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2013 October

A Handful of Happy Things

Happy ThingsIt’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts, but there has been plenty of happy going on in the past few weeks. Here are a few of the treasures I’ve collected. The prettiest fruit.

Happy ThingsBook plates I’ve had since I was a little girl. I put them in the books I gave the girls for their birthday.

Happy ThingsThis vine grows on the wall outside Eric’s building. The greens, the velvety purples, the deep reds. It is so stunning every fall.

Happy ThingsHillary is basically a saint. Not only is she an awesome friend, but she also lets me tag along on her Costco trips and orders things for us, since she has Amazon Prime. This box came last week. Note the name she put on the box. Hahaha!

Happy ThingsGin and tonics with grenadine at Hillary’s. A gin and tonic was pretty much the first drink I ever had, and it was my signature one for a long time. Eric is such a cocktail master that we are mostly trying new things every weekend, and let me just tell you: I forgot how delicious a good gin and tonic is. VERY DELICIOUS.

Happy ThingsI have heard that pineapple tops grow new pineapples if you plant them. Since we don’t have much light in our place, I am donating this one to Hillary, and hopefully sometime soon we will have a tropical treat to share.

Happy ThingsToday there was a pumpkin carving contest at the post office. Fun! I love that one with the big hairdo, and I like the one being stabbed too.

Happy ThingsThe hands and the nerd glasses are a really nice touch, but I think Einstein takes the cake!

Happy ThingsI got these at the Depot. There is only one thing to say about it: yessss!!

Happy ThingsAnd I got this little guy in Oakland last spring. I love it so. It gives me so much pleasure to be able to call this majestic place my home.

Happy ThingsOne more happy thing: Happy Halloween!

Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Orange Pomegranate Dressing

Quinoa SaladDo you ever have something in a restaurant that is so hauntingly delicious that you become consumed with the idea of recreating it at home? Well, friend, that happened to me with this salad. Way back in April, when we were in Monterey, we went out to dinner at a place we feared would be too fancy (read: expensive) for our taste, but it turned out to be delightfully affordable: Lalla Grill. And it had this salad. I didn’t lick the bowl. But I thought about it. I didn’t have a recipe to work from, but I was able to find the description on the website. Huzzah! (Side note: do you see those pretty knitted little guys peeking out from under the plate? My aunt Ellen made those for us. Hi, aunt Ellen, and thank you!)

Quinoa SaladThis is what it looked like at the restaurant: piled high with blackened chicken and bacon (mmmm), feta and walnuts, cranberries and cucumbers, apples and arugula. It was salad heaven. So I got to work in the kitchen.

Quinoa SaladHere is the party getting started.

Quinoa SaladI don’t actually know how to make blackened chicken (or blackened anything, for that matter), but maybe I should learn because it is so delicious. In any case, I grilled the chicken, and it was still fantastic.

Quinoa SaladLalla served their salad with a cherry vinaigrette, but I mixed up an orange pomegranate dressing similar to this one.

Quinoa SaladMmm. I made a gigantic bowl of this, and we ate it all week.

Quinoa SaladAnd, just for fun, here’s my man at Lalla. I love him. That will be all.

Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Orange Pomegranate Dressing
Inspired by Lalla Grill

This makes a very large bowl of salad, so it’s great for feeding a crowd of 6 or so. But you can also cut it in half.

For the Salad:

1 c dried quinoa, cooked
1 chicken breast, grilled and chopped into bite-size pieces
1 red onion, sliced and grilled
1-2 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped
1 English cucumber, chopped
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/2 c chopped walnuts
1 Granny Smith apple, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 c feta cheese
2 c arugula
1/4 c cilantro, chopped

For the Dressing:

2 Tbsp orange juice (add more for extra sweetness)
2 Tbsp pomegranate juice (or 2 tsp pomegranate molasses) (add more for extra tartness)
1/4 c olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix and enjoy!


SimplifyingThe old adage is definitely true: you never know how much stuff you have…until you try to move it. I remember being horrified at the amount of stuff I fit into my shoebox of a dorm room in college, and every move in grad school was a huge incentive to dislocate my shoulders hulking heavy bags full of books and clothes to Goodwill. When Eric and I got married, we did a collective purge of our things and crammed the rest into the moving van (well, actually the movers did, and in record speed). Since we moved to Pasadena, we’ve been in one place, and I am so grateful for that. It’s a marvelous location, we have a good bit of space, and we are so happy that we’re able to stay put for a little while. But all of the work on our place in the past few weeks has definitely got me thinking not just about the amount of stuff I have, but the kind of stuff I have, and whether or not I actually want it.

I’m talking mostly about my clothes (because it would take a lot for me to part with my books or any of my kitchen tools), and mostly it’s due to the fact that I had to take everything out of my closet. And my dresser. Boy howdy, will that induce a reckoning. I’m a bargain shopper, and that sometimes means taking a chance on things, like when a thrift store doesn’t have a dressing room, for instance. My favorite thrift store on earth doesn’t have one, but all the clothes are less than a dollar, so it’s worth a gamble. I think that I need to have a more editing eye when things make it to my closet, though. There’s stuff I’ve been keeping around that doesn’t really fit, and it’s keeping me from seeing the stuff that I really like and that does fit well.

It’s been so funny, too, looking through the ghosts of wardrobes past as I’ve been sorting everything. I still have a few things from high school and college, but the bulk of my wardrobe falls into one of several early adult phases. The Trying to Be Professional Phase, which involved a lot of button-downs and blazers. The Nothing But Jean Skirts, Loose Tops, and Giant Belts Phase. The Completely Wacky “I Am An Individual Even Though I’m A Grad Student” Phase (oh, that one is the funniest!). The “Oh, I Live In LA Now, So I Need To Replace My Sweaters With Sundresses” Phase (ahem, that one is ongoing). There are remnants and relics of all these selves hanging in my closet and folded in my dresser. I own all of them, and I celebrate all of them. They were Me.

But I’d like the current Me to be able to find things more easily, to make good use of the things that fit this time and place, and to pass the others on to someone who might like or need them more. I’d like to simplify. And so, to mark that occasion, here is a picture of my empty closet (starring, in no particular order: Eric’s bike pump, my macro photo studio box, my sewing machine case, an awful lot of boots I got for $1/pair, and my ancient Winnie the Pooh, who is still really good for a hug when Eric is out of town). I hope soon there will be fewer hangers, but more things I really love, hopefully enough to carry them into the next phase, whatever that might be.

Istanbul Scrapbook, Day 5

Istanbul ScrapbookIn all the upheaval in the last few weeks (lots of work on the apartment and associated cleaning), I have been really happy to get back to making things. It’s difficult when things are not in the places where they normally live, but time and again I find that not making things is sort of like…not showering for me. Well, less smelly, of course, but I really really miss it when I have been away. I have some fairly new scrapbook stuff that I bought for crazy cheap (no, ridiculous cheap) at Big Lots, and I was excited to use it. A lot of it is travel-themed, which is perfect for me and my million peregrinations.

Istanbul ScrapbookIt is kind of crazy that I am just now scrapbooking something that happened a full year ago, but I maintain that in twenty years, no one will care when I made it. The point is that it’s made. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it! I tried a new type of picture-mounting here, since this paper is very busy. I love its travel theme and general crowdedness, but it was making the pictures hard to see. I like these mini-mats and the tiny bit of journaling space they provide.

Istanbul ScrapbookOne of the places I was most excited to see was Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence. There aren’t really words to describe how much his novel of the same name moved me, stirred me, filled me with breathtaking anguish. I can’t even remember the last time that happened to me. I wrote a little bit about the experience here, but obviously being here and seeing this in person was pretty overwhelming.

Istanbul ScrapbookWhat I love best about the novel (as if it’s possible to only love one thing above the others) is the deep understanding of the importance of everyday objects as reliquaries, as repositories of memory. I believe in that so deeply–that tiny little things hold entire worlds within them–and seeing it in the novel and in the flesh was just…incredible.

Istanbul ScrapbookAfter visiting the museum, we had a nice wander through vine-laden Cihangir. So very lovely.

Istanbul ScrapbookWe saw this horse-drawn wagon weaving its way through the narrow streets, its cart piled high with splotchy yellow and green melons for sale. A treasure.

Istanbul ScrapbookThis was a big day, since next we were off to the Grand Bazaar! I don’t know of a girl in the world who wouldn’t want to look at all the shiny and beautiful things there, but there is also so much incredible history in this little city of shops.

Istanbul ScrapbookIt was so crowded that we didn’t take too many pictures inside, but this is one of the main gates.

Istanbul ScrapbookJust outside the bazaar was the book bazaar, and that is a place I could never pass up.

Istanbul ScrapbookAnd neither could Eric.

Istanbul ScrapbookIn other news, I could not stop taking pictures of these beautiful images of old Istanbul, posted at the tram stops. I would’ve gladly bought the whole series. (Also! Do you see that little compass? I love it.)

Istanbul ScrapbookI had too many awesome things to fit on just two pages, so this bonus page for day 5 is full of them. With a purple sequin border at the bottom for extra funz.

Istanbul ScrapbookThis was our ticket from the Museum of Innocence. Swoon.

Istanbul ScrapbookKiva Han, a traditional Anatolian place where we ate for dinner, was stuffed to the gills with pretty postcards and such. So, naturally, I took one of each.

Istanbul ScrapbookJust gorgeous, no? And thus concluded another day of fantastic adventures!

Fall from the Farm

Fall from the FarmEvery year we get the sweetest package from Eric’s parents. This tradition started long before I ever met Eric, but I am so happy that now I get to be part of it. Every fall when Eric’s parents start harvesting at the farm, they send an ear of corn to the boys. Over time this has grown into the happiest fall package you could ever hope to receive, chock full of goodies. This year’s was the brightest spot in the busiest week. Eric’s mom knows how much I love little gourds, so she always sends me some. This tiny glass pumpkin is so adorable, and I love it. The yellow part inside the clear glass has the warmest kaleidoscope of yellows and oranges, and I keep spinning it around to get a closer look.

Fall from the FarmThe corn this year still had the husks on and is so pretty! We have it displayed on the table, and we’ve been wondering that it was a necklace I made with corn from the farm that led me to one of the greatest friendships of my life. I love that tangible reminder of a beautiful thing.

Fall from the FarmWe also got soybeans this year! They are so adorably fuzzy. I popped one open to find the most perfectly round pale pellets. I think I will have these in a vase for a long time to come. I have only ever seen the beans early in the season, so it’s a treat to hold the ones that are ready for harvest.

Fall from the FarmOne of the sweetest things about these packages is the leaves. I love fall so much, but we don’t exactly get one here in LA, so Eric’s parents always send us pretty leaves and acorns. I smile every time I think of them picking out pretty ones for us. I’ve never been to the farm in the fall, but I am so looking forward to being able to do that one day.

Fall from the FarmA special addition this year was a collection of gorgeous rocks Eric’s mom gathered on one of her trips this year. Purple is my favorite color, so I especially love these! The historical note and the chance to see some of my favorite handwriting was an added bonus.

Fall from the FarmIsn’t this amazing? I am always so excited to open this box with Eric each year, and I always feel so loved when we do. Anything that makes the distance feel less is a good thing. And so is chocolate. Which we ate long before I took these pictures. Big thanks to Eric’s parents for sending fall (and chocolate!) our way!

Pomegranate Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Pomegranate Chocolate Chip Ice CreamThis ice cream is the whole reason why we bought an ice cream maker. Years and years ago, I had a pint of pomegranate chocolate chip ice cream from Haagen Dazs, shipped to me in dry ice! I have friends in high places, or cold places, I guess. This was way back in grad school, and a box full of ice cream was manna from heaven to a girl going through qualifying exams. I fell in love with that ice cream, and then they discontinued it. A travesty! My heart has been pining after it ever since, so I made some of my own.

Pomegranate Chocolate Chip Ice CreamIt is a really simple recipe, using fresh pomegranate juice. We bought a half-gallon jug (for a pretty penny…) at Whole Foods. This saved us the effort of squeezing a ton of seeds, and it saved our kitchen from looking like a crime scene. That juice goes everywhere! Eric used a bit more of the juice to make grenadine, which we have been using as a topping on the ice cream and for weekend cocktails.

Pomegranate Chocolate Chip Ice CreamThis is my platonic ideal of ice cream: tart and fruity, with a chocolate crunch. Hurray for making dreams come true!

Pomegranate Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

2 cups pomegranate juice
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup-1 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small chunks

-Combine pomegranate juice, sugar, lemon juice, milk, cream, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently.
-Heat to almost boiling, making sure all sugar has dissolved.
-Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
-Stir the mixture well, and follow your ice cream maker’s instructions to freeze and churn, adding the chocolate chunks when the mixture is halfway frozen. And then make yourself a nice big bowl of it!


A Little Visit

SweetIt’s been a hectic couple of weeks around here, but I’ve loved them just the same. Hectic days make you appreciate cups of tea and the bittersweet crunch of an almond as you pop it into your mouth on the run. They make you appreciate a fifteen-minute window for painting and a more indulgent novel-reading session on the couch. They make you appreciate oddly shaped acorns and gnarled agave leaves. They make you appreciate being able to wave at your husband on your way home from the post office. Every time I mail a package at the post office on campus, I walk over to the sidewalk outside Eric’s building and text him, “Look out your window!” His window is actually about five feet off the ground, so it’s pretty hard to look out of, but most times I can see his hand waving back and forth. This day I looked and looked at his window, and I couldn’t find him. Then I looked to the left and realized that he had stepped into the hallway to see me better. I took a picture of him because it was precious, and I want to remember this. You can always count on a scientist to find a more efficient way of doing things, even if it’s just saying hello.

One Little Word: October

One Little WordI so loved this month’s One Little Word prompt. It was nothing but freedom: play around, make a mess, write what’s on your heart. As it turned out, there was plenty on my heart, and a bag full of new art supplies to play with. This is just a plain white 12 x 12 piece of paper. The green and blue paint are from one of my Bloom True canvases.

One Little WordI used a smaller square to block off the center, and I sprayed the edges with metallic spray ink, which I got for a song at the Depot, and which are my new best friends. I put a little bit of glitter on too, for good measure. I love the marbled look it has. I painted my word with a tiny brush and a new tube of copper paint I bought for Bloom True (my painting class).

One Little WordIt looks aged and opulent at the same time, somehow.

One Little WordI started writing, with a copper metallic pen, of course, and the words just flew onto the page, in the straightest lines and in the most impeccable penmanship I think my hand has ever produced. Magic.

One Little WordIt’s hard to read in some lights, but if you angle it right, it’s clear.

One Little WordHere is the second half, in slightly different light. I’ll let the words speak for themselves this month, except to say that this exercise was so well-timed for me, and so much fun. I am looking forward to being able to flip through all of my pages at the end of the year. And starting to think of my word for 2014! At the moment, I have no idea what it will be, but I am sure it will come to me. All I have to do is stay open.

Spring Cleaning in October

Spring CleaningI mentioned on Friday that there’s been some work going on in our building and in our unit. It’s all too boring to go into, but it came as a surprise this week that significant work needed to be done in our home. Boy howdy, has it been a busy week. Everything is fine, but we are definitely in a state of upheaval, and we’ve been doing lots of prep work and cleaning and such, and finally getting to some now-or-never-type cleaning. Like, “Ah, this would be a good time to scrub the baseboards and finally wash the comforters” sort of stuff. I can’t remember the last time I was this tired, and things like this are never convenient, but there isn’t anybody I’d rather be doing this with. This whole thing has definitely brought us even closer than we already were before, and Eric has made me laugh so many times in the past few days. He is a treasure. We spent a very large chunk of the weekend at the laundromat, where I was charmed by these city light designs. I love laundromat themes so much. Perhaps I should do a photo series of them.

Spring CleaningThere weren’t very many places to sit at the laundromat (but! it was so very spacious, and we never had to wait for a machine!), so I savored every little fifteen-minute break, during which I’d devour more of my book. To give some idea of the scale of things, we’ve been sleeping in our office all week, and most of our stuff is in the living room. It’s kind of like moving. Exhausting. But I have been so buoyed by the breaks and the little pleasures, and that makes me happy. I don’t know when I’ve ever looked forward to coffee and the Sunday paper more. Being this busy has definitely made me more aware of the present moment, and I am grateful for that. This morning before we got up, we were turning our thoughts toward the attack plan for the day. Groggy and bleary-eyed, I smiled and said, “You know, I don’t want to talk about it yet. I just want to enjoy this.” And enjoy it I did.

DaddyMy dad called this weekend from Baltimore, where he and my mom are spending the weekend, and after we made several jokes about The Wire, we talked about the house situation. (I don’t have a picture of this Facetime conversation, but this is the wifi hotspot they used to call me, seen here in Seattle with my dad’s beautiful smile). He was calling to check on us. I told him the whole story, and I emphasized the funny parts, because you just have to laugh when you can. My dad’s laugh is one of my favorite sounds on earth. It bursts out like an ocean of joy splashing out of a tiny saucepan, unexpectedly and always radiantly. It raised my spirits so much to hear it. My parents can commiserate–they spent the summer re-doing their bedroom, so they are no strangers to living out of plastic bags and sleeping in unusual places. They started calling the room they slept in their summer home, and that just makes me smile every time I think of it. We are in our autumn home, I guess.

Party HeartyThe best thing that happened this weekend was the birthday party of my favorite five-year-olds! Vital information: since I read a Star Wars book to the girls on our Oakland trip, we have all taken on a Star Wars identity–the girls are Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, and I am Darth Vader, of course. We were a bit late to the party, but when I got there, the birthday girls threw their arms around me and gleefully yelled, “How’s it going, Dark Vader?!” It was the greatest thing ever. The party was a blast, and we met so many great people. It was the shining star of the weekend, for sure. We all jumped in this bounce house, and Hillary told me that before the party the girls were trotting out the raise-the-roof move we did on the way on the way to Malibu and chanting, “Push the roof up!” I laughed so hard on Saturday and smiled so much I thought my face might break. What a Godsend these sweet friends of mine are. I love them more every day.

CaliforniaAlso, this map of California was drawn by the sweetest little boy, and I fell in love with it. I especially love those teeth at the bottom.

YumAfter more laundromatting on Sunday, we headed out for a quick dinner, a little treat for all our hard work. All I wanted in the world was a hot tortilla full of refried beans, and I got it. We were talking over dinner about how going through all of our stuff has made us realize how much stuff we have…and how much of we don’t really want or need anymore. There is going to be quite a reckoning of my wardrobe, I think. I realized that I have been just been keeping a bunch of shirts around that don’t fit/are really worn out/I don’t like. But then I never buy new shirts because I tell myself that I have shirts. (Am I the only one who does this? Send me encouragement from your post-purge closets.) My life is different now than it was in Berkeley, and we live in a different climate. A lot of the stuff I have either needs to be stored or passed on, perhaps even some of my first (terrible!) alterations and sewing projects that I have been hanging onto for sentimental value. I hope that paring things down will encourage me to wear the things I like more, the ones that have been hiding behind things that don’t fit (ahem, silk dress that I hemmed way too short). If there’s anything that I really can’t part with, then I’ll save the fabric and make something else out of it. That seems like the wise thing to do. I am trying to pull the threads of this post together, but maybe they should stay loose. By way of summary: busy, busy, busy, lots of revelations, the greatest birthday party ever, major gratitude. Pretty great. Pretty grateful.

Currently: October

CurrentlyI keep doing this thing. That thing is this: I make a detailed blog calendar and then I go out of town a lot and forget what I had scheduled. This is not a complaint. It is more a moment of humor. I like to do a “currently” post on the 15th or so to check in on how the month is going. The 18th is close enough, right?

Reading Marisha Pessl’s Night Film, which is really rather riveting. I like the meta-textual touches. It would be hard to top her first novel, and I don’t think this one does, but it is a pleasure nonetheless. I also just got Amanda Lindhout’s A House in the Sky from the library, and I am excited to dive into it. I love placing requests for new books at the library. Inevitably, I am number 30 or so on the list, and I forget all about it. Then one day the book miraculously makes its way down the line to me, and it’s like Christmas.

Listening to all kinds of things: Led Zeppelin and Tori Amos, Massive Attack and Ratatat, The Cure and Liszt. Never a dull moment.

Painting my heart out in Flora Bowley’s Bloom True e-course. Having the time of my life. Feeling so creatively energized and just ecstatic about all the freedom I’m finding and the ideas that are alighting on my shoulders every day.

Sketching a bit and daydreaming about printing out a good handful of pictures to sketch from: succulents and cacti, mountains in the fog, ripples in the ocean waves. Slowly chipping away at the idea that I can’t draw.

Eating persimmons and apples and a good bit of squash. Still working on that pumpkin chocolate chip cake. Going through plain Greek yogurt like it’s my job.

Watching an episode of Downton Abbey here and there, but not much else. This painting class has directed my energy in different directions, and that feels like a good thing for now. It’s well timed, since I’m still mourning the end of Breaking Bad, the greatest show ever known to man.

Looking forward to things getting back to normal in our home. There’s some work being done in our building and some upkeep in our apartment. It’s thrown things out of whack a bit, and I honestly can’t wait for it to be over. Patience, grasshopper.

Feeling really connected to my word for this year, and really excited to share my latest work on that project (next week!)

Exulting over all my awesome Depot finds! An unopened box of watercolors in tubes! A beautiful set of colored pencils! Metallic spray inks! A very good time is being had over here, let me tell you.

Excited for a big birthday party this weekend: my two favorite four-year-olds are turning five! I can’t wait for all the festivities.

Feeling so grateful for Eric and for the life we have built together. For dear friends and beloved family. For evenings that feel like wide plains of joy to be explored. For candles burning and fingers covered in paint. It’s a prayer, this life, and I say amen.

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