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2013 October

Chanterelle Chowder

Chanterelle ChowderWhen I saw this recipe on Not Without Salt, I may have exclaimed aloud. I love mushrooms so much, but especially chanterelles. And I love corn chowder. This looked mesmerizingly delicious, and it did not disappoint. It’s long gone now, but I think it will be back in the rotation very soon.

Chanterelle ChowderI love chanterelles so much and will gladly order anything on the menu that features them. But I didn’t realize until I was at the store buying ingredients for this soup that I have never bought chanterelles before, ever. They are a delicacy, to be sure, and the only place I know I can get them is at Whole Foods, where there are not always price tags. I am too afraid of sticker shock to buy anything there that doesn’t have a price clearly marked (hellloooo, $6 head of cauliflower. True story). I asked someone who was stocking the produce section if he knew the price, and he answered, “Couldn’t tell ya.” But I bought them anyway. For the amount called for in this recipe, it was about $7. Not a disaster. Definitely not something to buy every day, but well worth a splurge (like good cheese, mmm). I am sure it helped that I had just gotten over my cold, and I was really excited about tasting good food again. But it made me a little sad that I’d never bought chanterelles before. I am a frugal girl through and through, and I love nothing more than a good bargain. I mostly just don’t buy things unless they are on sale, and this works very well for me. I come home with my arms full of thrift store treasures, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything at all. But I think it’s worth reminding myself every now again to get the things I love. Olives and stinky cheese and fancy salami and chanterelles too. Am I the only one who does this? Please regale me with stories of foods you love but rarely buy. I will definitely tell you to go out and buy them! Maybe not a 50-pound wheel of Parmesan. But surely a half-pound won’t hurt your wallet too much. Anyway! Chanterelles. I love them.

Chanterelle ChowderAren’t they beautiful? They are so tender and succulent, so earthy and full of flavor.

Chanterelle ChowderThe other truly decadent thing about this soup is…bacon. I know I am really late to this party, but it is still worth saying: bacon is delicious. I never really liked the kind that comes in packages, and I still don’t. It’s too salty for me. Even after my long years of vegetarianism, it wasn’t bacon that brought me back to the dark side–it was chicken! But I have really come to love this thick-cut butcher’s bacon, or, as I call it, Steve bacon. My friend Steve is the chef de cuisine of a Michelin-starred restaurant, but he’s so humble that you’d never ever know it. He has made me so many incredible meals in our ten years of friendship, and he’s the one that turned me on to to bacon: delicious, thick and decadent bacon. Mmmmm. I actually went up to the butcher counter and said, “Can I have four slices of really fat bacon?” Words I never thought I’d say. Words I’d happily say every week if it weren’t for that whole healthy eating thing. They mysteriously only gave me three slices, but that was plenty.

Chanterelle ChowderOther glorious components: dill, potatoes, corn, thyme, white wine. Mmmm. Make this today. Buy yourself chanterelles. You deserve them.

Chanterelle Chowder
Ever so slightly adapted from Not Without Salt

Serves 4

4 strips bacon, thinly sliced (I only used three)
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 – 2 1/2 cups (6 ounces) roughly chopped chanterelles
1/2 cup (4 ounces) wheat beer or white wine
2 1/2 cups (1 pound 4 ounces) chicken or vegetable stock (I used water because I’m a stock hater)
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) cubed (1” inch) yellow potatoes (2 small/medium)
1 cup corn kernels (6 ounces) (fresh or frozen)
3/4 cup (6 ounces) cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

-Cook the bacon in a large dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat until the fat renders and it just starts to crisp, 5-7 minutes.
-Add the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt then saute for an additional 7 minutes until the onions are translucent.
-Turn the heat to medium-high then add the thyme and chanterelles. Saute until caramelized in parts, 3-5 minutes. Deglaze with the beer (or wine), scraping up the browned bits off the bottom.
-Add the stock and potatoes, bring to a simmer then cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
-Add the corn and cream and simmer just until the corn is cooked through.
-Stir in dill, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and pepper. Finish with lemon juice then taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

A Few Recent Cards

Card MakingI have been making cards for a good chunk of years now. I started with whatever I had around: mostly paint and pastels, a bit of vellum paper, and an awful lot of hot pink envelopes. It has been so much to make them with some of my scrapbooking supplies, and my paper cutter makes it easier to cut in straight lines, which has never been my forte. I have a good little collection of them from the past few months, all of which have now been received, so I can show off my handiwork. Straight lines not guaranteed! This one was for Eric’s mom. Sequins are always a good idea, methinks.

Card MakingThis one was to thank my Besfrinn for the awesome birthday present she sent me. I used the image from a blank card for this one and then added some stamping and outlining. I wish I’d taken a picture of the back, because I think I wrote something like “This card was made for you with love by a bulldog in a blue beret.”

Card MakingI made this card for my hermano. I think my little circle punch has been one of my best purchases. Instant confetti! And yes, my brother’s nickname is Dot. Long story. Great nickname.

Card MakingAnd then I could write this on the back.

Card MakingFor his birthday I sent him a check and a list of weird museums to check out. Fun!

Card MakingThe best part was making these little tickets–one for him, one for my sister-in-law. I used the circle punch on these too. I like that they’re imperfect but suggestive of the real thing. I am stockpiling this idea for the future! Our power is going to be out all day Wednesday for maintenance, so I will bouncing around in the world, alighting in places that have wifi and coffee, and I’ll be missing my supplies and my studio. So this is a pre-emptive attempt to cheer myself up. Whatever works!

A Few Days in the Bay!

OaklandWhen Hillary mentioned an upcoming trip to Oakland a few months ago, my eyes lit up and I immediately started exclaiming about all of the wonders of my erstwhile city. And then I just invited myself along. Luckily, Hillary is the world’s most gracious person, and she accepted my invitation. Of myself. Even more luckily, her sweet twin girls came along with us. They are brilliant and hilarious, and they are the most amazing four-year-old road warriors I’ve ever met. We drove up on Friday and partied down until we got back late Sunday night. We had the sweetest and most fun time, but there’s still lots of Oakland left for future trips! Without further ado, our adventures!

OaklandEven rest stops are fun with two small companions, who were, for the duration of this trip, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. Who was Darth Vader, you ask? Moi.

OaklandThis one was especially fun. I don’t know the purpose of those green glasses. But I like them.

OaklandOur arrival at the hotel in Emeryville was a celebrated affair. We walked straight across the parking lot to a bear-themed diner, which was well-loved by all. They had huckleberry ice cream!

OaklandIn the morning we headed out for sustenance. We stopped by Eric’s old apartment, where he proposed to me, on the way.

OaklandWe went to Pizzaiolo for breakfast and got these delicious doughnuts. Breakfast at Pizzaiolo, a marvelous artisanal pizza place, is kind of a precious secret. It was a secret to me for such a long time. Being in that big softly-lit space, the wooden floors all creaking and the chefs firing the oven and prepping for the dinner rush, just feels so calming and magical. There’s no other word for it. We came here for breakfast the day after we got engaged. It’s so special to me. Steve used to work here too, back in the olden days, and I can’t come here without thinking about him behind the counter, making salads and smiling at us. This was one of our last dinners in Oakland before we moved away.

OaklandIn the back garden they were having a record exchange. Oh, Oakland. I miss you.

OaklandI realized very early on Saturday morning that Oakland is as much a place as it is a season: perpetual fall. Well, perpetual fall with heavy rain, and maybe two days of summer per year. There’s something about those overcast skies and crunchy leaves that makes the air feel electric with possibility, buzzing with opportunities. It jolted right into me, the sweetest mix of pleasure and pain.

OaklandOur next stop was…The Depot! Quite possibly my favorite place on earth. I overshot by it a little bit, and then was filled with terror when I couldn’t find it. Horror of horrors! But, whew, it is still there, spreading its magnificence to all who enter.

OaklandMy mom thinks that I have special shopping karma that allows me to always find what I am looking for, but this time I think I may have even outdone myself. I have never before seen scrapbooking supplies at the Depot. There were crates full of them. I have never before seen entire boxed sets of art supplies. I got a brand new box of watercolors in tubes. An almost complete set of really nice colored pencils. Beautiful inks in a variety of colors, and spray inks in a rainbow of metallics. Whoa. It was amazing.

OaklandFurther good karma: one of the ladies who works there, who I, of course, recognized, speaks with a notably southern accent. I finally asked this time where she was from. Do you know what she said? MEMPHIS. I know, I couldn’t believe it either! So we had the loveliest conversation. Now the Depot is held even higher in my esteem, and I didn’t even know that was possible!

OaklandI always find some kind of gem like this: Il’f and Petrov’s 12 Chairs. Awesome.

OaklandAll this shopping worked up quite an appetite in us, so we headed over to Elmwood for burritos at Gordo. We ate them in the park, and the girls sang a chorus, “Oh, how we love beans and rice! Beans and chips!” Me too, little friends, me too.

OaklandOur next stop was, of course, legendary Ici. They actually have a velvet rope along the sidewalk for the often gargantuan line. We got there just in time to walk right in, though.

OaklandHillary had darjeeling-sour cherry, and I went rogue with maple candied oatmeal. Mmmmm. The girls had chocolate and loved every bite.

OaklandSufficiently sugared, we met up with my dear friend Katy and headed to the toy store, where much fun was had by all. Katy said she didn’t think this light was doing her any favors, but I think she is lovely in any light. And I am right. Clearly.

OaklandAfter our big day, it was time to head back to the hotel for some R&R. We picked up dinner and ate at the hotel, while watching a movie. The girls, however, informed us that they had to do some paperwork. It was pretty much the cutest paperwork I’ve ever seen.

OaklandOn Sunday morning the skies were gorgeously clear, and we could see the port and the bridges and the city. Oh city, how I missed you.

OaklandHillary was off to get her tattoo (which looks totally rad, by the way), so the girls and I had a par-tay. I asked them while we were traipsing about town, “Are you ready to parrrr-tay?” And every time I heard the two most adorable yeahs ever. We took a dip in the hot tub, watched some Clifford (and, amazingly enough, a good little bit of a documentary about the making of a documentary about birds. It had lots of cute chicks in the beginning, but eventually one of the girls said, “This is getting boring. Too much talking.” Indeed! Still, I am impressed by their tolerance for and appreciation of a meta-documentary at such a tender age). So! We were off to the pumpkin patch!

OaklandWith a gigantic slide in the shape of a sinking Titanic!

OaklandAnd a petting zoo! It was fantastic.

OaklandAfter a quick spin through the mall and some story time, Hillary was back, and we headed to Bakesale Betty. Which I forgot was closed on Sundays. Noooooo! Friend chicken, we will be back for you. (Incidentally, I sent Hillary the most ridiculously over-detailed and ambitious list of ideas for stuff to do in the East Bay…if any of you are headed that way anytime soon, let me know and I will send it to you). We got a sandwich at Genova Deli (mmm) and headed back to the Depot for one last triumphant stroll through wonderland. And then we were back on the road, soon greeted by this sight. The sweetest. It was the most fun weekend. Can’t wait for the next one!

Back from the Bay

Back from the BayI had the most fantastically fun weekend in Oakland with Hillary and the girls! I am just all smiles thinking about it this morning, and the Bay was at its shiny and beautiful best, reminding me again and again why it is basically my favorite place on earth. It was so special to be able to share some of my most treasured places with people I hold so dear. We got back really late last night, which is why I’m typing this up this morning. There will be a full complement of colorful and happy pictures tomorrow! But for today, I’m grateful to sift all the memories in my mind, and grateful to be back home with Eric too. Hope you all had a lovely weekend as well!

Project Life: Monterey and Berkeley

Project LifeI have been planning this post all week, but it just now occurred to me how fitting it is…because I am off to Oakland today! It’ll just be a quick weekend trip, but I’m excited to share it with my three favorite ladies. They haven’t been, and I am hoping to show them around exactly the same places that are in these pictures.

Project LifeThis spread is the last one for our trip to Monterey, where Eric was at a conference.

Project LifeI have to confess: I just got a bunch of new scrapbook stuff for ridiculously rock bottom prices at Big Lots, and I have been so excited to use it. If you are at all into scrapbooking, or are just looking for a cheap way to see if you might like it, get thee to Big Lots! You shall not be disappointed.

Project LifeThese little metallic dots are new. Love them. And love this shot of Eric.

Project LifeOne of our favorite dinners was at La Bicyclette in Carmel, on Katy’s recommendation. It was so wonderfully French and delicious, all Duralex glasses and tiny candles. And an enormous chocolate mousse that we ate the entirety of.

Project LifeHere’s Eric outside. It’s never hard to convince him to eat at a bike-themed restaurant!

Project LifeAnd then…Oakland! This little trip was the happiest impromptu surprise.

Project LifeWe had lunch at Bakesale Betty as soon as we got in. Fitting, since that was our last meal two years ago before we sailed onto the freeway and straight on down to Pasadena. We both lived within walking distance, and we used to love coming here for sandwiches or scones.

Project LifeWe also stopped by Eric’s old apartment, which always makes me cry. So many happy memories in those walls, including the night that he proposed to me. Also, do you see that little I-5 button? I pretty much think it’s the coolest thing ever.

Project LifeNo trip to Oakland would be complete without the Depot! Art supplies galore, yard sale prices.

Project LifeWe had dinner at Dona Tomas with Alan and Joy, dear friends. We crammed so much fun into one weekend. Hoping to do the same this time!

Athens: Art and Awe

AthensI have a gigantic cake in the oven (this one!), and I’m going to have to wait at least an hour or so for it to bake, so I thought this would be a good time to sit down and write out a bunch of thoughts that are still kicking around in my head from our trip to Athens. On our first day in town we went to the Ancient Agora, the hub of Greek democracy. I honestly didn’t expect it to be as cool as the Acropolis, but I ended up liking it even better! Seeing and understanding how this system worked, so beautifully, all those thousands of years ago, was humbling and inspiring.

AthensThis is a water jug used to time a speaker at the agora. It takes exactly seven minutes for all the water to run out the bottom. Brilliant. (As a side note, I hardly ever take pictures in museums. I am just always afraid the light will be bad and they won’t come out right. But I snapped away like crazy at the agora, and I am so glad I did!)

AthensThis, believe it or not, was a jury box. Each person put in their thin piece of metal with their name and city on it, and then a ball was released. If your row was knocked down by the ball, you were released from jury duty. I stared at this one for a long time, pretty much in awe.

AthensThese shards of pottery were used to carry out an ostracism. When someone was getting too power-hungry, they held a special election. People would write the name of the person they wanted to be exiled for seven years on their shard, and then they would counted. The little scratches of writing amazed me. Poor Themistocles.

AthensThis one made me cry. Those round and pointed objects are the tools of a cobbler who worked inside the agora. They found all of the tools together with a cup that said Simon. Being that close to someone’s individual history blew my mind.

AthensWe found turtles in the agora too.

AthensAnd this little guy! When he wandered out onto a footpath, an employee came dashing out and said, “He is our agora pet! I will move him!” Pretty adorable.

AthensThe next day we headed up to the Acropolis. Looking down on this theatre was pretty incredible. A Russian couple came by and were talking amongst themselves about how to get a picture together, so I offered to take one for them. We chatted a bit, and they were really nice. A little while later, I read a sign for Eric that was in German, and he called me his own personal United Nations. It was one of the sweetest and most adorable things he has ever said. And he’s said a lot!

AthensThe Acropolis was, of course, really incredible and really crowded. But we loved it. That’s the birthplace of Greek drama right down there at the bottom of the hill. I may never get over the fact that I’ve seen it in person.

AthensThe Parthenon. Never dreamed I’d see this either. The magnitude of it is just incredible. And to think that they hand-carved every one of those stones.

AthensThe level of precision in the bas relief is amazing.

AthensDown the hill at the Acropolis Museum, the excavations underneath the building are exposed right underneath your feet. To be standing on a spot that was the center of multiple civilizations for thousands and thousands of years is pretty awe-inspiring.

AthensOn our last day in town we went to the archaeological museum. Spoiler alert: many more mind-blowing things are housed there. This is me with the mask of Agamemnon. Amazing.

AthensThe Mycenaeans had a lot of gold, and they did a lot of amazing things with it. Those little pendants on the top left are octopi. I stared at them for a long time, and I couldn’t find any differences between them. It occurred to me that in this age of mechanical reproduction, we may never know the true value of anything. We can choose to buy something handmade or something that was made in a factory. But it’s amazing to think of a time when that wasn’t the case. A time when every little thing in the world took exactly as long as it took to be made, used just the amount of tools required. The person who made these was obviously highly skilled and probably very esteemed. It’s a happy daydream to think of him (or her) pounding out these little slivers of gold.

AthensBut that’s not the whole story, of course. The manufacture of things was different then, but so were the circumstances of life. And that’s why it boggles my mind even more that these impeccable and labor-intensive things were made during a time when life was so much harder than it is now, when people certainly had far less free time after their basic needs were met. All of the remains found around these settlements show signs of malnutrition and multiple battle wounds (think cracked skulls that never quite healed). That beauty (and democracy!) was a priority during such dangerous times, when it took so much more effort than it does now to eat and house and clothe a family, says something very deep about what it means to be human. I was taken aback by it in the most beautiful way.

AthensSimilarly, it was so powerful to be able to see things I’d only learned about in books. In eleventh grade I had an art history class (that was basically the saving grace in a day filled with calculus and chemistry), and I remember studying these kouri and watching their features develop over time, becoming more defined and less stylized. They are so iconic to me. There are tons of them, and that makes me think a lot about the kind of images we choose to represent in our art. These figures were hugely important to the Greeks, and I started wondering if we have anything similar. Modern art is, of course, a far cry from these figures, and necessarily so. It made me smile to think that hundreds of years from now, people might look at our industrial design and architecture and multi-media pieces and wonder at the ways we chose to express our human experience. I guess what I’m really getting at here, in my long-winded way, is that seeing the ways that the creative impulse was expressed thousands of years ago–through the decoration of everyday objects, through pieces intended for ceremonies and rituals, through the design and execution of stunning and gigantic edifices–makes me like a very small link in the most incredibly beautiful chain. What drives me to quilt and paint and make jewelry is the same inner calling that led to the kouri and the Greek theatre and the Parthenon. And that is pretty amazing.

Asparagus Thyme Quiche

Asparagus Thyme QuicheThank you all so much for your sweet comments and well wishes while I was sick! It feels amazing to be back in good health, and one result of this is that, after a week of bland soup, I was VERY INTO the idea of eating food. Really extravagantly delicious food. I picked out a few new recipes, bought fancy cheese and olives, and schemed about how to use everything in our fridge before it went bad. We had, puzzlingly enough, a bundle of asparagus. I know that this is a weird time of year to be eating asparagus, but it magically appeared at the farmer’s market last week, and who am I to question the bounty that those wonderful people offer me each week? If there’s no asparagus where you are right now, bookmark this one for Easter. It’s a keeper.
Funnily enough, I do not like eggs. It’s one of my character flaws. I mean, I don’t mind if they’re in things, as long as I can’t really taste them, but straight up eggs are too much for me. I think I might, in addition to the character flaw, have a tastebud flaw, like the one that makes cilantro taste like soap to some people. So, for years, I stayed away from quiche, the eggiest dish around. However! I very happily learned while making a vegetable tart that if you put enough cream in with the eggs, then all bets are off. Egg bets, that is. This is a very elaborate way of saying mmmm, cream, you cover up the taste of egg with your deliciousness. (NB: I have met a few eggs I liked: Steve’s scrambled eggs with creme fraiche, my BFF’s quiches, and, the egg deal breaker, my grandmother’s deviled eggs). (And a little side note to Kendra: I am chatty tonight!)

Asparagus Thyme QuicheOnce I came up with this decadent idea, I whipped up some pie dough and sautéed my veggies. I also had fresh thyme on hand (because it is my most favorite herb ever), so I tossed a good handful or two of that in as well (in leaf form, I mean). I put down a nice layer of parmesan first. Our pie plates are so special to me–they were an engagement gift from my sweet Uncle Mark and Aunt Anne. Every time I use them, I think of them and remember those early days, when we were planning away and pinching ourselves that we were soon going to be able to see each other every day.

Asparagus Thyme QuicheNext came the veggies.

Asparagus Thyme QuicheAnd the egg and cream mixture, topped with more cheese and a few sprigs of thyme for good measure.

Asparagus Thyme QuicheIn 50 minutes, it looked like this, and we tore right into it. It was so, so good. I now kind of think quiche is the answer to everything. Or at least what to do with my asparagus.

Asparagus Thyme Quiche
Adapted from Martha Stewart, who has never steered me wrong


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling dough
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons ice water, plus 2 more, if needed

-In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar several times to combine. Add butter. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with just a few pea-size pieces remaining.
-Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed with fingers (if needed, add up to 2 tablespoons more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Do not overprocess.
-Turn dough out onto a work surface; form dough into a 3/4-inch-thick disk. Wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.
-Before baking, unwrap dough; place on a large piece of floured waxed paper. Roll dough to a 14-inch round. Using paper, lift and wrap dough around rolling pin (discarding paper); carefully unroll over a 9-inch pie plate. Gently fit into bottom and up sides of plate.
-Trim overhang to 1 inch; fold overhang under itself. Pinch between thumb and forefinger to make a uniform edge around the rim. Crimp edge; refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.


1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, finely diced (Martha calls for a leek, but I didn’t have one)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 bunch (1 pound) asparagus, tough ends removed, thinly sliced on the diagonal
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese (4 ounces)

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in lowest position. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium. Add onion, asparagus, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes; let cool. Deglaze pan if necessary; you want all that caramelized flavor.
-In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place pie crust on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with cheese; top with asparagus mixture. Pour egg mixture on top. Tope with a bit of parmesan and a few sprigs of thyme.
-Bake until center of quiche is just set, 50 to 60 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

One Little Word: August

One Little WordThere were times last week when I wondered if I’d ever feel good enough to get back to work and enjoy my projects again. It was a long slog, but the very best part about being better (aside from being able to breathe normally and the lifting of my quarantine) has been getting back to some projects I started pre-Greece and finding a new energy for them. The One Little Word prompt for August was to get out into the world and write your word out, with whatever struck your fancy. Beach writing was an obvious example, but it took me a few months to collect the other ones I had in mind. This one is at Malibu, on the first of September. I love that you can see the shadow of my hand, and even of my rings, in this picture.

One Little WordSome prompts move me more readily than others, and I always struggle a bit with the photo ones at first. They are somehow less immediate to me than writing or playing with paint. (I’ll eventually get these photos printed and put onto a page in my scrapbook–such is the delay of which I speak.) I often don’t see the full effect of them until the whole project is finished for the month, and that was definitely the case here. I guess part of it for me is being open to the prompts, even when they’re not my favorite. And then they sometimes become my favorite. It’s a pretty apt lesson, and one I hadn’t seen until I say down to write this post. One little word in action! In any case, the more I thought about ways to write my word, the more excited I got about it. But the surprise ones were the best. I set out for a walk one morning to collect pretty acorns, and I saw these landscaping rocks. I made sure no one was around, and then I reached right down and spelled out my word. I took a picture or two, and then I sent these little rocks right back into the pile.

One Little WordThese are the aforementioned acorns. I started learning a bit more about the different types of acorns while we were in San Diego with Eric’s dad, and I was just so taken with these little torpedo-shaped ones. I gathered a ton of them for making necklaces and earrings.

One Little WordAren’t they pretty? I love those little color striations.

One Little WordI saved the best one for last. It’s written in the sand at Perissa Beach on Santorini, with a perfectly polished volcanic stone to its side. When I started this project, I never dreamed that I’d be there. When the opportunity came, I grabbed it and didn’t let go. And I’m so grateful for that.

Autumn Embroidered Bookmark

Autumn Embroidered BookmarkI have been working on a secret thing for a few months. I love secret things, but I love it even better when they’re not secret any more. When I first started cross-stitching in January, I saw a blank bookmark template at the craft store, and I picked it up with Eric’s mom in mind. She loves to read, and she loves a good bookmark. For a while I tossed around different ideas of what to embroider, but then it hit me: fall leaves and pumpkins! Eric’s mom loves fall as much as I do, so I thought it would be the perfect thing.

Autumn Embroidered BookmarkI used graph paper to roughly sketch out the designs, and then I got to stitching!

Autumn Embroidered BookmarkThe graph paper was thin enough that I was able to reuse some of the outlines–an added bonus!

Autumn Embroidered BookmarkThere was certainly some trial and error. I call this first pumpkin “lumpkin” because of its weird appendage on the right side. Ah well, not every pumpkin is symmetrical.

Autumn Embroidered BookmarkThe next one sort of ended up looking like a menorah. A pretty one, to be sure.

Autumn Embroidered BookmarkAnd the last one is kind of boxy. It takes all kinds. I free-handed the vines at the top, and those were some of my favorite shapes. I should also add that Eric consulted on color selection, as any good collaborator would.

Autumn Embroidered BookmarkThe leaves were easier to make uniform. I just changed their orientation each time.

Autumn Embroidered BookmarkI think the yellow one is my fave.

Autumn Embroidered BookmarkI doubled up on the thread count for the leaf veins on this one, since it was hard to see against the dark maroon of the leaf color.

Autumn Embroidered BookmarkI designed a little curlicue for the bottom and left my mark: “XO -C.” The bottom and top edges of the bookmark were roughly stitched, so I knew I wanted to cover them up. I used green and purple to add a bit of complementary color. I tied some tassels on the top, and I was done!

Autumn Embroidered BookmarkThis was such a fun gift to make and give! I hope Eric’s mom will have many afternoons reading with this bookmark in hand.

Project Life: Week 43 and Monterey

Project LifeThank you all so much for your sweet comments this week and your well wishes. It has been marvelous to have you on my side against the Accursed Cold of 2013! Although the cavalry and field units are urging me to remain cautiously optimistic, I proclaim, “We have vanquished the enemy!” As evidenced by the fact that I went out into the world twice today and suffered no ill effects. Ah, it was glorious. Thank you also for putting up with my cold-induced misery this week. Real life is always worth recording, but the stuff of great narrative (or mental capacity at all, for that matter), it is not. In any case, we soldier on! Or back in time, as it were. I made these pages before the cold had felled me entirely, and they were a lot of fun.

Project LifeI love capturing road trips and travel in my scrapbook because I get to use lots of maps. No surprise there. This week we were in Monterey for a conference for Eric. Have I mentioned before that I love tagging along on these things? I think I have a black belt in it.

Project LifeSigh, it was beautiful. So many shades of blue in the ocean.

Project LifeOne of the most special things we were able to do was to visit Point Lobos again. It’s an amazing stretch of coastline, and Eric and I went there for the first time two years ago, when my brother got married in Carmel. This time we were able to take Steve and Shane. Even better.

Project LifeBased on the weather that time, I thought it was going to be freezing, and I warned everyone accordingly. And then it was as balmy as a summer day can get by the sea. Haha.

Project LifeThe other major event of the week was my trip to the Monterey Aquarium. I almost didn’t go because it was so expensive, but it was so worth it. It was like walking into the “under the sea” book of the Magic Schoolbus series. So many bright colors and unbelievable creatures.

Project LifeI’ve been experimenting a bit with writing and using stamps and stickers on photos. This was the only possible thing to say on this one.

Project LifeA few local charms, and the best beer from the brewery.

Project LifeWe were staying right smack in the middle of the historic district, which made fun pictures like this one possible. Ha!

Project LifeThis gorgeous eel popped out to say hi. I’d like to paint a picture of him, celebrating every single one of those satiny black spots.

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