Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Girls Wrap Up and Moving On

A's first sewing project.

After a week of heartbreak over the girls leaving, Jeff having the unfortunate timing of leaving the next day for a week to visit his daughter, and a wacky visit from my father, I'm happy to be back. Whew!

Wrap Up
The girls returned home to mom and dad with a new bad word, lots of practice using it in a sentence, and more driving experience than any 9 and 11 year old should ever have.

Decoupage was popular. As in, "When are we going to do decoupage?" "Is it time for decoupage?" "Are we going to decoupage now?" I'm convinced saying the word "decoupage" as many times as possible is the best part of decoupage.

Sewing was less popular. Competing with driving, skinny dipping in the pool, watching Project Runway for the second time, and Jeff's constant offers to drive down the street for another trip to Yogurtland, certainly didn't help. But also my method--grandma's beloved method--of sewing was threatening project completion.

I kept telling them that sewing was like driving a car, but my precise guiding didn't feel at all like our spins around the block. So after their final run to Yogurtland, I gave it another whirl with the "let er rip" philosophy. Let it pucker. Zig and zag. Pedal to the metal, let's just have some fun. And voila! Mission accomplished.

L. admires her work.

Yay! Sewing isn't dead.

P.S. If you're a Sherman Alexie fan, you'll love his new short story, "War Dances," in The New Yorker. Pam swears he's not to be missed in person.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Summer Love

Look who's arriving today!
Our flower girlies, L & A ages circa 2005.

My girlfriend, K, tells me, Big "A.. wakes up and the first thing she says is,
"Oh Mom, I can't describe how excited I am!"

Little L tells me confidently, "I'm just nervous about the plane."

Last year on their first flight alone, they confided to us that they cried "just a little" on the plane, and complained that the flight attendant never said a word to them.

The house is stocked with Quaker chocolate chip oat bars, Wheat Thins, and pizza makings, the sewing machine is repaired for projects, and the camping gear is packed.

I'm walking in my grandparents' shoes. Except then my brother and I flew on PSA with stewardesses who doted on us, pinned us with flying wings, and took us to the cockpit to chat with the pilot. We arrived to a big-kid swing rigged to the beamed ceiling of the living room, two cots at the end of our grandparents' bed, and an endless supply of Eggo waffles, Twinkies, and Ding Dongs.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Packing my Bags

Design Sponge's sneak peek of artists, Alyn and Paul Clancy, slays me with its beauty and artistry.

Alyn writes: "when i renovated my back three acres, i found walking from house to yard barefoot altered everything for me. the quality of my work, art, life changed."

Jeff will never go for living with seasons: snow, cold, rain, anything under 50 degrees, but I'm ready to be altered.

Sally's Paintings

There's an amusing discussion going on over at isuwannee about how easy it might be to whip out an abstract painting. Jamie, queen of the one-line, pithy blog post, led me to Sally King Benedict.

I'll take ten, please.

One is too hard to choose.

I'll need more rooms.

With a bed in each room.

Hang the painting to the right.

I'll need to lie next to it to touch it with my eyes

for hours on end,

day after day.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tugging at That Single Thing

Yosemite Creek was the low point. The car was sputtering and spit firing, and we had just reached the bottom of a long, steep, unpaved, potholed road. Our last hope for a place to stay had run out, it was pitch dark, and we weren’t sure the car would make it back up the hill. So we made dinner.

I chopped tomatoes. One of our headlamps started sputtering like the car and went out. I helped Jeff comb the ground for his misplaced sunglasses, which we eventually found, not on the ground, but on the bridge of his nose. We ate our Greek salad out of a big salad bowl between us in the front seat of the car. We sat for a few minutes just taking a breather. And then Jeff spit out a one of his zingers as he hoisted himself out of the car. My laughter started slowly, built, gained momentum as he joined me until we were both doubled over convulsing, stumbling, and crying like a scene from a Cheech and Chong movie.

Before I married Jeff at 40, I had at least a dozen substantial relationships. I wanted very badly to get married and have a family. But I couldn’t pull the trigger with any of these guys until Jeff came along. But this isn’t one of those happily ever after stories that happens when you finally meet your prince. The biggest blow came when it became clear I wasn’t going to get my dream of having a family. I’ve been finding my way out of that disappointment for awhile now. In surprising ways, this trip was one more stepping stone along the path.

John Muir wrote, “When we tug at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to the rest of the world,” When he wrote this, I’m sure he didn’t have in mind a 450-mile round trip to Yosemite for a 10-minute walk. But that’s what I got.

Jeff waited at the car while I went scouting for a site at the backpacker’s walk-in campground. Within minutes of my short walk, I was overcome with a sense of bodily ease and serenity that shocked me with its speed in arriving and profundity. I came back to the car shaking my head, “Nope. Full,” I said.

Before I married Jeff, I found a guy who had never been married and wanted a family. He was 35, three years younger than I, and very sympathetic to starting a family on my time clock instead of his. The relationship worked best on visits to his parents’ where his mother would look into my eyes and gently finger my long hair resting on my shoulders. He knew all the words to Queen, would belt it out to the delight of my friends, and listened to NPR. All this was very, very good.

But no wedding bells rang. We took a trip once—a cross-country trip from Boston to Palo Alto, California--that ended with our being stranded in Tallahassee, Florida. For four days we drove up and down Tennessee Street, the car dealership row, to try and get the car fixed, to try and buy a car, and eventually, unload and junk the car. Elizabeth, who was nine at the time, plotted the adventure on a map that she updated with a pin every time she got an email. When the trip ended with only a few plotted pins, Elizabeth simply drew a picture of a plane and pasted it over the string that stretched across the United States to Palo Alto in one swoop. I found it all hysterical. Day after day as we passed one of dozens of those ridiculous inflatable stick figure air tube dancers demanding our attention at every car lot, I busted up as they began to symbolize the mockery of the trip. My potential, perfect future husband, however, grew as serious and humorless as a spokesperson for Palestinian rights.

Jeff and I got out of Yosemite creek, drove home in the middle of the night and were detoured and delayed nearly every 30 miles by an Obama-stimulus-plan road crew. We got lost. A hubcap flew off. And the laughter never stopped. Flopping in our bed that night, I lay looking at the once-divorced, ten-years-old-than-I, father to a 21-year-old, ESPN-loving man lying next to me and felt certain that I married the right guy and that sometimes 10 minutes is enough to get everything you need.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sitting on a Story

Last night, I returned from Yosemite. We were gone for about 12 hours.

Before I left on the trip, I wrote a letter to my great uncle. Getting a letter in his mailbox is the highlight of his day. He needs them.

This morning I started to write him a postscript letter about the Yosemite bust. The letter became an epic blog post, and then in the process the story changed. It got bigger.

It turns out it wasn't a bust, even though it was. Maybe I'll give it a shot sometime and tell the story. For now I'm sitting on it like Jen is sitting on her new painting.

One thing I enjoyed in our 11 1/2 hours in the car was telling Jeff all these details about my grandfather. I LOVE telling these stories over and over--a bit like a child who loves hearing the story of when he was a baby. Even though my grandfather left 27 years plus 1 month ago, it seems with every passing year his presence grows stronger and stronger.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


We're off to our favorite place: The back country trails from Tuolomne Meadows. The awesome presence of Half Dome on the valley floor is stunning, but so are the crowds. In the high country we get lake after lake all to ourselves.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Alice Waters' Pesto Pasta with Bottom Layer of Heirloom Tomatoes

Lately, along with Mark Bittman's article in the NY Times, 100 Simple Salads for the Season, and Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food, our weeknight fare has been getting the shake up it's been waiting for.

No Julia or Julia, I cheer Waters' fundamental tips and suggestions for getting jazzy with the basics. Last night's pesto pasta was divine.

Fundamental: Skip the food processor and pound pesto ingredients with mortar and pestle.

Basic: Add 1/2 cup of pasta water to pasta and pesto.

Sublime variation: Plate a layer of sliced heirloom tomatoes. Pile pasta on top of the heirlooms, letting them peak out for a meaty surprise.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sneak Peek: Casa Sara and Larry Part I

I haven't been able to persuade Larry to have his latest remodel photographed for Sunset. "Too much hassle," he says. So I've taken matters into my own hands. Welcome to Sara and Larry's, Part I sneak peek.

Larry's an architect whose house has been under constant remodel as long as I've known him. He uses color sparingly, but decided he could go SpicyTomato for the patio. "I tried it out on a client to see if it was really "hot, he says, "and it was. The client didn't like it, but I did."

Sara is entertainer/cook extraordinaire. I'm still aspiring to pull off dinner parties as well as she does.

Care for a mojito?

Perch yourself on a wheel-y stool and take a ride. Weeeeee!

Featured design element: exposed steel girders in dining area (above back).

The drawing, a scene of palapas on a Mexican beach by Eve Page, hangs over the former fireplace. When I ask Larry about the decision to remove the fireplace, he says, "Sara came into the living room when the sheetrockers were working and said, 'Why do we keep that thing? Just sheetrock across the fireplace. It always smells and smokes and I hate it.'" "Of course," he says, "she was right."

The swooping gold lamp, he reveals, "is, again, the brilliance of Sara, who reminded me that she had this lamp in storage in her garage and thought it would look great in our new living room. It is about 40 years old and I had to take it apart and really clean it up and put it back together." It's also available at Design Within Reach for about $3K.

The architect speaketh on the yellow paint: "It's called 'Caterpillar Yellow' after the Caterpillar tractor. This has been one of my favorite colors for a long time. I had a 40-year-old color chip and went to Dunn Edwards and they STILL had the color formula, written in pencil on a 3-by-5 card. The other colors are all on computer, so I knew this was the right color."

Standing from the patio, here's a view of SpicyTomato and Caterpillar Yellow looking through the glass doors, through the dining room and outside again. Larry took the inside yellow paint and extended it to the outside wall. It's an unexpected splash of color viewed from either the patio or the dining room.

Stay tuned for sneak peek part II.

Thanks to Design Sponge for inspiration.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer Salad: Arugula with grilled chicken.....

Hat's off to Martha's Everyday Food team. This arugula salad with grilled chicken, corn, tomatoes, and blue cheese is perhaps the most satisfying salad I've had all summer. Easy.

I substituted goat cheese for the Gorgonzola. mmmmmm....

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Fun with Decoupage

Vanessa brought over some little boxes to paint and decoupage on Saturday. Fun to get reacquainted with this lost 70s craft.

Vanessa's: paper doll theme.


Nectarine Chutney over Grilled Chicken

Oh my, delicious! Easy too. You must try. (Make some extra for a picnic at the park the next day.)

The recipe is from Epicurious: Grilled Chicken Palliards with Nectarine Chutney.