fork!

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

1.5 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
1 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup chocolate chips or chunks (I used chocolate chips)

-Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease your iron skillet.
-Whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, spices and salt. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla.
-Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, beating only until blended. Mix in the chips.
-Pour batter into iron skillet and bake for about 40 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

Continued Adventures in Quilting: Coasters

Quilted CoastersI am slowly working my way up the quilting totem pole. I am getting a good feel for piecing blocks together, and now I have entered batting territory. Exciting times! My first fully quilted project was a set of coasters. I made them for my mom for Mother’s Day, and now that she’s gotten them in the mail, I can show them to you.

Quilted CoastersThey are totally imperfect, mostly because I can’t be bothered with excessive measuring and am still mastering the art of sewing in a straight line, but if you can’t send imperfect coasters to your mom, who can you send them to? She’s the one who taught me that imperfections only add character!

Quilted CoastersI learned a lot from this process, and I think my coasters got progressively better. This was the first one. Sewing troubles! But I also learned a lot about the layout of my stitches.

Quilted CoastersThis was the second one, in which I experimented with freeform quilting and learned a valuable edging lesson.

Quilted CoastersOn the third one, I went back to angular stitches and played with some of the decorative stitches my machine will do. Fun! This one might be my favorite.

Quilted CoastersAnd I went back to freeform circles on my last one. I made one of these a night, and I showed Eric each one after I finished it. He loved them all, but that’s probably because he is the sweetest.

Quilted CoastersThis was a really fun and totally approachable project for a beginning quilter. Now we move boldly forward to…a laptop case! I’m really excited for that one. And, a small programming note: Thank you all so much for your sweet comments over the past few days! I am woefully behind on responding to your wonderful kindness, but I am plotting a catch-up session and super looking forward to it.

May: Currently

CurrentlySo, here’s a funny story. I always write these “currently” posts on the 15th of the month. And this weekend I glanced at my blog calendar and noticed that Monday was the 15th. “Oh, okay,” I thought, “So I’ll do a currently post on Monday and then I’ll do posts about the giant cookie I baked this weekend and the clothes I dyed and all that other fun stuff later in the week.” As you know, astute reader, today is not the 15th. It is the 13th. My calendar was still on April. I guess that’s what happens when you’re out of town for two weeks and blogging from hotel rooms and airports. Ha! So, anyway, here’s my currently post, a few days early.

Reading so many books. The pile beside my bed is becoming quite comical. I am working my way through an introduction to oil painting and Julian Barnes’ England, England. And I’m also paging my way through Robert Hass’ The Apple Trees at Olema (that one’s special, since he used to be my professor at Berkeley). I’m reading The Brothers Karamazov for my book club (ah, sweet and hilarious Dostoevsky!), and I just got a book at the library today on personal geographies. (No matter how many books I have at home, I cannot leave empty-handed!) My cup overfloweth.

Listening to my iPod on shuffle as I amble through town. It’s special, really. I used to do it in my grad school days, and I had forgotten how sweet it is to be reminded of a song you love and had completely forgotten. Sometimes the iPod seems to know exactly the song you need to hear, and when it does, it’s pure magic. Sure, I have to skip through my Turkish lessons and my recordings of Lolita and War and Peace when they pop up in the sequence, but it’s well worth it to be serenaded by better playlists than I could ever dream up. This month I’ve been enjoying Led Zeppelin and old school Smashing Pumpkins, Wilco and Lucero, and some good old Rolling Stones. And also Over the Rhine–if you’re not familiar with them, listen to this; it is so hauntingly beautiful.

Feeling excited and inspired by the books I’m reading on the proposal process. It’s so much fun to page through all these incredible insights as I’m putting my own proposal together.

Transcribing fantastic interviews. Slowly but surely.

Basking in our already summer-like weather. This weekend it was 100 degrees. Eric and I went to the farmer’s market early to buy all the fruits, and then we came home and promptly jumped in the pool. It was majestic.

Exulting in the experience of walking past the entrances to underground parking garages on hot days. The cool breeze they send up is as delicious as a milkshake, and just as refreshing.

Looking forward to so many things: seeing an awesome Berkeley friend, heading to Oberlin at the end of May, Eric’s mom coming to visit in June, and our anniversary! Don’t think I haven’t been spending every spare moment looking for a nice place to stay in Lake Arrowhead…because I have. Any tips?

Eating cherries and strawberries and apricots like there’s no tomorrow. And making a solemn pledge to start eating Greek yogurt for breakfast (instead of, you know, cookies), even though I find it to be the same consistency as spackling paste. I plan to cram it full of flax meal and walnuts. I shall triumph!

Excited to be finally working on our Istanbul scrapbook.

Loving simple weekends like this past one, when the most important thing is just to be together and enjoy each other.

Feeling so very, very happy to be right where I am, doing just what I’m doing.

Thanks, Mom

Me and MommyNow that I’m old enough to understand everything that you’ve done for me, I find my mind blown by it on a pretty regular basis. I really don’t know how you did it all, but I know you’d do it all again in a heartbeat. You taught me to laugh, to love the Beatles and books, to treat everyone I meet with love and kindness, to do everything I do the very best I can. You taught me how to love and how to have fun, how to see that flaws just add character. You encouraged me to try every new thing I could and to always keep learning, just by being the person you are. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that. Thanks for driving me all over town, for teaching me how to drive (eee!), and for letting me go off to Russia all by myself. Twice. That’s the stuff grace is made of, I know it. Thanks for always being happy to hear my voice, for always welcoming me home, for drying my tears and for laughing with me loud enough to make everyone else in the restaurant complain. Thanks for always being so much fun. The whole internet couldn’t contain all the things I have to thank you for. You are such a treasure, and I love you.

Do What You Love

Do What You LoveI stumbled upon this little gem of wisdom on the sidewalk in Napa a few weeks ago, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. It’s such an important thing to remind ourselves of, however our days may be filled. I’m really happy to say that I love my work, that writing exhilarates me, that building my career excites me in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time. But I also want to do what I love in my free time, and not just because I find that my work is better when I have it in a healthy balance with my hobbies. My whole life is better when I devote my down time to things that recharge and energize me. This is why I’m so dedicated to making monthly fun goals, and why I make sure to do something with my hands every day. However, I am so not the master of this endeavor. I try my very best to be conscious of my time, and to be aware of the times of day when I’m most tired (…and then use those times for tea or reading!) Probably not many people accomplish as much in a day as they hope to or plan to, but I’ve been making it a point to reflect on my goals for the day in the morning and to review the day at night before I go to bed. It has been a really awesome help thus far, and it’s led me to make a few resolutions. Okay, maybe just one. I want to shift my schedule a bit. For a long time I had a very reasonable bedtime and waking time. And then a few weeks ago I got some really riveting library books…and starting staying up way too late! And consequently getting up later than I wanted to. I never really went too wild, but for some reason I am just really sensitive to small changes in my sleep habits. I wasn’t sleeping until 11am–more like 9:30. But I’m feeling like I’m really missing my mornings, and I want to roll things back so I can make better use of my time. And so…once I finish typing this, I am going to bed! Hopefully I can get this little shift underway, and then I can do more of the things of I love in my daylight hours. How about you? Are doing what you love? I so hope the answer is yes!

DIY Gatsby-Inspired Statement Necklace

DIY Statement NecklaceYears and years ago, I bought some loose beads and findings from the Depot, and I finally made a necklace with them! I knew I wanted to use a red and black color scheme, and I love how it came out.

DIY Statement NecklaceThis is what it looked like before: sad and broken, but with lots of potential.

DIY Statement NecklaceThe beads are plastic, but they’re shiny, so they make the cut for Cameron bling.

DIY Statement NecklaceBut these little guys are actually my favorite. They look so elegant and 20s, and they make it so easy to work with multiple strands.

DIY Statement NecklaceI wanted to use ribbon for the top, and I had just enough to pull it off.

DIY Statement NecklaceEven though I’m a novice at jewelry-making, this necklace was super easy to put together, and I’m so happy to have given new life to an old strand of beads. And now, if anyone wants to invite me to a Gatsby party, I am ready to go!

Bay Area Highlight Reel

Succulent FlowersI have shared a little bit here and there about my trip up to the Bay to see my parents. But there are still so! many! pictures! And so many adventures I haven’t told you about yet. So here’s a little highlight reel. Because I don’t want to forget any of this, ever. Our hotel in Burlingame was out on a little isthmus (I jump at every rare chance I have to use that majestic word), and we had a half-mile walk along the Bay to get into town. I loved it. The water, the wind, the gorgeous flowers. I’d happily pitch my tent there forever.

MommyMy parents stay at this hotel pretty frequently when my dad is teaching, and I love coming back to its pretty chandeliers. Also, we were on the executive floor: free cookies and snacks and tea and coffee all day! I really felt like a high roller. A high roller with a lot of tea bags. On an unrelated note, isn’t my mom the cutest ever? I adore her.

Books Inc.While dad was teaching, mom and I were out on the loose in Burlingame. Of course, we made a beeline to the nearest bookstore.

Bling CityAnd the nearest bling store.

BurlingameWhen dad was finished teaching, we’d head back into town for dinner. Burlingame is the cutest little town, with lots of history. This pretty building is part Caltrain station, part local history museum. Fun!

DaddyAfter a few days down south, we moved up to a hotel in the city. On our way out of town, we stopped to buy a bottle of one of my dad’s favorite wines. Isn’t he cute?

CheersOnce we got settled in, we had a nice relaxing glass of wine.

Indonesian Rice TableAnd we headed out to an Indonesian place for dinner, where we had a gigantic rice table. Glorious! And so many leftovers.

GlassesA shot from getting ready in the morning. My glasses and my mom’s glasses. Apple don’t fall far from the (best) tree (ever)!

Golden GateWe spent Saturday in Napa and Sonoma. Been a long time since I’ve been over the Golden Grate Bridge. It was marvelous.

Fremont DinerWe ate lunch at the Fremont Diner, and it was heavenly. Sitting outside in the sun is something you never take for granted in a fog-heavy area, and this was an unexpected gift. Like the entire Barbie doll line, complete with all the latest fashions, on Christmas morning. My mom wrote about it here. Brilliantly, of course.

SonomaI loved this sign.

Fremont DinerAnd I loved the food. Mmmm. I don’t know when I’ve ever had such fresh green beans.

Bouchon BakeryWe stopped by Bouchon Bakery to pick up bread and pastries…and felt right at home in the long line (Bakesale Betty, anyone?)

FaillaThen it was time for a wine tasting at Failla before dinner at Terra, where my dear friend Steve is chef de cuisine. This stupendous dinner was the reason for our trip to Napa, and it was, really, truly, incredible. I think my mom is planning to write a post about it (I hope?!), so I’ll link to it when it’s up. It was pretty much the dinner of a lifetime.

Mrs. Dalloway'sOn to Sunday! We hit all the high points in the East Bay. I could not resist taking a picture of the Elmwood Cafe through the window of Mrs. Dalloway’s. They are two of my favorite places ever. Any bookstore that has the scent of coffee and pastries wafting in through an open internal window gets five stars from me.

ElmwoodAh, the old neighborhood. I miss it so. A stroll up and down College Avenue is always a perfect Sunday afternoon activity.

Tea!We stopped for tea and coffee at Cole, beloved of my heart.

Berkeley BowlAnd finished up the day with a trip to Berkeley Bowl, produce heaven on earth! This was a looong post (and you should totally pat yourself on the back if you made it all the way to the end), but it is wonderfully overwhelming to me to see just how much fun we crammed into a few days. Can’t wait till the next trip!

On Mondays

On MondaysMonday, you are not anybody’s favorite day, at least not at the surface of things. But don’t take it too hard. You are the day when we remember how much we love our work (not the filing and the photocopying, but the real meat and potatoes of what we do), the day when we still cram in a little weekend nostalgia while we answer emails, the day when we settle back into our productive routines, just like a comfy pair of jeans. So even if you aren’t going to win any popularity contests, take heart: you’re the day when we can see our equations and spreadsheets and manuscripts with fresh eyes. You’re the day that blesses us with the solution to our coding problem and the elusive conclusion to our chapter. Thank you, Monday, for channeling weekend relaxation into progress we can be proud of. You’re the best. Even if we all take it back the minute our alarm goes off.

The Earl Grey Experiment

Earl GreyIt’s no secret that I love Earl Grey. It seriously brightens my every afternoon, and the ritual of putting on the kettle and measuring out the leaves makes me feel like I am doing a tiny nice thing for myself. I always always appreciate it. I have known for a long time that the citrus aroma of Earl Grey comes from bergamot, or specifically, from the super concentrated oil of bergamot. But imagine my glee when I found bergamots in stock at Berkeley Bowl last month! I could make my own Earl Grey! And I even found this super handy little guide to the process.

Earl GreyHere is my bergamot, ready to be peeled.

Earl GreyAnd here are its beauteous peels, filling my kitchen with a peppery citrus scent and waiting to be dried.

Earl GreyI just left them out in the kitchen for a day or so, and they were ready to go.

Earl GreyI broke them into small pieces and added to them to some very neutral black tea. That’s all!

Earl GreyI brewed some this afternoon as a test drive, and…it needs more bergamot! I should have bought three or four of them, but alas, hindsight is 20/20. I am sure the oil is more concentrated than the peels, so I’ll add some more next time. Or I’ll use my secret weapon: I juiced the bergamot, so I can always add that secret sauce. For now, I am grateful that I can leave it to the professionals, since I definitely haven’t mastered this art, but this was still a really fun project!

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