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.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Turns out, it's hard to eat candy with your arms sheathed in aluminum piping.

So of course, come actual Halloween...



Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Beautiful World

(The writing is from last year, but I took the photo today--not in my own yard--and it reminded me.)

Growing up in Pennsylvania, I always imagined myself settling in New England—longing for it, as if I’d narrowly missed being born to the geographic place I belonged. Then I grew up, packed up everything I owned, and moved to the Central Valley of California. Most years, once my gratitude for a bone dry summer has passed, I wonder what I was thinking, why I chose something so clearly not the perfect fit: I want something more colorful, more fully saturated; a steeper descent into the cold quiet of winter. But here, there’s usually no real descent into anything—just a small step down from muted autumn changes into a cool, grey wetness.

Today is the day after Thanksgiving. It’s actually been a pretty good autumn here, as they go, and as I drive home there’s weather moving over the mountains to the west of me, fog and mist obscuring the hills, and the valley seems on fire with fall color by contrast. By the time I pull up to my house, the sky has gone a little grey, and the wind has picked up, so there are leaves falling and blowing everywhere. I always wish there were a tree in my yard that would go bright red when we have this kind of rare, intense fall. I imagine it would make me feel more at home, somehow.

But today, in the grey light, I can see just how brightly yellow my own trees are: pomegranate, weeping cherry, Chinese pistachio. I’m surrounded by gold. I really do love it here, and maybe longing is just an inevitable part of living.

And I think of my Uncle Frank—a tall, handsome man, who always smelled appealingly of after-shave, warm and clean and solid. When I was little, he would hold me on his lap and tell me something I think of every single time the wealth of my own life momentarily erases the longing: “It’s a beautiful world, sweetheart.”

The Right Tools

I'm convinced that having the correct tools for a job pretty much always makes a difference. A job that might have been difficult at best suddenly becomes not only easier, but potentially joyful. But I'm also slow to upgrade, even when the job I'm trying to do is pretty important to me. It's not just that I resist spending the money (though that's often the case, and that's a whole other discussion), but frequently, even when a task feels overwhelmingly difficult, it simply doesn't even occur to me that there might be something that would make it easier. Or that maybe I'm not just naturally terrible at whatever I'm trying to do.

For several years now, I've been meaning to get my jewelry up in an etsy shop. But the picture taking has sort of been killing me--I started out trying to get good shots of my tiny, shiny, glassy, silvery pieces with a little Canon Powershot thingy, and it did not go well. At all. A friend loaned me his Nikon digital thingy (as you can see, "thingy" is clearly a technical photography term--I apologize if my professional jargon is intimidating to you). The Nikon digital thingy was taking less than great shots, and since the camera was Big and Important Looking with many functions and features, I assumed I was just having serious operator error issues. (Frankly, the operator error issues remain uncontested.)

A kind new friend came over one day to try to figure out how I could get some better shots of my stuff with the Nikon, and she definitely helped me. (And she's still owed a necklace of little bronze leaves as a thank you! Yikes!) We figured out how to change the white balance on the camera, and that was helpful, and she showed me a few other tricks, and by the end of our hour together I had enough confidence to take some jewelry outside and squeeeeeeze a few halfway decent pictures out of the camera. I found Picnik for editing purposes, which also helped, and there was no denying the pictures were way better than I'd been getting prior to that day.

But. They still left a lot to be desired. And I've generally felt a low-level, background interference sort of discouragement and anxiety about the whole thing--like I was going to have to gain an enormous new artistic skill in order to sell my jewelry. A skill I'd very much like to have, but you know, I don't want to have to drop everything to become a photographer just so I can throw some stuff up on etsy.

Then tonight, my lovely sweetie gave me an astounding early birthday (Chanukah, New Year's, Valentine's, President's Day...) gift--a Canon EOS Rebel T2i (for those of you who are
not intimidated by jargon and camera geekery). Mind you, I still have utterly no clue what I'm doing, but somehow this thingy feels more intuitive than the thingies I'd been using, and in addition, I'm quickly developing a suspicion that you actually can't take a terrible picture with it.

I give you two pictures of my jewelry--taken at night, indoors, under a mixture of compact fluorescent and daylight tube-type fluorescent lights. No editing to speak of. (Except to shrink these babies down, because the camera? It's an 18 megapixel monster of clarity. Even on the lowest quality setting these pictures are ginormous.)

It may be that something of my excitement will be lost on you if you didn't get to see the abysmal and then slightly less than abysmal results I was getting from the other cameras I was using. I realize the shots below aren't brilliant photography or anything, but you're gonna need to trust me, the difference is sort of jaw dropping already. I can't wait to see what I'll be able to do in daylight when I actually know how to work the darn thing.

Silver clay moon and tree pendant imprinted with a photopolymer plate

Silver clay twig with fused glass cabochon and bronze wire

Monday, November 1, 2010

•the early bird gets the gummies•

After our Annie's organic bunny snacks ran out last night, the things we found to reward late-coming trick-or-treaters would have been more heartily appreciated by Freecycle. The options for the gaggle of Lady Gagas and Freddy Kruegers?
1980s cat and bat Pez dispensers.
Peppermints and root beer barrels from Christmases past.
Microwave popcorn.
Crystal Light "On the Go!" packets.
Halls' hard candy (tangerine flavor).
A single serving of Taster's Choice.
Dry roasted peanuts, courtesy of Southwest Airlines.
A single jelly bean.
A small package of crackers.
A brazil nut.
A walnut.
A piece of Trident gum.
"I call Trident!" I heard one kid exclaim. "Weird..." said another, and still another stood in the doorway, saying "this Pez is empty. It's empty." Poor thing kept repeating "empty" to my husband, in the vain hope he would produce... something for her pains? Although everyone selected something from the mix (and some even smiled), approximately zero found the assortment as amusing as we did.

p.s. Our plan for next year? Fill the bowl with Emergen-C and Celestial Seasonings.