A Little Holiday Garland

Holiday GarlandI have about a million little holiday projects in progress right now, but this one is the first to the finish line! I have been meaning to stitch these foam snowflakes together ever since I got them at Art from Scrap in Santa Barbara. It turns out that that’s kind of hard if your sewing machine is buried behind some big piles of paper (scrapbookers anonymous…), but yesterday I excavated it and stitched this garland up.

Holiday GarlandI bought 16 of these guys for 10 cents each. That’s my kind of price.

Holiday GarlandThey’re very thin, so I knew I’d have no trouble feeding them through the machine. I have seen so many pretty garlands like this one, some of them even made with paper, but I had never tried this kind of stitching, with huge spaces in between the shapes. It felt a little weird, but it totally worked. The machine left some indentations on one side of the foam, but that doesn’t bother me. Every snowflake is an individual, right?

Holiday GarlandI used a silvery thread to keep with the holiday theme. I stitched three different garlands because I initially wanted to hang them side by side from the ceiling in front of our door. However…we have popcorn ceilings in the hallway, so that was not going to happen. I ended up stringing one across the top of the door and two hanging down by the sides, and I like it so much better this way. Also, I am sure Eric appreciates not being hit in the face by swinging foam snowflakes every time he comes home from work. I just have these hung with packing tape, but I might put little bows at the corner to cover the shininess. Also, say hello to our other doorway decor: a little wreath I bought at the Depot years ago and pretty much just leave up all year round, and a big red bow I bought at the Dollar Store. If you are looking to do Christmas decor on the cheap: get thee to the Dollar Store! They have some quality items. Cousin Eddie told me so.

Daddy’s Girl

Daddy's GirlI love my Daddy so much. I had so many occasions this weekend to pinch myself. Even though I’ve known my Daddy my entire 31 years, I still can’t believe that, of all the fathers with whom I might have found myself, I got him: the sweetest, most generous, good-hearted, funny, and fun-loving Daddy I could ever imagine. I just adore him. He was delayed getting here on Friday because of some drama at LAX (thankfully, nothing threatening, just a few unfortunate traffic collisions that spooked everyone). This is how fabulous my dad is: when he comes here, he rents a car. He actually doesn’t mind driving the almost-hour to our house from the airport, and he doesn’t want us to be without a car while he goes to the auto show. I told you, he’s so generous. And selfless. Anyway, when he finally got here, I was so excited I took a picture of us in the elevator on the way up. Three cheers for Daddy!

Daddy's GirlWe stayed up for a while talking and plotting our adventures. I told him about my Big Plan for the weekend: to get a Christmas tree! My dad loves Christmas, and it’s been so many years since we got to decorate a tree together, so I knew he would love it. I’d been calling the hardware store all week, asking if they had trees yet. Finally, they did!  When we pulled up, all we saw were little Christmas topiaries in pots, and I got very nervous… Surely that was not what they meant by Christmas trees?! Thankfully, we found them! And ours was the first tree they had sold this year! I know some people like to hold off on trees until after Thanksgiving, and I totally respect that (who wants to cut short the season of pumpkins and pretty leaves?) But this works for us for a couple of reasons. I feel totally justified by Thanksgiving being so late this year, and a scientist told me that if you’re buying a live tree, it’s best to buy it as early as possible so that you can get it in water. That is my favorite piece of scientific data ever. Finally, Eric and I usually head home for the holidays in advance of Christmas, so it makes sense to get a tree early so we can enjoy it to the fullest.

Daddy's GirlDaddy helped us get it loaded in the car, and it was much smoother than when Eric is stuck with me as a Christmas tree assistant. We got it onto the tree stand, and then it was time for lunch!

Daddy's GirlWe took Daddy to Golden Road Brewery, where we knew he could get a good IPA. He loves to try new ones. The weather was warm enough to sit outside, and the sun even came out. Not bad for the end of November!

Daddy's GirlI think he has the most beautiful smile.

Daddy's GirlAfter lunch we headed over to Griffith Observatory, which I knew my dad would love. There are such beautiful views, and more cool science stuff than you can shake a stick at. We got to see them light up the Tesla Coil, which was super rad. (Dad loves reading books about science, and he knew every single fact in the presentation they gave: so cool!)

Daddy's GirlThis is Eric explaining the finer points of the spark chamber to dad. Two scientists in their natural habitat. Adorable.

Daddy's GirlAfter a tree-lighting session, we went to Old Town for dinner. I was so excited that they already had the snowflakes projected!

Daddy's GirlKingsrow has the best fries in town. And I kind of like it that they serve them to you in a trough. And I kind of ate too many of them.

Daddy's GirlOn Sunday morning Daddy went to the auto show while we slept in. When he got back, I showed him how I was calculating something with algebra, and Eric got so excited he took pictures. Hilarious! My dad taught us algebra when we were about 5 years old, so I hope it does him proud that I can still remember a tiny bit of it.

Daddy's GirlIt was around this time that we started to notice that the Christmas tree was…leaning. To the left. And then the right. And then too far forward. Dad and Eric worked on it for a long time, and eventually dad crawled down to the base and cut off the branches that were keeping the tree from sitting in the stand. With an old bread knife. He is the best!

Daddy's GirlWe walked to lunch at Lemonade, one of our favorite local spots, and then had a holiday stroll through Williams-Sonoma. Free mulled cider for all!

Daddy's GirlIn the afternoon we got all the ornaments on the tree, and Daddy trimmed the top (with that same old bread knife!) to put the star on.

Daddy's GirlHurray! Christmas magic! My dad has been writing about Christmas, when he was a child and when we were children, on his blog these past few weeks, so it felt super special to have a new Christmas memory. I think my face is blurry because I’m smiling too much to hold still.

Daddy's GirlOnce we were finished with the tree, my dad helped me make cinnamon Christmas ornaments. I am saving these for a separate post, but there are lots of hilarious/awesome pictures of the process.

Daddy's GirlDaddy came to mass with us (and got to meet my friend Caren!) and then we went to a solid classic for dinner: The Luggage Room. While we were waiting for a table, dad got to try an IPA at Stone Brewing across the courtyard.

Daddy's GirlI know I have a picture of Daddy at The Luggage Room last year, so I wanted to include this one from this year. His phone is lit up because we were texting my mom.

Daddy's GirlI know this is a long post, but that’s because I want to remember every little bit of it. Including this note that Daddy left me by the coffee pot on Sunday morning. I totally cried when I emptied that coffee pot after he left. To be with my dad is to be in a beatific and wholly benevolent presence: he brings light and laughter and love and magic. I miss him so much already, and I am so thankful for this special time we had together this weekend. Unconditional love is a hard thing to wrap your mind around, but it’s always been something tangible for me because of my amazing parents. On Sunday night dad joined in our weekly phone call to Eric’s parents, and my mind was reeling with our good fortune and blessing: to have two sets of parents who love us, and each other, so fully and vibrantly and joyfully. I just could not ask for more, and I’ll be grateful for them every day for the rest of my life. And now I’m crying again. Love you, Daddy!

A Very Daddy Weekend

Daddy's GirlWe had the greatest weekend. My Daddy was in town! This is the second year he has come to to visit us and catch the LA Auto Show (here’s the first). I hope it’s a permanent tradition. I am going to write all about our weekend, including: The leaning tower of Christmas tree! Griffith Observatory! So many delicious meals! Making Christmas ornaments together! But tonight, I am too tired and too happy. And so grateful to have the sweetest Daddy in the world. Hope you all had a fantastic weekend too!

Biscochitos: New Mexican Anise Shortbread Cookies

BiscochitosI am sure you guys are all familiar with one of my primary traveling goals: eat all the food! New Mexico is no exception, and I’m already missing that green chile. But I was also missing these, the official state cookie. I impulsively grabbed a bag of them at the airport, and they were the last little bit of Southwest flavor we brought home with us. Naturally, when we ran out, I had to bake some of my own. They’re buttery and rich, with a little dusting of sugar and cinnamon and a little bite of anise. Licorice lovers, these cookies are for you.

BiscochitosAnise is another name for fennel, which is where you’ll probably find these seeds in the spice aisle. For an extra bit of flavor, crush them a bit in a mortar and pestle or just with a wine bottle to release the oils.

BiscochitosYou can roll the dough out and use cookie cutters, or you can just shape simple rounds. I get an F in rolling pin class, so it was simple rounds for me.

BiscochitosI realize these look a lot like snickerdoodles, but they are a different animal entirely. They’re really more buttery and crunchy. Yum. Definitely adding these to the Christmas cookie (and year-round cookie) lineup.

Biscochitos
Adapted from Sugar Baking Blog

Makes about 2 dozen

Cookies:
1/2 cup butter = 1 stick butter at room temperature
1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons anise seed (fennel seed)
1 eggs, beaten
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brandy, red wine or milk (select one; I used milk)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Topping:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

-Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
-Cream butter, sugar, and anise seed in a large mixing bowl. Add egg and beat well.
-Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Alternately add flour and milk or brandy to creamed mixture until stiff dough has been formed.
-Knead dough slightly and pat or roll into little balls or cut dough into desired shapes using cookie cutters.
-Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small mixing bowl. Dust the top of each cookie with a small amount of mixture.
-Bake for 10 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned.

November: Currently

ABQListening to the rain plinking against the drain pipe and loving it.

Feeling happy to be home and so excited for my dad’s visit this weekend.

Eating a lot of soups and salads and New Mexican anise shortbread cookies.

Working on a bit of freelance editing.

Lighting my pumpkin or peppermint candle most days.

Starting John Dos Passos’ USA Trilogy for my book club.

Getting ready to dive into a few holiday crafts…Thanksgiving is late this year, so it’s not too early for me!

Watching the final season of The Killing on Netflix during lunches and in between computer tasks. Bummed that it got cancelled because I love seeing Seattle, and Holder totally reminds me of my little brother.

Running lots of errands and getting back into the swing of things.

Gazing upon my mountainous stack of library books with glee.

Getting more excited for Christmas with our families every day.

Visiting Breaking Bad

Breaking BadHave I mentioned Breaking Bad here before? If not, that’s an oversight. I think we can all agree that television has come a long way in our lifetime, but Breaking Bad is a masterpiece, the pinnacle of the genre. I have never, ever seen a show like it, in which every single aspect is at an A+ level: writing, acting, casting, music, cinematography, narrative, character development. Every episode just blows my mind. It is, and I think very few would argue with this statement, the greatest show ever made. The funny thing is that I had no concept of it until my mom mentioned it to me (yes, my parents are way cooler than I am and always ten steps ahead of me on the tv front). I take my mom’s suggestions seriously, so I turned on an episode a few years ago when I was sick. And I could not stop watching it. At that time, there were only a few seasons on Netflix. I watched them all. And then I watched them again. I have probably seen every episode at least five times by now. The other funny thing is that I didn’t fall in love with Albuquerque because of the show. In fact, one of the (many!) reasons why I fell in love with the show was because I was already in love with Albuquerque. It made me so happy to see some of our favorite spots in town on the show, and to feel just a little bit of kinship with it that way. I never imagined we’d be back in Albuquerque until Eric had this conference in Santa Fe scheduled. And then I knew I wanted to try to retrace some of the show’s steps. For years I had been following this flickr account, lovingly put together by a local fan of the show. He locates each building and also gives an address. Since the show ended this year, there has also been an uptick in Breaking Bad tourism in Albuquerque, which I think is awesome. So if you are going to be in the Southwest anytime soon, it will be very easy to trace Walt and Jesse’s steps! Eric very sweetly chauffeured me around town this past weekend to as many Breaking Bad stops as we could squeeze in. It was SO. MUCH. FUN.  Here are a few of our favorites. In case you haven’t seen the show, I won’t give any spoilers! Here I am at Walt’s house. You know, 308 Negra Arroyo Lane. I was just waiting for a gray Aztek to pull up. Or a couple of muscle cars.

Breaking BadThe couple who live in this house are so kind and friendly. They have lived here for 40 years, and they come out and say hello when people stop by. She told me she had 2500 visitors this month alone. I can’t imagine being that kind and welcoming to thousands of people taking pictures of my house, but this couple is so kind and so genuinely interested in meeting everyone. Thank you, Fran!

Breaking BadA lot of people apparently throw pizzas on the roof, Walt style. I would never do that! And neither would the kindly punk band from Washington who were there at the same time. They offered to give Fran their cd, and she was excited about it. She is just the coolest. My only regret is that we didn’t bring a box of cookies for her. But I am thinking about printing this picture of all of us and mailing it to her with a thank you note! She is seriously doing such a service to all of us hard core fans.

Breaking BadNext stop: the car wash! I love its Octopus mascot.

Breaking BadHeisenberg still casts a long shadow here.

Breaking BadAnd there are lots of cast and crew photos inside.

Breaking BadWe serendipitously found Jesse’s house on the way to the Botanical Gardens. I thought the neighborhood looked familiar, so I looked up the address, and I was right!

Breaking BadThis garage has been built in front of what was once a long driveway, where the RV was parked. Oh shudder, the things that happened there!

Breaking BadThis is Jesse’s duplex. And it is apparently for rent?!?

Breaking BadAnd the back patio. I spy a ristra!

Breaking BadThe Crossroads Motel is nearby. I actually recognized this motel as soon as I saw it on the show–it’s right off the interstate.

Breaking BadHere is the boarded-up De Anza Motor Lodge, where Walt makes an important drop-off.

Breaking BadAnd Loyola’s Cafe, featured in the final season.

Breaking BadThe Zia Motor Lodge sign, which appears in several time-lapse shots.

Breaking BadThis is the Denny’s that is featured in the final season. Don’t forget the bacon.

Breaking BadThis is The Grove, where a lot of meetings took place in the final season. I nearly jumped out of my chair when I saw it on the show–it was our favorite restaurant in Albuquerque when we visited in 2009.

Breaking BadAnd, of course, no Breaking Bad tour would be complete without a visit to Los Pollos Hermanos! It is actually a burrito joint called Twisters, but they have a Pollos logo inside (and are also really kind to people traipsing in to take pictures).

Breaking BadThe logo!

Breaking BadHere I am waiting for Gus…and that does it for our little tour! I was surprised by how many places were very close to each other. I feel like all day long Eric was hearing, “Hey, that’s in Breaking Bad!” There is still so much more to see, but this was an excellent start.

Home

HomeIt’s good to be home. We had a fabulous time in New Mexico, and there is still more Southwest goodness coming your way, including a pilgrimage to a bunch of Breaking Bad filming locations, a lot of pretty NM design, and some crazy beautiful rocks and mountains. But for today, the story mostly goes something like this: grocery store, library, unpacking, pharmacy, bank, post office. You know, all that life maintenance stuff. (I cannot help but add this little bit of linguistic fun: it always charmed me that the German word for grocery store literally translates into something like “stuff you need for living store.”) Anyway: more adventures and more catching up to come!

Albuquerque: Then and Now

ABQ Way back in the day, when Eric and I had been dating for nine months or so, he had to go on an extended research trip to a tiny town in New Mexico. I sent him off with a box full of colorful envelopes, each one stuffed with a card. I wrote about my favorite memories of our relationship, things we looked forward to in the future, and all the little things I love about him so much. There was one for every day he was away. About halfway through his trip, the stars aligned, and I was able to visit him in Albuquerque on a warm May weekend. We had such a great time and just fell in love with the city. This weekend we revisited  a lot of those places we enjoyed so much, and found a few new ones too. It’s amazing all that’s happened between May 2009 and November 2013. We got engaged, we finished our PhDs, we got married, we moved to LA, we put together our first home. I love looking at the old pictures with the new. So here’s a little time warp post! This picture from 2009 is one of our favorites–it is still framed in our house. We took it in front of a funky shop in Nob Hill, and we laughed because it seemed more Berkeley than Albuquerque.

ABQAnd here we are today.

ABQ Flying Star was one of our favorite local joints, and I distinctly remember being very excited about these pancakes that were as big as my head. This is 2009.

ABQOf course, I ordered a gigantic pancake again today.

ABQ The Grove was our other standby; Eric was so excited about eating a salad! This is 2009.

ABQAnd this is 2013.

ABQ Me at The Grove in 2009…

ABQAnd me today.

ABQ Trying on silly hats in 2009.

ABQAnd trying on silly hats today.

ABQEric took this glamour shot of me in 2009.

ABQAnd he took this one today. I am so grateful for all that we’ve shared together, and for all that’s still to come.

(Also! Thank you all so much for your wonderful and warm comments this past week! It has been so nice to have you along for our trip. I am writing from the ABQ Airport, so I look forward to getting all caught up with you this week!)

The City Different

Santa FeSanta Fe is called The City Different, which I love. The grammar nerd in me is excited about the non-standard syntax, of course, but it really is different, in so many awesome ways. I spent today strolling in a broad loop around town, stopping by the railyard and the state capitol and a handful of incredible old churches and a dozen other places along the way. I think I’ll always remember the highlights of the beautiful places I saw, but in looking back through my pictures, I’m so happy I have a good handful that capture the feel of the city.  If you look closely, you can see this little crossing man’s fancy hairdo.

Santa FeA dry streambed, full of desert beauties.

Santa FeOur Lady of Gaudalupe, watching over the city.

Santa FeThis is a bus stop shelter, and it is officially the prettiest one I have ever seen.

Santa FeThe railyard, still home of regular service, also now housing a ton of art galleries.

Santa FeBeautiful fall leaves.

Santa FeAdobe, adobe, adobe. You have my heart. Do you see those little squares on the roof? They’re called farolitos. They’re little bags with candles inside. They are so very pretty at night.

Santa FeGood thing, ’cause I am not yo mama’s yard sale shopper.

Santa FeThese little paintings are all over town and are part of a community mural project.

Santa FeInside the New Mexico State Capitol, a really inspiring space, which also happens to be full of incredible art.

Santa FeI saved my favorite for last. These are called milagros; they are tiny (tiny!) charms that were left in churches and missions with prayers for a specific intention. Body parts usually had to do with a request for healing or fertility, while hearts often suggested spiritual requests. These milagros, no bigger than my thumb nail, were tacked onto the beams supporting a bell that was cast in the 14th century, in a church that was built in 1610, atop ruins that date to the early 1300s. WOW. I am so moved by this. I walked away into the cold sunshine of the afternoon, holding onto the prayers of all those who came before me, mixing them together with my own.

The Colors of Santa Fe

Santa FeSanta Fe in the fall is a brisk and breezy place, yellow leaves crunching underfoot and the sweet scent of wood-burning fires filling the air. I ran across the street this morning to get a scone at a little cafe, and my jaw almost dropped at the scene: leather chairs with polished wood frames, a bright white fireplace taking up an entire wall, flames softly blazing, walls adorned with Native designs. Definitely going back there tomorrow.

In even just the little bit of time I spent in New Mexico before this trip, I was already astounded by the colors. The Albuquerque airport is a sea of coral and turquoise, with even the interstate overpasses echoing that beautiful palette. Santa Fe is a rich tapestry of color all its own. Here are a few of the little swatches I’ve gathered. This mural is painted outside La Fonda, Santa Fe’s oldest hotel, and once part of the great Harvey railway hotel chain. I love the warm shades of earth and sky here. And I love the shapes and lines of the adobes. I had to run to Target today, and even it had an adobe structure!

Santa FeLook at this. Oh my goodness. I know they will never fit in my suitcase, but don’t you think I need every single one of these?

Santa FeAnd these too. Those calla lilies are to die for.

Santa FeAnd I haven’t even gotten to the chiles yet. These strung beauties are called ristras, and I am already contemplating whether I can bring one home with me without crushing it to smithereens.

Santa FeMaybe the two most important colors in New Mexico are red and green: they’re the two types of chile that you can have served on just about anything. The green chile is made from peppers that haven’t fully matured yet, and the red is from the fresh form of the ristra chiles above. The question at every meal is red or green, but you can also order Christmas, which is both. I am a green chile girl, but I had some red chile tonight that might change my mind. In any case, this is green chile posole with a sopapilla, the greatest puffy fried bread invention ever. Drizzled with New Mexican honey, it is warm and gooey heaven between your fingertips.

Santa FeThe restaurant where I ate had this sign prominently displayed, and I sort of thought it was a joke, but then I saw the same sign in other places as well. So, be warned: get your tastebuds in optimal shape before your visit!

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