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Scenes from a Sunday Afternoon

February 21, 2012






Salad Garden

Salad Garden 2

It’s quiet.  It’s one of those magical moments in which we’re scattered across the house, each of us busy with our own projects, maybe accompanied by a napping dog or two.  I love these moments.  The weekly chores (vacuuming, I’m looking at you) are done.  Evening plans are cancelled.  There are no obligations, no expectations.

I’m in the kitchen, baking.  I hear the shrieks and giggles of my neighbor’s children through the back door, which  is propped open to catch the still-chilly early spring breeze.  Honey drips onto my hand from my measuring spoon.  Sweet bliss.

Upstairs.  A quilt in progress begs for attention, but the warm late afternoon sun is slanting across the floor.  The quilt can wait.

On the front porch, I carefully fill eggshells rescued from the compost with potting soil.  Ginsburg noses up behind me, curious.  There is potting soil under my fingernails, in my hair, covering my apron, and in my clothes.  I have just planted a salad garden in an old wheelbarrow, and I am not tidy.

Later, there will be soup for dinner, and bread in the oven.  We’ll watch a movie, close the doors and windows against the dark, and enjoy each other’s  company.  But for now, it’s quiet.

A Week In My Kitchen: ‘Fessing Up Edition

February 17, 2012

Kale and Eggs

Hi.  It’s been a little while since I last told you about my menus and budget.  Long story short, I’ve had some bigger stuff (!!) than my budget on my mind, which means I’ve fallen back into some old habits.  But while I was sticking to my budget of $40 per week, I learned a few things.  Most important is that while I had thought that I shop and cook only for myself, that’s actually not true.  Somehow, I managed to forget that though my food choices are very different from Chris’s, we actually do share a meal a couple of times a week.  Add to that the times I (happily) share with our roommate or invite friends for dinner, and $40 suddenly doesn’t go very far.  Sharing food with the people I care about is so very important to me, and a “No! You can’t have any soup because I’ll go over my budget!” approach just feels… wrong.  That said, a budget is essential — I just need to do a little more thinking about what an appropriate budget for me is.

But moving on — here’s what’s been happening on my kitchen this week:

::delicious green smoothies and soft boiled eggs in my egg cups from Amsterdam, or sauteed kale with garlic and egg, for breakfast

::huge salads, complete with grated beets and carrots, baked tofu, and feta cheese at lunch

::quinoa. I owe my sister thanks for talking me out of my quinoa fear, and now I can’t get enough of it. This week’s version is creamy and vegetabley and belly-filling. (I used cremini mushrooms, leeks, broccoli, and peas.)

::broccoli soup. I think I’ve shared my love for the broccoli soup from Apples for Jam before, but really. It’s on the menu at least once a month. There’s a similar recipe here.

::fast mac and cheese. Have I sent you here before? This is brilliant – homemade mac and cheese that tastes enough like what’s in the blue box that Chris will happily eat a huge bowl. Except it’s made with cheese you grate yourself (no strange powder in sight!), and I have all the ingredients on hand. (Scroll all the way to the bottom for the recipe – but read the rest of the post for more detail.)

::honey herb soda. Makes me want to marry my Soda Stream. (Sorry, Chris.)

Wit’s End

February 14, 2012

I love Chris.  Let’s be clear about that right up front.  He makes me laugh, he loves the dog, he introduced me to Thai food for goodness sake.  But — and please understand the depth of my frustration here — can’t the guy have normal hands?

Perhaps some explanation is in order.  Several years ago, I knit both my dad and my stepdad pairs of Knitty’s Broad Street Mittens. I followed the pattern (in a slightly larger gauge than called for to size up the pattern’s specified women’s medium), and when I came to the end I had, as you might expect, a pair of man-sized gloves that fit the recipient well.  Twice.

Then Chris requested a pair.  Never one to turn down a requested handknit, especially one at which I was so sure of succeeding, I cast on.

This is where it gets ugly.  Knitters, you may want to stop here if you’d like to sleep peacefully tonight.  Because friends, I made a total of three pairs of gloves in an endless cycle of knit-and-rip, knit-and-rip.  Just as I was certain I’d figured out the problem and was knitting blissfully along, he would try them on and we’d discover that the thumb gusset was an inch too long.  Or that the base of the hand was two inches too wide.  Or too narrow.  Over and over and over I knit those gloves, and over and over and over I ripped. (Which, incidentally, is a great advertisement for Baby Ull. Even after the eighth large-scale frogging, that yarn was nearly fresh as a daisy.) Finally, after many tears, probably too much chocolate, and more swearing than I should probably admit to in public, I ended up with two gloves that fit.   I have photographic evidence:
(Those are Chris’s hands, and that is the balcony of my law school apartment.  See?  Proof.)

He loved them.  He wore them.  And then, because the universe seeks to destroy me, he lost them.

And because I apparently seek to destroy myself, I didn’t write down how I made them fit.

All of which brings us to today, and the 586,439th Broad Street Mitten.

Gloves 1Gloves 2


Don’t lose these.

Beauty in the Using

February 8, 2012

Washcloths 1

I have a thing for knitted washcloths.  As I mentioned last time, I think that part of the beauty of handmade things is how they are used, and in my book, the more used they are, the better.  I love the idea that someone (okay, in this case, me) spent hours to make something beautiful, with the intent that it be absorbed into the everyday activities of home: to cover someone at night, to keep feet warm, to scrub the day’s dishes.  Making the things that comprise the basic necessities of day-to-day life is, for me, an excellent reminder that the most humble dishrag comes from someplace, and provides a small dose of perspective on the endless consumption that is oh-so-tempting in an age of instant gratification.  Plus, handmade stuff is pretty.

The pretty part is the real motivation for this little stack of washcloths.  These were a birthday gift for my sister, who requested “a little purple love” for her bathroom.  Um, a year ago.  So delayed they may be, but they are finally done.  (The top two are linen stitch, and the bottom two are waffle stitch, for those who care about that sort of thing.)

Happy birthday, Kamala.  Use ’em up.  (Because the other beautiful thing about handmade stuff is that I can always make more.)
Washcloths 2

On Quilts

February 6, 2012
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{Thank you, everyone, for your sweet words on my last post!  Thank you also for bearing with me while I took an unexpected blog break.  The last few weeks have been full of celebrating, adjusting, and lots of real life.  Now that my head is screwed on (mostly) straight again, I’m happy to be back!}

I didn’t grow up with quilting.  California in the ’80s and ’90s was full of many things, but handwork in general, and quilting in particular, was not among them.  I did, however, grow up with quilts.  My Iowan great-grandmother and her two closest friends made many quilts together, a few of which came to live at our house.  Each quilt is entirely hand-stitched, and batted with worn-out flannel clothing.  Growing up, I was fascinated by the tiny, slightly imperfect stitches, and by the intricate patterns they drew across the bright colors.  They are, quite simply, beautiful.  The quilt that became mine is a bright, cheery yellow against a soft white background, and has come with me in every move since I left for college.  Since I believe that part of the beauty of handmade works of art like quilts is that they are meant to be used, to become part of the backdrop of everyday life, my great-grandmother’s quilt sees a regular (though admittedly careful) rotation in our house.  My fascination with the skill and patience of quilting has continued to grow, and last year, I joined the ranks of my family’s quilters.

Last Christmas, for the second year in a row, I drew my grandma’s name in my family’s annual handmade holiday gift exchange.  Since her mother is the source of my quilting inspiration, I threw caution to the wind and decided to learn to quilt.  Several books, tutorials, and a calloused middle finger later, I had this:

Quilt 4

Quilt 1

Quilt 3

Quilt 2

It is, certainly, a beginner’s quilt.  It’s a crib-sized lap quilt, simple in design, machine-pieced, backed with flannel, and turned instead of bound.  But it is hand-quilted (I traced dinner and dessert plates!), and there is now another confirmed quilter in my family.  I hope it will keep lots of laps just a little bit cozier in years to come.

Big News

January 17, 2012




Big news, folks:

After six years, three graduations, three cities, two first jobs, one puppy, and more Thai food than is reasonable for two people, Chris and I are getting married.

Married.  Like real grownups.


On Community

January 13, 2012
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Game Night


Game Night 2
Last year, I overcame my life-long aversion to New Year’s resolutions –kind of– and set my focus for the year on the concept of less. Though it’s an ongoing process, a year later I feel less cluttered, less stretched, and less frantic. As I’d hoped, having less of the things I don’t want in my life has left room for more of the things I do want, and as a result 2011 was a wonderfully full year.
This year, I want to focus on what I want more of. I’m a natural introvert with awkward, hermit-like tendencies, but I crave people. (What can I say? I’m a tortured soul.) The times in my life in which I’ve been happiest have been full of people, especially friends nearby who come over on a whim and vice versa. As a commuter, my stash of friends near home is pretty limited (um, nonexistent?), and I rarely see the friends scattered across the Bay Area. (The Bay Area is big, y’all. Most of my friends aren’t at all remote, generally speaking, and yet it’s a 45-minute drive to see them.) So this year, I’m building myself a community.
I’m not certain exactly what that means, but I think it will be a bit of investing in the community I do have, making an effort to leave the quiet of home for some socializing every once in a while (after all, I’m not after a total personality transplant), and filling my home with people on a regular basis. I’d like to make more connections with like-minded people in blogland; see my real, live, in-the-flesh friends more often, write more letters to my aunt in Iowa. I’d like to be brave enough to invite the cool people from knit night to hang out outside the yarn shop. I’d like to find out of any of my neighbors are as wonderful as the ones who moved away last summer.
I’m on my way already – last week, instead of planning to “someday” have people over for a game night, I seized an opportunity and invited folks over for Sunday evening. It wasn’t a late night or a big group, but my house was full of chatter and laughter and music on Pandora, and it was just right. I could get used to that.