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2013 August

Istanbul Scrapbook: Day 4

Istanbul ScrapbookI’ve got travel on the brain over here. I’m just back from Seattle, and it’s about two weeks (eee!) until we leave for Greece. Also, I invited myself on a trip to Oakland in October (so! excited!), and Eric was just asked to speak at a conference in Santa Fe in November (you better believe I sent him an all caps reply to that email). An embarrassment of riches! I am feeling so incredibly lucky for all the peregrinations of 2013, since I know the time will come when it won’t be so easy for us to travel. But until then, we are making hay while the sun is shining! And so here we are on Istanbul Day 4, a day of great exploration.

Istanbul ScrapbookI love that this first page is mostly scenes from around our neighborhood. We rented an apartment in Galata, and we were so happy to be on that side of the city.

Istanbul ScrapbookWe went up on the roof every single day, and this afternoon the skies were stunningly clear, the water an endless string of sapphires.

Istanbul ScrapbookThis was our little neighborhood market, where we stopped almost every day for bread and water. Look at the size of those cabbages! They’re on the right, next to the black traffic guard.

Istanbul ScrapbookTea, tea, tea. We saw these tiny tulip glasses on every window ledge. Of course, we had to bring some back with us.

Istanbul ScrapbookThe day’s adventures are chronicled here, including our beloved funicular, which saved us from countless trudges up the steep hill to Galata.

Istanbul ScrapbookWe missed the Blue Mosque the day before, but this time we made it in. The vastness of the space inside is just overwhelming. There’s a preternatural hush that never failed to move me.

Istanbul ScrapbookAnd…the spice bazaar! Everyone I know who’s been to Istanbul winds up here three or four times, and we were no exception. We just kept wanting more deliciousness to take home, for ourselves and for others.

Istanbul ScrapbookWe also had lunch in the most lovely and spacious place above the bazaar, and we found another old bazaar behind the mosque. A red letter day! By the end of our exploring, we were so thirsty that we sat down at a cafe and ordered the biggest bottle of water they had. And then it was time to return to our rooftop for another look at the gorgeous view.

Lace Zippered Pouches

Lace Zippered PouchesHello from Book Proposal Land! Between that and being out of town last week, I am still pretty behind on blogs and comments, but *thank you all so much* for your sweet comments on yesterday’s post. They really meant so much to me. Eric always reads my posts when they go public (and he’s the first reader when they go live at 3am on nights when he’s observing), but every so often, when I write a post like yesterday’s, I ask him to read it the night before. I put my hand on my chest and tell him, “This has my heart in it.” I am so glad my heart came through. Thank you, you wonderful people! And now, on to the item of the day. I made a bunch of things in the weeks before I went to Seattle, but I could not show them to you because some of them were secret surprises for my mom. I love showing up with gifts in hand, and these were super fun to make. They are, of course, infinitely flawed in their own individual ways, but, as my mom taught me, that only adds character.

Lace Zippered PouchesThe most fun part of this for me was the fabric. It all came from my scrap pile. The lace is from a dress I bought in Berkeley for $2 that did not end up fitting me AT ALL. It was a pretty ivory color, but I decided teal would be more fun, so I dyed it along with this polka dot dress. The black fabric underneath is from a dress my Besfrinn gave me that no longer fit me. Now it has a new life!

Lace Zippered PouchesThose hot pink zippers are from the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse. I bought them the day after I filed my dissertation, in a euphoric stupor. That’s the best kind of stupor there is, in case you were wondering. The yellow zipper pulls were made from cording given to me by my sweet friend Michele. I knotted them and then put some glue on the ends to keep them from fraying.

Lace Zippered PouchesBut my very favorite part might be the lining: silver silk! I got the fabric for $1/yard at the Depot way back in the day, and I used it to make the simple dress I wore to my PhD graduation ceremony. I still have some scraps left, and I knew it would be the perfect thing for the lining.  If I were picking out new fabric for this project, I would probably have chosen luscious eggplant and sage colors, but I love that these little pouches gave me an excuse to use colors I may never have put together, but which I absolutely love. Eric warmed my heart immensely when we were first dating by telling me that he really appreciated my “found objects” approach to fashion. Swoon. But it’s true–I love the creativity that results from limitations, like, ahem, only buying things on clearance, or only working with fabric that you already have.

Lace Zippered PouchesNow, I am really proud of these slightly misshapen little guys, especially since it was one of my goals to learn to put in a zipper this month, but I am in no way qualified to give a tutorial. Instead I will send you over to the one I used, which is superb: here you go. I really love making things that are useful, and I hope my mom will get some good use out of her little pouch, whether she fills it with jewelry or coins or vitamins. I took both pouches to Seattle so she could choose which one she wanted (weirdly trapezoidal or slightly too skinny, since someone sewed over part of the zipper), and then I used the other one to carry the rental car keys, since they were too bulky for my dad’s pocket. The only thing more fun than making things is getting to really use them. And now if you’ll excuse me, it has been brought to my attention that our duvet cover on the guest bed is sporting some wear and tear…time to get quilting!

On Being an Adult and Being a Child

LoveI think I am pretty straightforward about the fact that I adore my parents. THEY ARE AWESOME, as those of you who have met them can definitely testify. I feel incredibly lucky that I was able to combine two of my favorite things last week: 1) spending time with my parents and 2) exploring a new city. The whole thing came about because I suddenly missed them something terrible and became fixated on the idea of helping my mom organize her craft room and spending a week drinking coffee, reading books, and making things. The timing wasn’t going to work, but then this Seattle trip worked out instead. Hurrah! I have been thinking a lot lately about being a child and about how wonderful it is to enjoy this stage of our relationship. Eric and I don’t have kids yet, but I am much closer in time to the experience of having my own children than the experience of being a child myself. I’ve been thinking about how every single one of us starts out as a tiny baby, and how we always will be the baby of the two people who nursed and nurtured us, who guided us into adulthood. It was both fun and funny to hold this in my mind as we were out exploring together last week. (This picture is blurry and not wide enough due to my short arms, but it captures well our glee at all landing in the same place).

Sweet DaddyOne of the great joys of being an adult child, and, I imagine, of having adult children, is that you get to know each other as people. I am sure that when we are little, we can’t imagine what kind of books our dad likes or what mom would like to do on a quiet Saturday morning. Our parents love us and feed us and enjoy our enjoyment of life, but I am not sure we can see much beyond that at a young age. In those bratty teenage years (confession: I was a brat), I think our parents become even more two-dimensional–it is absurd to think of them having lives and ideas of their own, of the days when they were teenagers themselves. But it is so much fun to get to know your parents after you pass through that little purgatory. You might have an idea that your dad likes planes and your mom likes knitting, but it’s so incredible to have conversations with them about their memories and experiences, about their hopes and goals, about the things they treasure most in life. My parents both have blogs (mom here, dad here), and I have loved getting to read stories I never heard there, getting to hear their voices in a new way, laughing until I cry, smiling until my face hurts. This trip was so much fun in that regard. My dad had planned a few things for our trip that he really wanted to do, and it was *so much fun* watching him enjoy them. We went on a tour of the Boeing factory north of Seattle, which was legitimately awesome, but the most fun part was seeing my dad smile so much and have such a great time. I have so many pictures of him smiling, and it just makes my heart sing. (NB: They will not let you take photos inside the factory, and they are super adamant about that, but that is a gigantic plane designed to transport other airplane parts, and it was seriously impressive).

Sweet DaddyInside the museum, they had a map for marking where you were from. I noticed that there were no pins at all on Memphis, so mom and I called dad over to put his pin in. Adorable.

ChihulyThe next day, my dad got us tickets to the Chihuly Garden and Glass, which was also amazing. So many bright colors and gorgeous shapes, and just the sheer imagination of one man was enough to knock you off your feet. But the best part was seeing my dad enjoy it so much.

IPA WeekSeattle is a great city for beer as well as coffee, so we went to lots of tap houses and brew pubs. One of them, unbeknownst to us, was having an IPA week, with an extra 40 really rare IPAs on tap. That happens to be my dad’s favorite kind of beer, and I loved seeing him so excited about it. On our way out of the restaurant, the manager saw me taking a picture of dad in front of their IPA Week sign, and he invited us to come back to the keg room. You can just imagine what a 200-keg tap room looks like. Daddy was so excited, and I loved it.

CuteOn the other two days of the trip, my mom and I took the reins, and we wandered through four neighborhoods in one day, and then covered a whole island the next. My mom made friends with this gorgeous St. Bernard outside a shop, and I loved it.

So Much AwesomeMy mom and I are so alike and share so many of the same interests that it would be impossible not to have fun with her, even if we were just folding laundry. But when we stumbled upon this gem of a thrift store on the island, we both knew we’d hit a gold mine, and it was so much fun.

CutenessMy mom is game for anything, including making friends with a statue, and it was a delight to watch her take everything in, from the ridiculous bounty of the markets to the seal we spotted from the ferry and the sheer deliciousness of Delancey pizza. It’s amazing to me how much this joy runs both ways. My parents put in the work of sleepless nights and diaper changes and inane cartoons and whining teenagers, and now they get to know us as adults. And we get to know them. When Eric and I look forward to having children, it’s hard to see past those initial joys: holding your children, watching them learn to speak and walk, laughing about the hilarious and adorable things they will undoubtedly do and say. That time is a treasure, for sure. But this trip made me also look forward to the time when we will know our children as adults, and they will know us too, as individuals.

LoveIt’s kind of a given, at least in our family, that parents will never let you pay for things. They take pleasure in being generous with us, and we give them joy in receiving their gifts, even when we’re in our third decade. When we are small, we don’t know how to thank our parents. Our minds don’t have the capacity to comprehend the sacrifices they have made for us, and the fact that we are the center of their world. We thank them with our spaghetti-stained smiles and our hugs and kisses and our soft breath on their necks when we fall asleep in their arms. Even when we gain the ability to speak, it doesn’t occur to us to thank them for the most mundane of things, like dropping us off at swim practice or doing our laundry or feeding us dinner every night. And then there are those horrible teenage years, in which we not only do not thank our parents, but blame them for everything. We don’t see the light until we’re adults or even parents ourselves, and that’s just how it is. Every parent knows that when they hold their newborn, and they wouldn’t have it any other way (well, maybe they would settle for a little less teenage entitlement, but that’s about it). And so, having grown up and seen the light myself, and having seen some of my dearest friends become parents themselves, I make it a point to thank my parents for everything. They’d do it all anyway, even if I didn’t thank them, but I want them to know that I appreciate everything they do for me. I want to them to hear thank yous for all those years when I couldn’t or wouldn’t say it.

CoffeeAnd so it was pretty funny when we were having coffee at the Chihuly Museum and my dad didn’t have the right change. He asked my mom for a ten-dollar bill, and she didn’t have one, so I reached into my wallet and grabbed one. As we were getting up to leave, I thanked my dad for the coffee, and he said, “But you paid for it!” My mom and I looked at each other and burst into laughter, and I said (pardon my French here), “Yeah! It’s about damn time!” We laughed all the way out into the garden.

Ice! Cream!My parents paid for the meals, but I brought my own money for souvenirs and such, and I did manage to buy my dad a chocolate bar. I used my card for some things, but I also ran out of cash quickly because I just hadn’t thought to bring much. On our last day of the trip, we were strolling around Whidbey Island, and I inhaled the unmistakable scent of fresh waffle cones. Ice cream. I needed some. I was still kind of full from lunch, and the line was long, so I kept putting off going over to the shop. Finally I decided to go, and my parents said they’d wait for me outside, since it was crowded in there, and they were too prudent to eat ice cream after a decadent quiche for lunch. My mom was going to take some pictures, and my dad was going to read his book. “But wait!” I said, “I don’t have any money!” And then we all laughed again, and I became a grinning five-year-old, ecstatic that my mom had given me money for the ice cream truck.

LoveI know that my parents would move heaven and earth for me, and I hope they know that I would do the same for them. They’re my treasures. And even though I’m out here thousands of miles away making my own way in the world, I’ll never tire of the comfort of my mom pressing a twenty-dollar bill into my hand on an airport shuttle bus, so I’ll have money to buy myself breakfast. It’s not about the money: it’s that this is the last parting gesture of care and nurturing she can give me before I fly back off to my own little family. I understand that, and so instead of protesting that I can just use my credit card, I hug her and say, “Thank you.”

LoveMy parents and I were flying back on separate airlines, and we knew we’d have to get off the airport shuttle bus at different stops. We got to mine, and I had to get down with my suitcase, but my parents came down too to kiss me goodbye. A sweet, sweet woman who must have children of her own told us, “You know, the terminals are all connected, if you want to stay with her. I don’t want you to have to say goodbye to her out here!” And so we all grasped at this reprieve and went through security together, which was especially great, since my dad’s pre-screened status bumped my mom and I up to the first class line. Saying goodbye is never easy. I pretty much always cry, and I am pretty sure they might too. It’s never fun to be apart from the people you love, the people who are your home. But I was so thankful for the sweet time we shared. And so I trudged off to my gate and bought myself breakfast and coffee on the way, and I carried it, and them, back on the plane with me.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place MarketAside from the Space Needle, Pike Place Market is probably the biggest cultural landmark in Seattle, and for good reason. I love browsing around markets, so I knew we couldn’t miss this one. My parents have been to Seattle before, so I hoped I wouldn’t bore them too much by dragging them back to the market, but it turns out that 1) it is impossible to ever see the whole thing, and 2) my parents like looking at pretty things as much as I do. They are the best. We probably stopped by the market three or four times just to take it all in. So much loveliness.

Pike Place MarketEven though I don’t eat much fish, it was amazing to see the gigantic salmon. The stand at the front of the market is famous for tossing the fish around, and I was hoping to see that, but we didn’t. However, see that flat fish at the front of the booth? I am probably ruining all their fun by telling you this, but it’s plastic, and they have it rigged to shoot pellets of ice at you when you come close to it. Ha!

Pike Place MarketThe range of fish was just incredible. I liked looking at them, even if I didn’t buy any.

Pike Place MarketThe produce was just as beautiful. Ah, chanterelles, my love. We went to a little French bistro on Whidbey Island on Sunday, and I had a quiche with chanterelles, fingerling potatoes, Swiss cheese, and spinach. I don’t even like eggs, and it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. So, mental note: acquire these things. Mix with eggs and cream. Put in crust. Eat whole thing. Such are my plans. And you lobster mushrooms don’t look half bad either.

Pike Place MarketChampagne grapes! So adorable.

Pike Place MarketAlso, rambutan!

Pike Place MarketAnd some clever instructions for eating lychees.

Pike Place MarketGiant fennel!

Pike Place MarketThe flowers were just stunning too. I couldn’t believe this gorgeous dahlia bouquet was only $5.

Pike Place MarketOh la la.

Pike Place MarketThere are several lavender farms in the area, and their beautiful purple blossoms filled me with glee. Purple is the best color, you know.

Pike Place MarketLocal honey!

Pike Place MarketThere are also plenty of prepared food stands. This is where I got a giant chocolate croissant. Shopping makes you hungry, you know.

Pike Place MarketThe market has a handful of buildings, and I loved the flowers draping down from the balconies.

Pike Place MarketIs this not idyllic?

Pike Place MarketIf I lived in Seattle, I’d happily go there every day. So much to see, so much to taste: it’s a little slice of heaven.

Farewell, Seattle

Space NeedleWell, Seattle, you’ve been tons of fun. We’re really sad to be packing our bags, especially with the weather this lovely. There are going to be so many picture-studded posts of our adventures. But right now I must go to bed because we have to leave for the airport at 5:15am. That’s right, 5:15am. I am sure I will be a zombie for most of tomorrow, but I will be back to my verbose ways by Tuesday, no doubt. In the meantime, thanks so much for following our trip here and on Twitter and Instagram!

Adirondack Phone Chair

Adirondack Phone ChairHello, internet friends! We are still living it up here in Seattle, and every evening we come back to crash at our rental condo a little more tired and a little more happy. Today we went to the Boeing Museum and Factory (wheeeee, gigantic planes being assembled before your very eyes!) and celebrated my birthday a little early at Delancey (more on that ridiculously delightful decadence soon). When we got home, my parents gave me some birthday surprises, and one of them was this gorgeous purple Adirondack phone chair. My dad made a blue one for himself a few months ago and shared his process on his blog. I fell in love with how adorable it was, and I was hoping he would make me one, you know, so my phone doesn’t keep falling off my desk when I’m facetiming them. And also because it was just so very cute. And, hurray, my dad made me one in my favorite color! In the photo above, the chairs are out by the pool and they look full size, but they are just the right size for a cell phone to rest in. Adorable! We took a lot of cute pictures of my phone in the chair tonight, and my dad emailed them to me, but somehow they did not arrive in my inbox, and now my dad has gone to bed. I guess that’s what I get for waiting until the witching hour to write my blog posts. In any case, I will update this post with those pictures in the morning, when I can access them. In the meantime, check out my dad’s post about making these chairs: part one and part two. I am so touched by his thoughtfulness and craftsmanship. I love that my dad loves to make things, and that his precise scientific skills find a home in his art–everything he makes is carefully measured and painted and proportioned. I am so inspired by his unique eye and steady hand. And now we are off…to the Space Needle and the Chihuly Gardens and the hipster neighborhoods full of coffee houses and brew pubs, and even to an island with lavender fields: a straight up embarrassment of riches. I hope you have an amazing weekend too!

Adirondack Phone ChairUpdate! The photos were somehow delivered very early this morning, so now you can see the phone chair in all its glory!

Adirondack Phone ChairI love it!

Hello from Seattle!

Hello from Seattle!Hello, hello from the Pacific Northwest! I flew up this morning, and my parents flew over from Memphis. We met up at the airport, and the wild rumpus of fun has begun! We have a lot of awesome stuff planned for the next few days, and I can’t wait. Just being with my parents is a gift outright–they are my people, and being with them brings me home every time. Also: thank you, all you kind souls who visit this blog, and thank you even more for your sweet comments and tweets and follows! I will probably only be at my computer in small snatches until early next week, but I am excited to get all caught up on comments and blogs and tweets and Instagrams. Hope you are having a majestic week too!

Smitten Kitchen’s Burst Tomato Galette

Burst Tomato GaletteSay hello to our new summer favorite. I was totally planning to make something else for dinner a few weeks ago (what it was has now been utterly forgotten), and then this post popped up in my feed. Burst tomatoes. Corn and zucchini and cheese. A lemon and sour cream crust. And I threw my other plan out the window. I just made this again for a Huntington picnic last weekend, and it was even better the second time. It just tastes like summer, and the lemony tang of the crust pairs so beautifully with the succulent tomatoes and hint of chile pepper heat.

Burst Tomato GaletteA majestic thing has happened since we got our food processor and stand mixer as wedding presents (thank you, thank you, kind family and friends!): I am no longer afraid of pastry. I might be afraid of it if I had to do it by hand without the help of my chef friend Steve, but technology has rescued me. Dough is so easy to whip up in one or the other of them that I do it all the time. And that’s the real secret to overcoming fear, isn’t it? Anyhow, this dough is pretty sticky and tacky. You may not need the ice water that comes at the end of the ingredient list–I didn’t. It’s a bit of a pain to roll out, even in my cheater way, in between two pieces of plastic wrap. But it helps to pop it back in the fridge for a few minutes after each stage, and…it is totally worth it. I would put anything, anything in this crust and eat it gladly. I have already been pondering fall and spring adaptations. As you can see in this picture, my edges are kind of wonky. Pay no attention to the wonkiness! Only pay attention to the deliciousness.

Burst Tomato GaletteThis whole post appears to be going in reverse order, so let’s get to the burst tomato part. Do you know how cranberries burst when you stew them for Thanksgiving chutney? Tomatoes do the same thing, apparently, if you turn the heat up to high and cover the pan. They will get a nice char, and you will definitely want to turn on your oven fan, but the zucchini and corn sort of do the deglazing for you, and you’re left with these intensely flavored little bites of wonderful. It’s a pretty genius idea.

Burst Tomato GaletteIt is a little bit of work, for sure. But not a ton. And it is so, so satisfying.

Burst Tomato Galette
Only slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Serves 4 to 6 as a main or 8 as an appetizer or side dish

For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces or 113 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chill again
1/4 cup (60 grams) plain yogurt or sour cream
2 teaspoons (10 ml) fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup (60 ml) ice water

For the filling:
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
1/4 teaspoon coarse Kosher or sea salt
3 cups (about 450 grams) cherry or grape tomatoes
1 ear corn, cut from the cob (about 1 cup)
1 small (8 ounces or 225 grams) zucchini or summer squash, diced
1 bundle (3 to 4 ounces or 85 to 115 grams) scallions, thinly sliced (I skipped these. No harm done.)
1/2 cup (2 ounces or 55 grams) grated parmesan

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Make dough: Whisk stir the flour and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle bits of butter over dough and using a pastry blender or your fingertips, work it into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture. With your fingertips or a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour, or up to 2 days.

Make filling: Get down the saute pan with the lid. If you don’t have one, any large lid will do. Add olive oil, tomatoes, salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes (if that’s your thing) to your saute pan then cover and heat over high heat. Roll the tomatoes around from time to time so that they’ll cook evenly. In a few minutes, you’ll hear some putts and pops as the tomatoes burst a little. When most have, remove lid, turn heat down to medium and add zucchini chunks. Saute for two minutes, until they soften. Add corn and cook one minute. Add scallions, just stirring them in, then turn off heat. Adjust seasonings if needed. Transfer mixture to a large plate and spread it out, so that it will cool faster. You want it cooled to at least lukewarm before assembling the galette.

Assemble galette: Heat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured counter, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round and it really doesn’t need to be perfectly shaped. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet; I like to fold my dough gently, without creasing, in quarters then unfold it onto the baking pan. Sprinkle tomato-zucchini-corn mixture with half of parmesan and spoon the mixture into the center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. If any liquid has puddle in plate, try to leave it there as you spoon. Sprinkle with almost all of remaining parmesan, leaving a pinch or two behind for the crust. Fold the border over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open. Brush crust with egg yolk glaze. Sprinkle glaze with last pinches of parmesan.

Bake the galette: For 30 to 40 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Stamp Collage Journal

Stamp Collage JournalEvery now and again you just get lucky in life. A few months ago I was reading Amy’s blog, and she posted about finding a huge bag of old stamps at the thrift store. Her kids were having fun putting them in books, and she had all kinds of ideas of what could be done with them. The next day I decided to go to the thrift store and have a poke around, just to see if I might find a treasure. I thought to myself, “How nice it would be if I could find a big bag of stamps!” And, lo and behold, there they were! I have never seen them before or since, so I think it was a special case of thrift store magic. I don’t know who would donate a ziplock bag full of old international stamps to a thrift store, but to whoever you are: thank you!

Stamp Collage JournalI had so much fun looking through them all. There are a ton from Trinidad and Tobago, a good handful from Hong Kong, and many from Central and South America. I found one lone Soviet treasure, and a handful of gorgeous American ones, circa World War II. This is only about a quarter of them. Could this be the best $1.99 I ever spent? Methinks so.

Stamp Collage JournalOne happy night when Hillary was over for crafting, I sorted them out and started affixing them to this journal. I have *big plans* for it, which I will reveal when they are fully executed, but the cover was the first order of business. I trimmed the stamps down and detached them from their envelope backing, and then I affixed them with rubber cement. Rubber cement is fantastic for getting a smooth finish with no wrinkles.

Stamp Collage JournalOver the next few days, I put several coats of Mod Podge on the surface for some extra shine. That’s it!

Stamp Collage JournalLook at all these glorious stamps! I have one million left, so I am plotting further projects. I am so happy with how this one turned out. I never collected stamps as a kid, but, as they say,  it’s never too late to start.

Our Mantel: An Updated Look

DIY Home DecorFew things seem more central to a home than the hearth. Maybe I feel this way because of my love of the old Russian ovens, which were big enough to take up half a house, and which had convenient little ledges on the top for warm sleeping. Our gas fireplace doesn’t even work (although it could if we shelled out $25 for a charge coupler or something along those lines), and yet I do hope it is the centerpiece of our home, the place where we gather, the place where the things that are most meaningful to us are found. I wrote about our mantel a year and a half ago, and it looks really naked to me in that post. I’ve had some time to think about what I really want to be represented in this space, and I’m really happy with where I’ve landed.

DIY Home DecorThe biggest change is that we moved our engagement photo canvas to our bedroom to make room for a larger wedding canvas. We just love it and the moment it captures. (Thanks to Amy Dale for the gorgeous shot!) The button tree paintings have stayed put, but we moved them out to the side a bit to accommodate the larger canvas.

DIY Home DecorI had also really been wanting to try my hand at wrapping some bottles in yarn. I have been keeping bottles from wine and champagne and fancy vinegars for months, so it was nice to get a few of them out of the way. The yarn is from my current knitting project: a blanket for our living room, so the colors will be echoed there when it’s all finished and on display.

DIY Home DecorI don’t really have a tutorial for wrapping bottles in yarn, but I will say that it’s fairly straightforward until you get to the curved part of the neck: ack! At that point, just give the bottle a good slathering of ModPodge to give the yarn something to stick to as you’re winding it.

DIY Home DecorI got these cute little leather letters at the craft store one day when I needed to break a $20 bill. Fortune smiled upon me. I love our initials together, and I love the vibrant colors.

DIY Home DecorAnd, of course, the pinecones are a new addition. These are the gigantic Ponderosa pinecones I found at Palomar. I hadn’t really given them a thought as decor, even though I loved them, but several people suggested in the comments of that post that I should bring some home with me. Thank you! I am so glad I did, and so happy to have a memory of this special place in our lives right there on the mantel.

Pinecone PickingAs we left Palomar last month, Eric’s dad helped me gather a few pinecones for my collection, and Eric took our picture. I am so glad to have it because it helps me recall the danger of pinecone picking. I mean this in a completely literal fashion: these things will cut you. They totally cut me several times. But then I wised up. I washed them when we got home, to clear out the pine needles and cobwebs and sap, and I didn’t cut myself once. While they were drying, the whole house smelled like a rainy day in a pine forest. A fantastic added bonus.

DIY Home DecorThe garlics (as we so lovingly call them), the leaf garland, and the welded metal heart are all mainstays of the mantel, and they are described in more detail here.

DIY Home DecorI’m so pleased that we’ve gone from this…

DIY Home DecorTo this! More vibrant, more warm, more us.

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