Friday, December 24, 2010


She was always up before dawn, in the impossibly dark morning, with the clock ticking timelessly and me, surely waking before anyone else... She was up, and dressed, and busy in the kitchen. My grandmother Audrey, maker of mincemeat and meringue pies and peanut butter eggs and holiday dinners and grandchildren. Every December, she made "mints," pale green and pink discs that melted away when you bit into them. She'd keep them on the stone patio behind the house, in giant tins. This year, I learned why she made so many--one recipe makes a zillion--and also why she got up so early. I tried to re-create some this year, and was most successful whilst the toddler slept.

I had this to go on:

Sweetened/condensed is the only "condensed" milk I've ever heard of, so I reached for that.

To get a log-able dough, I had to play around with quantities. More milk, more peppermint... My discoveries were
a) I think she meant vanilla flavoring the first time she lists flavoring,
b) blending the liquids together first makes everything easier, and
c) even if it doesn't look like a recipe, follow it to the letter. Trust.

My grandma called me "Pee Wee," because I was the littlest for 8 years, and slender as a toddler. I remember thrilling over her craft drawers, examining spearhead after feather after button. She was a troupe leader, and mother of five--all daughters. Costumes and everyday clothes were hand-made. A pint of ice cream was shared between seven bodies.

This morning, I am the one up before dawn. I can putter, and make, and watch the day stretch before me. It's Christmas, and I am grateful for everything: quiet, family, materials, memory.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Around the House

It's been rainy and cold for several days, and our central heat hasn't been working for a while. I finally broke down yesterday and called someone to come fix it, which they did with impressive speed, actually--like, within half an hour of my call.

(Are my husband and I the only homeowners who love our heating and air conditioning company? They've done a number of jobs for us since we moved into this house [and one in our last rental house, too, which is how we found them], and, no joke, I could write a whole entry on how lovely they are, from the owner of the company on down. They're super good people, and super good at what they do. [And for anyone local, that's Blake's Heating and Air Conditioning.] There's something wonderful about getting to support the business of people for whom you have that much respect.)

Anyway, it's not as if we were totally without heat--we have a room heating system (a mini split) for the largest room in the house, and most of the time, that's all we need to use--it provides ambient heat to the bedroom, the other room we use with any frequency. And then, of course, we have a wood stove, in which Brian started a fire yesterday, just before I broke down and called to have the central heat repaired. I was kind of miserable and unproductive thanks to the chill. The rain and the 40 degree highs don't sound so bad if you're living in a place with real winter, but even those temps can make it feel uncomfortably chilly inside--especially when it's wet outside--and the mini split system was having trouble keeping up. I love the cold weather, but I don't really want it creeping into my house.

Now we have real heat on and a fire going. And I still need multiple sweaters.

The fire is so lovely, I was inspired to play with the camera. I find the ash covered, red hot coals especially beautiful.

Not the best photograph, but below are the Italian cypress trees that stand in our next-door-neighbor's side yard, and I love to look at them through our skylights. They're incredibly majestic trees, and I thought they were tall when we first moved into the house, but every once in a while, I see them with fresh eyes, and I realize how alarmingly much they've grown in the almost four years we've lived here.

When we put solar panels on our house a few years ago, the solar company encouraged us to talk to our neighbor about taking the trees down, and she and my husband actually discussed it--she was totally willing to let us do it (she's a fantastic next-door-neighbor, and the tree thing is just the tip of the iceberg). But I wasn't having any of it. They barely block the panels, and it just wasn't worth it to take down such spectacular trees--especially since they amount to the only real view we have in this house. There are other windows, of course, but they don't really lead anywhere inspiring. (Want to see an inspiring view from someone's house? Check this out.)

These trees blow around in the wind, and they seem to be waving, or talking to me. They tell me whether it's windy or still outside, and they're accompanied by the music of these wind chimes my brother gave me. The chimes are large, and they sound deeply, nothing tinkly about them. More like actual bells. Dark, mysterious bells providing a soundtrack to windy days.

Friday, December 17, 2010

•fumbling toward christmas•

Satellite wreath-ery (from a visit to Atlanta)...

Gingerbread house-ery...

Gingerbread mastery (from a visit to Columbus; note the Currier & Ives model in the background)...

Small boy wonder, and tall leafery.

Happy Friday!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

We're Still Here, and Gratuitous Jewelry Pictures

Yeah, so we're actually still here. Just in case anyone is reading out there--or trying to. There was travel (for some of us), and Thanksgiving, and more travel (for some of us). And then I basically got eaten by my own preparations for the yearly pre-holiday sale I do with a friend.

I make jewelry from silver clay, bronze clay, and a variety of other materials that inspire me. And yesterday, at this year's sale, I was actually able to get some pretty decent pictures of my things, which was lovely. Next step? Actually placing things into the empty, lonely etsy shop I created several years ago. (For the sad tale of why my shop is still empty and lonely, read here--but watch this etsy space, because with a camera this cooperative, there's no reason to leave the tumbleweeds in place any longer.)

And without further ado, and because I'm too tired and behind on other work to write anything more engaging, here are the gratuitous jewelry pictures. Enjoy.
(I'm also too tired to add commentary to the pictures, but if you have questions, do ask! I'm happy to answer them after more sleep.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Little Funny Something

The Unhappy Hipsters site is a mixed bag, in my opinion--it ranges from kinda dumb and trying too hard to laugh-out-loud funny. I think this entry falls on the latter end of the scale.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


It's supposed to go down to 29 degrees Fahrenheit here tonight. We had to cover baby plants in our yard to protect them from frost--not a common occurrence here, even this time of year.

There's a little corner of my East Coast heart that wants to wait up, then take the dogs out for a middle-of-the-night walk in that cold, all bundled in heavy woolen things. Real winter clothing faded from my wardrobe a long time ago--parkas and boots--but I can still rustle up a hefty sweater or two. I have this one sweater that was made for me by Betsy, the woman I think of as my other mom, though we've been out of touch for a few years. She's the mother of my best friend from college, Kate, and she comes from a long line of New Englanders, so you can imagine she knows her way around a wool sweater. The sweater she made for me is glorious--all fall leaf colors and that bouncy quality that really great wool has. Knitters know what I'm talking about. I would wear it way more often than I do, but it's absurdly warm for this part of the world most of the time.

Every once in a while though, I like to take the sweater out of storage in my cedar chest and just smell it. It still smells like wood smoke, and the particular laundry detergent Betsy always used. I suppose Kate must always have used the same brand, because it smells like her too, and like her rooms in our college dorms. It's the scent of blissful weeks I got to spend with their family in Connecticut, often over Thanksgiving break, when I would take the train up from Philadelphia after spending the holiday with my own family. One year, Kate's family held Thanksgiving until I could get there on Friday--all of them, Kate; her brother; her mom and dad; Great Uncle M., who came down from Maine every winter to live with them; Betsy's sister, in from Illinois. They waited for me, and I got to have Thanksgiving again with my second family.

I remember taking a walk that Thanksgiving, and it was absolutely freezing--literally freezing, and brightly sunny, with that watery but somehow brittle looking, low sun you get on a winter day. It's always funny to me to look outside on a bright winter day in California--the sun is right, the low angle, the watery look, and I always expect a certain kind of frigid temperature to go along with it, and of course it never happens. Most years around these parts, you could reasonably hold a picnic in the park on Thanksgiving. It used to depress me, but I've come to appreciate the cold where I can get it--tonight, for example.

Kate's mom and great uncle were also the ones who taught me to knit for real. My mom taught me basics when I was seven or eight, and I created one orange acrylic scarf with green fringe for my Paddington Bear, but that was it until my Connecticut family got hold of me in college. Everyone in the family knit except for Kate's dad, and in the winter, there were frequently little unplanned knitting circles going on around the wood stove. After I'd learned to knit, every time he saw me, Great Uncle M. invariably asked me how my knitting was coming along. And I invariably had to admit that it was extremely, very, really, really slow. Oh, the guilt!

Tomorrow, my own real mom is coming over to help cook for Thanksgiving, and I'm trying to give up this idea I've been clinging to of getting anything non-Thanksgiving related done. Honestly, this is one of my favorite holidays, and I'll have my mom in the kitchen with me, making it extra holiday-like. And it's going to be colder than normal--too cold for a picnic! So maybe I'll break out my other mom's gorgeous sweater, and then take a break from the cooking to go for a walk in that bright winter sunshine with my first mom. And maybe I'll sit down and write a long letter to my Connecticut family, to wish them a happy Thanksgiving, and to tell them just how incredibly much I love them all, and just how much the smell of their house on my sweater makes me homesick.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

•the problem with christmas•

Christmas is imminent, and whether or not you "celebrate," you have an opinion. What, pray tell, is it? Share. Please. Your story will help us all feel a little less crazy next month.

No problem.

Nope, not a problem.

Cousins rough-housing? Still not the problem with Christmas.

OK, here we go: what is this tiny, tiny beer doing at Christmas dinner?

All things made better with cake.

Wait. No, no, no... Does that cake say Happy Birthday? SIGH.
The problem with Christmas: it's not just Jesus's birthday.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

•this is just a tribute•

(You gotta believe me.) Actually, this is a half-assed post, if ever there was one. My goal was to get Cranky McPumpkin off the cover of our blog.

My mother shipped this tiny book of terrible penmanship a couple months ago. It is an artifact from my third grade self. I hearted many. Of these, I am still in touch with Jeffrey, and hope he is out there laughing (since he is the proud papa of a little lady who is going to be loving ponies and writing about boys one day)... xox

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010


At the moment, nothing is working. I've been wanting to write something--anything!--here for a week, and nothing wants to get written. I've been trying to prepare jewelry for a sale I'm supposed to be having with a friend in, oh, two weeks, and nothing, apparently, wants to get made. Every new design I want to try (and one that's been limping along for some time now, refusing to happen properly) fails utterly. I could go into details, but they bore even me.

I'll just say that it seems mighty unfair when one isn't procrastinating, and still nothing creative happens. Cranky making. Almost as if one is supposed to be doing something else entirely--walking the dogs somewhere nice, say--and one is stubbornly failing to receive the message from the universe. Perhaps because one has one's metaphorical fingers in one's metaphorical ears, and is metaphorically sing-songing, "La la la...I can't hear you!"

Right now, I'm going to go put one small piece in the kiln to see what happens (a brazen waste of electricity, by the way). Maybe it'll work this time, and my day (week, month...year!) will be redeemed.

And if not, at least I'll have the satisfaction of smashing the glass cabochon out of it with a hammer in order to send the silver off to be recycled. Because smashing sounds smashing right about now.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


A city Penn was drawing, so I can "go in there."
Some squirrel candy.
Penn, "baking bread" with leaves.

All signs point to good.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

•California disbelievin'•

This happens periodically. Amy & I will glance up from our work to see a giant palm tree, or a Hollywood sunset, or a blisteringly hot day in... November. To a couple of East Coast gals, that's pretty weird.

But we're managing. xox

p.s. Gratuitous hay bale shots, courtesy of one uncommonly brisk day at Impossible Acres last month. Penn calls this place "Possible Acres."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mostly for Lis

But of course, also for anyone else who happens to be reading here (hello out there!). I just happen to think my co-blogger will flip her lid when she sees this.

Like a nice decorative, seasonal craft made from found natural objects? Go here for a really, really lovely one.

And then stay and wander around a bit. Maya and her various creations are both pretty awesome. Here's another of my very fav
orite Maya designs, from the recycled sewing category.

•kitty cozy•

We're still winding down from Halloween, over here. Transitioning into our cold-toed, hibernatory phase. Counting down to winter, one snug night at a time. xox

Sunday, November 7, 2010


The other night, Penn arrived at my birthday dinner fairly bursting with excitement to give me my birthday present, and who could blame him? I love my new Chicken (uh, yeah, it looks like a rooster, but Penn tells me his name is Chicken), and I took quite a number of portraits of him with my new camera. So count yourselves lucky I'm only posting one. But come on, he's fabulous, no?

For a while last year, our group of friends celebrated so many birthdays at our house that every time Penn came over, he would ask, "Amy, do you have cake?" Here, he had just asked me whether we were going to eat the cake, or just look at it, and I was confirming for him that we were just going to look at it. I like a three-year-old who laughs at my dumb jokes.

Here, having discovered with relief that I really was joking, Penn hurries to consume his cake before I can change my mind. (Credit for both these photos goes to our wonderful friend Kathryn.) (And can we talk about his awesome robot t-shirt? Not as awesome as Robot Penn, but pretty darn awesome.)

On Friday, Brian and I took the dogs on a little overnight trip to Truckee, California, and we stopped for doggie swimming at Martis Creek Lake. Tigger loves to swim, while Annie...prefers to linger at the edge of the water, hoping she won't get too wet and that Tigger will soon bring the ball back into stealing range.

While we were there, Brian got some terrific shots of the Spiced Pumpkin Sweater in action. (There you go, Lis!)

And then we went on to Truckee, a town I'd never really been to before, but which is lovely and low-key this time of year when the ski season hasn't yet begun. And the Cedar House Sport Hotel is highly recommended if you're traveling with a dog. Technically, you can only have one dog with you, but they very, very kindly made an exception for our two, because it's off season and we asked nicely. And everyone there is incredibly nice, including Baxter, the resident pooch. Our dogs were welcomed with a bowl for eating and drinking, plus a bed for each of them, on top of each of which sat a gift bag of freshly baked, organic doggie cookies and a fresh tennis ball (plus several discreetly rolled plastic bags with which to clean up the inevitable).

Actually, Truckee is possibly the most dog-friendly town I've ever been to--every business we went into had a dog! And there were tons of dogs just out and about, having adventures with their people. As they should. It was lovely. And besides that, Truckee is absolutely beautiful this time of year. This shot of the Truckee River was taken from the bridge in the center of town. Aspen trees, people--like as if we're really in the mountains of the American West or something!

Truckee is at about 5900 feet above sea level, way higher up than Davis, which is at something more like 59 feet or so above sea level. This means that a mere two hours from our home, everything about the weather and growing seasons is different, which is still mind-blowing for a girl from the East coast. There were several apple trees just hanging out in people's yards, dropping windfall apples among the leaves. And perhaps waiting for someone to turn the fruit into harder-than-rock apple products. Or not.