30 August 2006

To the Sea

Our visit to Newport, Rhode Island and points beyond was mostly cast with clouds and rain, but we still found it memorable and photo-worthy. The bright spots arrived at Saturday's family gathering, and a quick peek of sun on Monday for an afternoon drive up the coast.

Newport was quaint, with its eclectic shops, and inviting piers just as you'd imagine them--adirondack chairs lining the docks, sailboats tied steady with thick rope, and the mixed aromas of fish and funnel cakes swirling around. Mornings, Jeremy and I dodged puddles along Thames Street, over to The Steaming Bean or Peaceable Market for a cup of weak coffee, always served with a frown that we learned to accept.

Cape Cod felt a bit dreary from the rain, but the lobster houses dotting the highway beckoned us in for steamy chowder, and by the time we reached the last point at Provincetown, the skies had gone from grey to fluffy white. Vibrant flowers spilled from windows and the steeples of old wooden churches created shadows on the sidewalks where street musicians played as basset hounds napped on a bench.

24 August 2006

Denim and Feathers

Today I was reminded of a few of the small but meaningful enjoyments of life:

A favorite lunch. Music nostalgia. Jeans I can breathe in. The promise of a good night’s sleep.

While out running errands today, I stopped for lunch at Calypso Café, a small chain of Nashville restaurants featuring a pseudo-healthy menu of Caribbean inspired foods. As I munched down my rotisserie chicken sandwich with its curious lemony-mustard sauce, and pureed sweet potatoes sprinkled with coconut flakes, I thought about how fortunate I am to live in the town of Calypso Café. I often whine about missing the plethora of fabulous dining choices that Houston had to offer…but as far as I know, Houston does NOT have Calypso, and therefore, no boija muffins, no refreshing fruit tea mixed to sweet perfection, and no Lucayan salad with plump little segments of orange.

Back in the car, I flipped around the radio and heard an old favorite from The Wallflowers. The Wallflowers. What a great little band they were... Are?...Were. I loved that One Headlight song, and Three Marlenas. Today it was 6th Avenue Heartache...a great driving song that requires you to turn it up and sing along, which is just what I did.

I headed for Planet Exchange--one of those shops that’s a step up from a thrift store, where you can bring your unwanted clothes and trade them for other people’s unwanted clothes, or a smaller amount of actual cash to spend on more boija muffins if you’d like. After our closet-cleaning binge, Jeremy and I purged quite a few undesirable clothes (tragically, his oversized jean jacket [circa Michael J. Fox on a skateboard] did not make the giveaway pile, despite my pleading.) Still feeling full from lunch, I passed on the cash and traded our old shirts for two bigger-than-usual-sized pairs of jeans with extra room to grow. I am not really one for the atrocious pregnancy panel-pants, though I did break down and order one pair from Gap.com that are actually quite comfy.

Which lead me home, to a large cardboard box on the front porch. Inside was quite possibly the most wonderful gift I have ever received. My kind mother-in-law sent a gigantic body pillow shaped something like one’s inner ear canal, but so fluffy and lumpy and squishy and magnificent that it immediately became my most prized possession…especially since I haven’t slept well in at least a few weeks, and toss pillows from the sofa are not really cutting it for back support. I hugged the pillow for a long time, curled up on our new bed. Then Jeremy tried it and was envious. I feel silly writing this much about a pillow, but I know there are people out there who understand my elation. Tonight I will sink into blissful sleep and tomorrow we catch a morning flight to Boston. Oh if only the giant pillow could fit inside my carry-on.

23 August 2006


it's a wednesday that feels like a friday.

we slept in until eleven today. jeremy pointed out that i always follow his lead when it comes to waking up. on the rare occasion that he decides to sleep in a little extra, i will keep right on sleeping too. no matter that i went to bed four hours earlier than he did the night before. i guess i'm a follower that way. i never was the kid on the playground leading the game of Red Rover. i was more often the one in conflict: simultaneously hoping to get picked so i wouldn't feel socially rejected, while fearing my name being called out because i didn't like being the center of attention either. i am not sure how any of that relates to sleeping though.

we took our late-morning coffee outside to the shaded bench at the edge of the yard and looked at the backside of our garden, admiring the limbs of the willow tree that are finally beginning to weep.

it's nice outside today...kind of a California day. we decided to go downtown for lunch.

every time we cross the river into downtown we realize how much we like it there---the sparse bustle of office workers walking the streets and sitting at umbrellaed tables in the courtyards, the contrast of fountains and trees against cement and brick, the smells of exhaust mixed with bad chinese food and summer air. jeremy said the smell reminded him of being in Rome, and i could catch a hint of that too. we had sandwiches and tea at Crumbs cafe, and then walked around for a little while. it's good to feel like a part of a city, to remember that there is life happening beyond the confines of our little world.

we are getting ready to put together our new bed (i sense a theme)--a project that's been on hold for several days so jeremy could finish writing and begin recording on the new album. studio time was productive for him and it was especially exciting to watch him produce. he seemed natural at it, buzzing with creativity and so full of great ideas.

my favorite lyric of the moment: "so much more than the sum of your longings are the good and the bad, all this beauty and tragedy..."

the only drawback to staying in bed until eleven is that you miss out on half of a beautiful day, and before you know it it's four o'clock. that's why i like to think of sleeping as an accomplishment in itself.

21 August 2006

C is for sweet deliciousness...

monday morning. husband begins a new endeavor...a musical one.
i support by baking cookies to take to the studio.
i will also tag along and find a spot on the black leather sofa (that every studio seems to have) and nod approvingly and smile silent encouragements in his direction. i wish i could do more...like play the tambourine on a song perhaps.

alas, i have no rhythm.

whenever jeremy eats something that he likes a lot he always says, "mmm, sweet deliciousness..."

he sampled a few cookies pre-studio. they were all laid out in neat little rows: chocolate-dotted circles of temptation on the countertop. i poured him a glass of milk.

the secret ingredients (well, not so secret) are oatmeal powder (made by putting oatmeal in a blender and letting it grind into dust), and a grated up Hershey bar...these are in addition to all the regular things that go into chocolate chip cookies. i figure the oatmeal gives the cookies a bit of a health factor---lowering our cholesterol at the same time as the butter and eggs are raising it, so it all evens out in the end.

someone once told me that they love to watch people eat ice cream because no one is ever unhappy while eating an ice cream cone. the same holds true of my husband and a cookie...

20 August 2006

charcoal and lead

the spice cabinet is still in disarray, but i completed a drawing i've been chiseling away at off and on for a few months. it feels good to have something completed. yesterday was creatively productive for the both of us, Jeremy and me. we stopped only for chicken tacos (lunch)...see, i really DO like Mexican food, a quick outing to buy a bag of Manjaro Java coffee from Davis Cookware in the village, and later to make an inventive salad with apples and sesame-ginger dressing for dinner. today, a brilliant song is five steps closer to completion and our piano is well worn-in...and after two years of a big blank wall, we finally have something to hang above our bed:

it was inspired by a photo i took of tangled paper light fixtures through a shop window one night while walking around Siena, Italy:

19 August 2006

the colors of the day

Music fills the house in an endless stream. The cat scuttles about; the dog sleeps. Gluey oatmeal bubbles on the stove. Stacks of books topple from the coffee table trunk, and my handweights sit in the corner, gathering a guilty layer of dust. Our entire living room has an amber haze, a blending of morning sunlight, the apricot-cinnamon wall color, and the rusty brown of the old wood floors.

Nipper, the RCA dog, peers down from atop the TV armoire toward the radio cabinet that houses our record player and stacks of vinyl. It’s an odd assortment of childhood Christmas records, $3.00 thrift store discoveries, and my dad’s old collection. Captain and Tennille rest atop Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, while Frank Sinatra perches crookedly at the top of the pile, his wilted plastic cover rumpled undeservedly. I can spot Tom Waits' Mule Variations easily from the sofa, its bold white against black letters waving to me. I bought the album for Jeremy for a 1st anniversary gift…number 3 on side 4 is "Take It With Me," the song of our first married dance.

Jeremy clinks his spoon, eating breakfast at his desk while watching a documentary on the computer. I can tell because of the slightly British, very serious narrator voice, the one that's only found on documentaries and from Charlie’s science teacher in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Documentary Man abruptly morphs into Jon Stewart from The Daily Show. The music has stopped and has become a random smattering of un-related television clips via download. Now it’s Paula Zahn. This is the way he watches real TV too: five seconds of one show, three minutes of another. As soon as you give in and finally let yourself become engrossed in Archaeological Finds of Ancient Egyptian Catacombs, he’ll switch the channel mid-scene, just as they are unveiling the tomb of Tutankhamen’s brother and you’re holding your breath in suspense. He’ll jolt you out of your trance into something a world away and ridiculous, like South Park or that show with Flavor Flav, where he’ll pause for a quick laugh before moving over to CNN. It’s a dizzying process, but has become almost endearing. Almost.

The dog is up now and so is Jeremy. They have stopped the madness, and together gone out to mow the six-foot-long grass. It’s been neglected the past two weeks while Jeremy has been hunkered down in his studio writing music for his new record, which begins Monday. So now, the distant buzz of the mower competes with the hum of the dishwasher cleaning sticky oatmeal bowls, which competes with the occasional scamper of cat paws across the floor planks.

I don’t have much planned for today. Odd for me, a planner. I may head back to the fabric store to hunt for more swatches, or rearrange the spice cabinet. (I just know there are plastic baggies of paprika spilling into the bay leaves and tamarind back in the shadows.) Neither seems like an interesting way to occupy a Saturday, so maybe I will paint instead. I am working on four projects at once and need the satisfaction of completing something monumental, more than just muffin-baking and sorting jars for a change. We’ll see.

17 August 2006

the canopy

Sitting down at the computer this morning in the lamp-lit map room, I opened up my Word program to bring forth today’s empty page. Some mornings, I almost dread that white rectangle the screen, wishing it could be a more inviting color and not so blaringly, glowingly WHITE. Other days, I am happy to see the blank canvas appear, unaware that it expects anything from me. This morning, I was somewhere in the middle: not so much dreading, because I re-read a few chapters of Bird By Bird last night (a long ago gift from my favorite aunt Jeanne) and woke feeling a little inspired, but also not exactly sure what I should write about.

Sometimes inspiration hits you across the face like running through a wind tunnel. Suddenly, onto the screen popped a little alarm clock and a box that read: Thanksgiving (Overdue.) Now, we use this computer every day, so I am not exactly sure why it chose the middle of August to pull up a calendar reminder from November--(I am guessing that’s why it was marked overdue.) Kind of makes me think it’s more the computer’s issue than mine…

…however, as my hand moved forward to click the box closed, I paused for a minute and thought: maybe I am overdue. I mean, I do tell Jeremy every day that I am thankful for him (at least I try to,) and most mornings I can honestly say that I am really and truly thankful for my cup of coffee. When we sit down to dinner each evening, we usually take a moment to stop and be thankful for our chicken. But beyond that and a few other things, I am not sure how often lately (or since November) I have taken the time to thank God for all the amazing blessings in my life.

Much more typically, the word ‘thankful’ rolls off my tongue as a sigh of relief. “I am so thankful that the weather is no longer a suffocating 800 degrees,” for instance.

Being that the announcement dubbed me overdue makes me realize that I need to go back to the very beginning and try to remember what it felt like when my thanks-giving first had real sincerity. I believe I was five.

My sister, who is almost six years older than me, had an amazing canopy bed that every girl dreams of. It was slung with ruffled white fabric, creating a billowy rooftop for her to fall asleep under. My room was down the hall, and I am sure my own small bed was something cute, but I barely remember it because I hardly ever slept there.

From the years 1978 to at least 1983, I had a ritual. I would go to bed with the bright hall light spilling into my room. I’d pull the covers snuggly around me and recite my prayers: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take”…and then my own little goofy addition, which I had merged with lines from ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. It went: “Goodnight to all, and to all a goodnight. Amen.”

In retrospect, I think I was mainly praying for myself to have a safe night, because I was terrified that there was something frightening lurking inside my closet or in the shadows beneath my bed. I remember tossing and turning and blinking my brown eyes open and closed; I wished for sleep so desperately. Often, I would return to my prayer with a P.S. to God... "and please let me fall asleep fast. Amen again.”

An hour or two later, my sister would come trotting up the curving staircase to her bedroom, and I would wait, listening in the distance as she washed her face and got ready for bed. The minute the lights blinked out, I would tiptoe quietly down the dark hallway in my nightgown, clutching my blanket or a stuffed animal for protection. I would stand at the doorway and see the lump of my sister, lying there ready to doze off, and I would whisper: “Laurie…can I sleep with you tonight?”

Most nights she would begrudgingly agree, and before she could finish saying “yes,” I had flung myself onto the right side of her comfy double bed, nestling myself down under the shelter of the canopy, warm and secure and finally able to sleep.

Other nights, especially as she got older, she would grumble a sleepy “no,” and I would head reluctantly back to my room, grab my yellow afghan and pillow, and dodge monsters as I timidly walked the hallway toward her room again. There, I would settle myself down on the itchy beige carpet, with one little arm reaching across the doorway into the safety of her bedroom…so thankful just to have my sister nearby.

16 August 2006

a place to sit

while walking around the house, i noticed that we have quite an eclectic assortment of chairs. some people collect stamps or seashells...i collect places to perch. some are flea market or antique store finds, others are hand-me-downs or pieces of my childhood. i have my favorites, but each of them holds special meaning, even if just a comfortable place for the cat to sleep, or brightening a corner of our bedroom. i have posted a more detailed display on Flickr...but here are a few of the images i like best:

[red flea market chair - i love the bright color, the rustic feel, and the curved lines]

[ruby velvet chair that feels regal with its tassels. mia's current favorite napping spot]

[pea green soup desk chair from the 70s with a modern-retro feel, and a bit tattered]

[shabby gold hand-me-down chair from my once-boss lisa. this is where i sit most mornings for coffee and reading by the window...when it is not being occupied by a dog]

[antique wooden rocker, once seatless. a birthday gift from my mom that needed some work...my friend todd refinished it and we had a new thick cushion made from tapestry fabric. this is a chair i will keep forever]

15 August 2006

dot art

While browsing around Textile Fabrics a few days ago, snipping swatches of pinks and blues to tuck away for future use, i came upon this amazing circle patterned silk fabric. i had to have it. it was expensive, so i bought only 1/4 of a yard and decided i could make it work for something. the colors and pattern seemed a perfect fit for our bedroom, and we've been needing some more pieces to liven the walls in there.

at home, i found a couple of old canvases in the basement, splashed with an odd mixture of paint from one of my failed artistic attempts. i stacked them, and jeremy nailed them together for me to make one thick canvas that would jut out from the wall. i covered it first with a thick cream fabric to give it some padding, and then set to work shredding and re-designing the silk and stapling it to the frame. here is the finished product. total cost $6.

i think it looks nice with our pillows and sheets.

13 August 2006


I decided to study our garden, up close. I love the way the soft green lambs ear leaves appear as if they're sprinkled with sugar. From a nearer perspective, it's more like whispy white fur. I discovered a whole new layer to our garden (along with a friendly bug) just by studying it through my camera lens...

...which inspired me to create a place for my photography on Flickr so that it will be easier to view and keep organized. Hopefully I'll be motivated to add new galleries at least once a week in my effort to plow ahead with photographic pursuits (even if only for fun.)

More images from the garden can be found there.