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2013 September

Who’s Your Mommy?

**Hello from Greece! While Eric and I are away, I’ve asked some of my favorite people on earth to write guest posts. This one is from my awesome mom. You can also find her at Mindful Magpie. Subscribing to her blog would definitely be doing yourself a favor!**

This is a message from an experienced Mother. Krug the Thinker’s Mother. I’m taking care of some things for her while she trips off to Greece. without a care in the world. Kids!

Just a few days ago Krug wrote an insightful post about how it feels to be a full fledged adult while simultaneously, in the presence of her parents, getting to be once again six years old. Apparently her Dad and I do a good job of putting her in the “Isn’t She The Most Precious Darling You Ever Saw” seat when we are together. And Krug doesn’t mind occupying that seat at all. Reading her blog post made me think about all the unspoken contracts that exist between parents and children. As parents, we just see to what needs doing for the children without regard for appreciation or recognition. When special events such as vacations or family reunions occur, the children are free of responsibility. The parents’ job is to think ahead, to plan for every contingency. When a child looks forward to a trip or to seeing loved family members, she knows just what to expect from the adults. To whit:

1) To be greeted effusively: Ok, well, on this trip Cameron actually met US at the gate, because she got there first.

Painted Wooden Bead Necklaces2) To be brought surprises: Actually, Cameron had me close my eyes while she put these darling homemade necklaces in my hand. Followed by a sexy little lace bag of all purposes. Which she made for me.

Lace Zippered Pouches3)To take care of necessities: We take no chances on hotel/condo coffee appurtenances. We had our Peet’s coffee and a coffee grinder. From my daughter’s backpack..

Açma4)To be brought special homemade treats: Can you imagine how insanely delicious these simits tasted after a few seconds in the microwave and a swat of butter over the top? We didn’t even let one stray nigella seed go to waste. We licked our fingers and scooped them right up off the napkin. But no, I didn’t bring them. Cameron made them and brought them.

Fremont5)Plan to make fun memories for the children : It just so happened that Cameron had a couple of Seattle books and a typed list of the research she had done about the various cool neighborhoods, including bookstores and coffeeshops.

Record ShopThis meant I got to see:

Fremont Troll the Fremont troll,

Lenin in Fremontthe statue of Lenin,

Delanceydrink Stumptown coffee and eat at Delancey.

Chihuly6)To monitor behavior in public: I didn’t misbehave all that much but Cameron did have to speak to me when I accidentally blinded a man in Delancey with my flashbulb, and when I went into a flowerbed at the Chihuly Gardens to take a picture. She was firm but kind.

7)To ensure the safety of all: We stayed on the eleventh floor of a condo building downtown. What a luxury it was to open the windows wide and let in the cool breeze! We were surprised that there were no screens on the windows; I guess they don’t have many bugs. It would have been heavenly to sleep with the windows open, but … Cameron wouldn’t allow it. She was afraid her dad and I might get up in the night and fall out the window.

Prize8)To allow a little harmless rule breaking: While waiting for a seat at Delancey we ran into a giveaway box in someone’s yard. Cameron didn’t say a word when i found this prize. She let me KEEP it!

PrettyAlso, she let me take a picture of the people’s colorful laundry. I didn’t try jumping on the bed, but I think maybe I should have.

Space Needle9) To let the kids roam a little: After all, it was a vacation! I had the run the gift shop in the Space Needle with absolutely no hovering from Cameron. Even up at the top she was cool, allowing me to go at my own pace around the observation deck where she sometimes couldn’t even see me.

BeautyWait. Wait a minute. As I write this, something feels, um, I’m starting to feel a little like a child. Like a special, darling, beloved child. But that can’t be. When I was my daughter’s age I already had three children. I’ve worn this adult mantle for thirty three years now. That’s the way it is. I am an adult and the parent. And Cameron is my baby. But could it be that I am also HER baby?


Stunner ShadesI am turning 31 today, so I thought it would be a good time to trot out this picture of me in my stunner shades at 3. I am pretty sure I am leaning in to blow out the candles on a birthday cake at my grandmother’s house (and that’s my sweet cousin Meredith next to me). I’ve never been too big on birthdays–wellll…I probably was at 3, but not too much as an adult. I don’t like a lot of fireworks or fanfare, but just a chance to reflect and be grateful. And there’s so much to be grateful for. Cheers to all you September babies! I raise my extra large cup of coffee to you!

Ratatouille Subs

Ratatouille SubsFriends, Romans, countrymen! We got the Smitten Kitchen cookbook for Christmas. I think I gave it to Eric. I can’t remember exactly, since it’s definitely been a gift for both of us. When I opened the book and saw elegant spirals of thin-sliced vegetables winding their way along even rows in a roasting pan like so many colorful dominos, I doubted that I could create anything that beautiful. But I was wrong! Mine may now have her classical form, but it’s still one of the prettiest things I’ve ever taken out of the oven.

Ratatouille SubsThe recipe is fairly simple, and quick as lightning if you have a mandoline (I cannot tell you how many times a week we use that thing–thank you, Amanda Lynn!) I knew Eric would be enthused about it, great lover of eggplant and red pepper and squash as he is. But first! Onions and tomatoes and spices! I’m just gonna go ahead and say that next time we make this, I am going to put this sauce in the bottom of the pan instead. It’s Smitten Kitchen’s red pepper steak sauce, and we have put it on meat, salads, pasta, and pizza…so far. It’s basically a win no matter what you do with it. Except maybe add it to peanut butter.

Ratatouille SubsHere is what my little guys looked like pre-roasting. Not exactly a domino effect, but pretty enough for me! Any dish that has all the colors of a stoplight is a keeper.

Ratatouille SubsAfter the initial layering, I added all my leftover zucchini slices on top, drizzled it with olive oil, and sprinkled it with fresh thyme, my favorite herb on earth.

Ratatouille SubsWe gently layered it onto crusty bread, slathered it with goat cheese, and ate it out on the balcony. Yum!

Ratatouille SubsLook at my amazing bread cutting skills! I am basically a boss. If you are gluten free, this can easily be eaten on its own. It’s sort of an all-vegetable lasagna. I feel like getting into sixth grade book report mode, so here goes. In conclusion, definitely make this for dinner.

Ratatouille Subs
Fom The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

1 long thin zucchini
1 long thin yellow squash
1 long thin japanese eggplant
2 thin red bell peppers
½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 c tomato puree
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
1½ t salt
¼ t red pepper flakes
1 T fresh thyme, chopped
1 long, thin french baguette
4 oz soft goat cheese

-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the tomato puree, garlic, onion, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and red pepper flakes. Spread into the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch baking dish.
-Using a mandoline or sharp knife, cut the squash, eggplant, red pepper and zucchini into ⅛ inch slices.
-Arrange the sliced vegetables in layers over the tomato sauce. You may not need to use all the vegetables. Drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil over the veggies. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon salt and the thyme evenly over the top. Cover the dish with foil and place in the oven for 45 minutes. Once time is up, remove the foil, increase the temperature to 425 degrees and bake for an additional 15 minutes. The vegetables should be tender, but not mushy. Remove the dish from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
-Place the baguette in the oven to warm for 5 to 10 minutes. Once warm, cut in half lengthwise. Spread goat cheese on one side of the baguette. Using a long, thin spatula, pile layers of vegetables and sauce on the other side. Close the sandwich and cut into 4 to 6 portions. Serve immediately.

Tales from Busy Land

Life in the Fast LaneThis has been a hectic week. A happy one, but a busy one. I’m scheduling and formatting guest posts (wheeee, y’all are in for five big treats while I’m in Greece) and calling the phone company and rescheduling dentist appointments, only to find that I had written the appointment on the wrong month in my calendar in the first place. Silly Cameron. I’m doing last-minute shopping and planning and getting a few things out in the mail before we go. I’m looking up day rates at JFK hotels (looooong layover) and putting books on my Kindle and Greek lessons on my iPod. I’m finishing up some freelance work before we go (eee!) and scrambling to finish the library books that have to be returned and scheming to make our meals this week use up all the food we have left, while magically leaving none behind. Every day feels like a marathon, but I am not complaining in the slightest, or suggesting in any way that I am the busiest person ever. It’s just been a long time since we took a trip this long or this far away. I can’t imagine doing all of this with kids too: PROPS, all you awesome parents out there! Anyway, I have several notecards scrawled full of stuff to do, and tonight Eric was looking them over to see if there was anything he could cross off. “Hand washing?!” he read, laughing, “Are you using this list to schedule your personal hygiene?!” And we both just about died laughing. Of course, I meant the laundry that has to be washed by hand before we go, but I appreciated that alternate interpretation so much. I love so many things about Eric, but one of them is that he always keeps me laughing. I was thinking today about romance, and I was smiling as I thought about how even though we do all kinds of traditionally romantic things together (and, after two years of marriage, I have not stopped tackling him with hugs, Calvin-and-Hobbes-style, the minute he walks in the door from work), some of my favorite times with Eric are when we’re solving problems and making decisions, buying plane tickets or discussing work strategies. I love that we’re a team. I love that we have such a strong partnership. And, basically, it’s just fun getting to be with your best friend all the time, no matter what you’re doing. Wherever you find yourself this week, I hope that somebody is making you laugh at your to-do list too.

A Few Little Adventures in Map Making

Map MakingWheeeee, we are entering that stage of packing and planning before a major trip when you realize that there are twenty other things you need to get done before you go. Good news: we found our travel pillows. Bad news: well, there isn’t any, really, except that there’s a lot more to do! But enough of my organizational maelstrom! I wanted to share a few little maps I’ve made (with some expert help from my favorite four-year-olds) in the past few weeks. I put them on the ‘Gram (is that what the cool kids are calling it these days?), but I don’t think I’ve shared them here yet. They were so much fun, and it was a great confidence booster to just trace some parallel lines and use them as a guide for making fancy scripts. Dreaming up imaginary lands takes me right back to childhood, and, luckily, my helpers were happy to usher me back into that enlightened state. I traced the outlines of land and sea, and they suggested the names and the colors. And then I drew a pirate ship and a bunch of dragons. Because obviously every map needs those. What was going to be the compass rose turned into the sun, but what is a map without a sun? Exactly. (Sorry for the blur on this one–too much creative excitement, I suppose!)

Map MakingA few days later, I had another chance to sharpen my skills. Excellent names were suggested for the lands, and I dutifully drew castles. And then I decided that there should be a teapot in this land, and that everyone should have their own cup. I must say, it is really fun making maps to order! I never imagined I’d be designing an eight-tower castle for squirrels, but I am pleased to find myself proficient in this art. I can’t overstate how much these little projects boosted my confidence. Even though I love all things artsy and craftsy, I still hold onto some ideas about my abilities that are probably wrong. I have never thought I was good at drawing, and that feeling persists today (though sweet friends are slowly talking me out of it). Even though I preach a big creativity gospel, that doesn’t mean I don’t belong in the pews myself every Sunday. So, I have my watercolors and my colored pencils and my paper and my ideas. Here are two books that have really inspired me: Personal Geographies and The Art of Urban Sketching. I have big plans, but I hope I get to keep drawing squirrel castles too. They really are the best kind of castles.

Two Years, and Then Some

Two Years and Then SomeI realized at some point this evening that I had totally forgotten about the two-year mark of blogging. It was August 31, and I guess I was a busy bee doing something else. I think that’s a good thing, really. I think it means that my blog has just become a part of my life. It’s like brushing my teeth (only more pleasurable, and, I promise I have been doing that for far more than two years). I haven’t really found any way of denoting this little holiday that I am really linguistically happy with. Blogiversary? Blog birthday? I don’t know. I don’t have a neat little word for it, but I don’t want to miss the opportunity to say THANK YOU, all you wonderful people who read and support me, all you lovely commenters and Tweeters and Instagrammers. I love you all so much. I can say in all honesty that I treasure the friendships that have come about by way of this blog, whether we live continents away from each other or just down the street. However! I do wish you all did live just down the street. That would be awesome.

I started this blog a little over two years ago as a way of coping with the final stages (the death throes?!) of my dissertation and our move to Pasadena, where I knew exactly zero people. It was amazing to me that, even though Eric was at work all day, and I was pounding away on my keyboard in air-conditioned silence, I didn’t feel lonely. Thank you all for being my friends and sharing your lives with me. This is a small place to say, “Hey, good job, self, for showing up and doing this blog thing every weekday for two years!” but it is a much bigger opportunity to say, “Thank you and thank you and thank you again.”

The real start of this was two years ago, but I had one little blogging experiment a year and a half before that. I spent a whole day making my header, I poured my heart out in a few posts, and I told exactly no one about it, except for Eric and my mom. I couldn’t quite reconcile the privacy and identity issues, and I was still neck-deep in a culture that pretty much frowns on hobbies. I was felled by the tidal wave of work and unsureness, and the blog slipped away. It took me a long time to come back to it and to feel good about it. But I am so glad I did. This is the REAL first post I ever wrote, and I stand by it. There are, to be sure, some posts that make me cringe. I can look back and see where I was struggling to find my voice. I am sure that I still am. But I hope that as time goes by, I am becoming a more honest writer. I hope that each evening when I sit down at my computer, I am sailing further away from the islands of cliche and writerly laziness. I hope. Thank you so much for being here for the journey. Hugs and high fives and “love yous” all around. You really are the best.

Project Life: Week 42 and Fresno

Project LifeAt a certain point this year, we reached road trip zone, and that’s what my Project Life pages are going to be representing for, oh, the next 12 spreads or so. I am having so much fun with it because I had some little things saved here and there, and now I finally get to use them! It is a wondrous thing when your life circumstances overlap with the thematics of a ton of awesome free scrapbook supplies that your friend Michele gave you. Wondrous indeed!

Project LifeSo, without further ado, our peregrinations! We drove up to Fresno for the wedding of our dear sweet friends, and we got to see a ton of other dear sweet friends at the same time.

Project LifeIf you’re ever in Fresno, make sure you go to The Train Depot for breakfast. You can have pancakes galore, and biscuits and gravy too, all enjoyed while model trains whir over your head. Awesome.

Project LifeI took this picture before we left. I love it when Eric strikes a pose.

Project LifeSomeone took this shot of us after the wedding, and I’m grateful to have it. Weddings are so universally lovely, a little reminder to us of our promises to each other, and of the joy we felt on our wedding day. Two years later, we’re still having the time of our lives.

Project LifeWe all caught the golden hour outside at the reception. I love this picture of everyone.

Project LifeI didn’t even mind kneeling out in front.

Project LifeThe best part was that we were all invited to the bride’s grandfather’s art studio for brunch the next morning. The things he does with found objects are just insanely inspiring. Also, we were partial to this gigantic rabbit.

Project LifeI love all these awesome people. And miss them!

Painted Wooden Bead Necklaces, Part Deux

Painted Wooden Bead NecklacesI have been wanting to share these necklaces for a few weeks now, but a few of them were secret surprises for my mom, so I had to wait until they were successfully vouchsafed to her. Now I can share them in all their pink and turquoise glory! You may remember my first bead painting attempt, in which I described the output as “little weirdos,” which nonetheless grew on me. Our painting approach this time was, dare I say it, more scientific.

Painted Wooden Bead NecklacesHillary had a can of pink spray paint, so she and the girls and I used that to coat a good handful of them one summer afternoon. It took a few coats and some turning, and then some patient drying on skewers, but they came out just fantastic: shiny, even in color, and perfectly smooth to the touch. Big thanks to Hillary, who did all of the actual hard work on this! (Well, with the help of my two favorite four-year-olds in the world).

Painted Wooden Bead NecklacesLook, now there is a pretty pink box to boot! I must say, aspiring wooden bead painters: spray paint is the way to go.

Painted Wooden Bead NecklacesMeanwhile, back at my decidedly less professional ranch, I decided to try painting some beads with this lovely turquoise craft paint I had bought with one of those never-endingly present Michael’s coupons. I thought that maybe the paint would take evenly if I just submerged the bead in it. Reader, that was false. The paint is too viscous, and you just end up with a heavy blob. So I devised this ingenious system for even coverage. That’s right, I just strung the beads out over the sink, and then covered the sink with foil to protect it from any dripping. We take quality control very seriously around here, you know. For those who are curious, the strings are just taped down on either side of the sink.

Painted Wooden Bead NecklacesMy method was somewhat successful, but it took many coats to cover the deep burgundy of the beads.

Painted Wooden Bead NecklacesTa-da! This is the finished look. Not complete coverage, but at least it has a bit of character?

Painted Wooden Bead NecklacesYou can definitely see a big difference in the finished look of the beads. The hand-painted ones are more matte and show all their brushstrokes. Ah well, variety is the spice of life! The technical term for visible brushstrokes on paintings is impasto, and Eric once creamed us all at a word game when he played it. So, I’ll take it!

Painted Wooden Bead NecklacesI had enough beads (and juuuust enough string!) to make six necklaces, so six necklaces I made. I laid them out and put them into patterns by bead size and color, but there’s no real method to my madness.

Painted Wooden Bead NecklacesI made some that were just pink…

Painted Wooden Bead NecklacesBut mostly I mixed the colors. I realized when I looked at all the beads that maybe they looked very..boy or girl? Hillary assured me that they don’t look too baby shower, so that’s the story I’m sticking to. I love that these necklaces are in bright and cheery summer colors.

Painted Wooden Bead NecklacesMy mom and I wore our pink necklaces on the same day, and I thought I had a picture of her in hers, but alas, I don’t have a good one. I was hoping to get one of us together, but that was a busy day. So here is, at least, a picture of me wearing mine, on the roof of the building where we stayed. I should have had mom come and stand beside me, but it was cold up there, and I must not have been firing on all cylinders. In any case, these were fun necklaces to make, and even more fun to give away.

Painted Wooden Bead NecklacesUpdate! My dad is the best, and he sent me this picture of my mom and I in our necklaces! Thank you, daddy!


MalibuWe have been wanting to go to the beach for such a long time, but it just hasn’t really been hot enough. Not that I’m complaining about that! It’s just that the Pacific is cold, even this far south, and if the temperature isn’t hovering somewhere in the 100-degree range, you might as well bring a sweater. In the ocean. Or a wetsuit, I guess–that would be more efficient. Over Labor Day weekend, it finally got hot, and we headed west to Malibu with Hillary and her family. We had the best time.

MalibuIt’s funny, Malibu. We’d never been there before, and it totally conjured up images of pink Barbie jeeps for me. It’s a beautiful place, stretched out for 20 miles along the ocean. We drove past Pepperdine, and let’s just say that if I had gone to school there, I would have gotten significantly less work done. It’s so strange visiting places you’ve heard about all your life. But it’s wonderful to be able to make them your own. It was fantastic to go with Hillary’s family too because they know the secret magic way to the prettiest beach. I wish I had captured this somehow, but once when we were stopped at a light behind them, I started raising the roof, and they all saw me and raised the roof right back. Few things are cuter in life than seeing two pairs of four-year-old arms raising the roof. It was awesome.

This Is How I Feel About The OceanI cannot exactly say the water was warm, despite the hot weather. In fact, it was cold enough that we all pretty much screamed and ran when the water lapped up against our feet. But slowly, very slowly, I started to inch in deeper, and then, finally, finally, I was out swimming in the waves. It was the first time I’ve really been swimming in the ocean since our honeymoon, and that was two years ago. It’s a hard feeling to describe: you feel comfortable, but are simultaneously aware that some of your extremities are numb. It’s too much fun to stop, though. It was a powerful and moving experience to be that deeply in the ocean (mom and dad, don’t worry, I wasn’t far out!), to be fully embraced by something that enormous and life-sustaining. I could have stayed out there for hours, giggling like a child every time a wave lifted me three feet up in the air and gently rocked me back down. I didn’t even mind a bit when the ocean straight up smacked me in the back of the head with a big wave. Repeatedly. I guess that’s what I get for turning my back. The water was so many shades of blue, with touches of turquoise and cobalt and sapphire. It was one of the best experiences of this summer, by far. I would gladly go back and swim in the ocean every day until October. I think this year is actually going to be the first time ever that I’ve felt like I wasn’t ready for summer to end. I make a lot of noise about not liking the dry heat, but the truth is that I’ve grown accustomed to the warm breeze at night and the complete freedom to leave all sweaters behind (in my case, they’re collecting dust under my bed). If this weather allows for more ocean swimming, then I say bring it on.

MalibuWe were lucky enough to see some dolphins and seals swimming not all that far away from us. Amazing! I just read this incredible little book (Grayson) about a woman who swam with a baby whale in the Pacific, and it was so moving. I kept thinking about all the treasures she saw in the water, not at all far from the shore. It blows my mind how much diversity of life is present in the ocean. I feel so grateful every time I get to see even a little bit of it.

MalibuDown at the end of the beach is Point Dume, where many brave souls were rock climbing. Impressive!

MalibuThe beach we went to also featured one of my favorite ocean elements: tide pools! I love seeing the sea anemones and mussels, and, if I’m lucky, starfish. These blue mussels were just stunning. If I’d found any empty shells, I definitely would have brought them home with me. These little guys were all thriving among the waves and the moss.

MalibuI searched high and low, but I could not identify these claw-like little guys. Does anyone know what they are? (Update! These are gooseneck barnacles, identified by Eric’s dad! Thank you! Here is some really cool information about them.)

MalibuI wish I had been able to take more pictures of the tide pools, but the tide was coming in, and I got seriously splashed. I gave Eric my phone for safe keeping, and he secretly took pictures of me delighting in the sea anemones. They are such fascinating and beautiful little creatures, with their dozens of tiny little arms poised and ready to catch a snack.

MalibuWe had such a beautiful time exploring and spending the day with dear friends. We splashed in the water with the girls, had a luxurious picnic, and tried on each others’ sunglasses. There was so much laughter and so much joy. Eric and I stayed from about 11 to 4, and then we got changed and went to dinner in Westwood. We got home as the sun was setting and dragged our salty and sandy selves upstairs. We were tired, we were slightly sunburned (despite our best sunscreen efforts), and we were so, so happy.

September 2013 Goals

September GoalsHappy September! I am keeping it short and sweet this month because Eric and I will be in Greece for about a week and a half this month (more like two weeks if you count the travel days), and I know from past experience that several days after we get back will be eaten up by the eight-headed monster known as Jet Lag. So I don’t want to set any outlandish goals–mostly, I just want to enjoy all the things we have planned this month.

I still have a lot of prep to do for our trip–I like to have a good sense of the places we travel, and I would like to at least master the most important of Greek words and phrases (thank you, where is the ___, and can I please have some more of that insanely delicious wine/cheese/pastry?) I am so excited about our trip, and I can’t wait! I should note that while I love the font I used on the photo, it does not have punctuation marks, and so I would like to add some !!!! here for that goal of having a blast in Santorini and Athens.

I’m turning 31 this month, and I plan to celebrate in the happiest way: by thanking my lucky stars for all the people who love me and for all that I’ve seen and experienced in my life.

I’m keeping the project expectations low this month, since I know I’ll be pressed for time between our travel and some writing work I am planning to finish before we go. So I just want to make a little time to peruse some of the painting books I checked out from the library. My friend and I are taking Flora Bowley’s painting class, which starts at the end of this month, and I’m excited to read a bit about techniques in preparation. I’m also taking part in the 30 Days of Lists project. It’s so simple: you just make lists from the given topics for the month of September. Fun!

And, por supuesto, there will be lots and lots of pictures! I will be back in October with an update (August update can be found at the bottom of this post). Please feel free to leave a link to your September goals too!

Update, October 2013: What a fun month this was! We had an absolutely spectacular time in Greece, and it felt like a special birthday gift to get to go. I did (huzzah!) finish all the things that needed doing before we left, and I came home with 900 or so pictures, so: success! I just finished 30 Days of Lists today, and it was a really fun project. I loved meeting so many other listers and getting a glimpse into their lives and creativity. I totally did not get to my painting books at all, but now there should be abundant time. I’m looking forward to a cozy month at home.

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