Gifts from my Father

Kylie and Tom - edit-1One of my earliest memories involves a Christmas gift from my father when I was six or seven years old. It was a stocking stuffer, not the main event, and at the time I didn’t think much about it, but it’s stuck with me for a long time. It was a CD entitled Best of the 60s, and I guess it’s memorable both for its incongruity (I don’t think I had any conception of what the 60s were at six years old) and because it was the first of many ways that my father has tried to share music with his children.

He’s been wildly successful in that regard. My brother and sister have been able to see some of his favorites — Bruce Springsteen and Levon Helm — with him. I was finally able to share a live show of my favorite band with him two years ago. On a whim he sent a copy of The Band Live at the Academy of Music to each of us when he bought his own, and I’ll occasionally send him a recording of a show I’ve gone to recently. When I come home to visit, Dad and I have gotten in the habit of trooping down into the basement after dinner to watch concert footage, like The Last Waltz, together.

Even when we’re not sharing the music with each other, my siblings’ and my own relationship with music bears his influence. My dad once remarked how cool it was that, one way or another, all of his children wound up loving the music of his generation. It didn’t happen because he forced it upon us — he never made that classic parental mistake of pushing too hard for us to be like him. Instead, he encouraged me to love music in the same way my mom encouraged me to read: by being completely open-minded and non-judgmental, by allowing me to express it any way I wished, by never forbidding or disapproving of my tastes, and by enthusiastically sharing these experiences with me whenever I was open to it.

One year, due to a very complicated set of circumstances, my dad and I ended up living alone together in New York, while the rest of our family stayed behind in California. I was in eighth grade, and my musical tastes could be described in one of two ways: American Idol or Show tunes (I was a theatre kid, and musical theatre is really the only outlet for that at age 13… I’ve since recovered). I can only imagine how obnoxious this was to my father, but instead of shutting himself off in another room whenever Idol came on, he’d eat dinner with me on the living room couch and thoughtfully discuss Clay Aiken’s prospects with me.

High school rolled around and I discovered punk music. I was wearing a lot of eyeliner and my IM (remember those days?) screen name was something to the effect of iamasexpistol66. This was around the time that my parents used to do a lot of whispering about me in the kitchen, and I remember coming down the stairs one night to hear the tail end of something my mom was saying, “mumble mumble mumble… and what on Earth is a sex pistol??”

“It’s a band,” my dad reassured softly.

One of my sweetest memories was when my dad accompanied The Boy and me to a Furthur show. Beyond the coolness of hanging out with my dad, who’s a pretty neat guy, doing something we both enjoy…. it was so wonderful because it was something I could only share with him. A mother-daughter relationship is a special thing, and there are so many things that I share with my mom that my dad just wouldn’t get, but when it comes to music, it’s just us. That show was the kind of thing that my mom would rather chew off her own arm than go to, which made it all the more special that my dad was so excited to share in something I love so much.

My father is having surgery today, and I’m going to be thinking about him all day long. It’s been a scary few weeks thinking about the fragility of my parents — two of the people I love most in the world, who not terribly long ago I thought of as infallible. I know he’s going to be ok, but it hurts to think of your parents hurting. So today, rather than all the scary messy what-ifs and could-bes, I’m choosing to think of the things my father has given me, like music.

Because really, it’s indicative of all the ways that my father has supported his kids. By listening thoughtfully when we speak, really engaging with our opinions and interests, and encouraging us to interact with the world on our own terms, and always being excited to share our experiences with us whenever we invited him in.

So, with that in mind, I’ve got two songs to play for my dad today. The first is a haunting live version of “The River” by Springsteen, one of my dad’s all-time favorites, and an artist I may never have come around to without him. The second is “Box of Rain” by the Grateful Dead, a song that Phil Lesh wrote when his own father was in the hospital, full of all the bitter sweetness of growing up and finding out that your parents are human, and loving them all the more for it.

Photo by Richard Shapiro.

A Decade’s Worth of You and Me

Boxes with xander 2Look at that goon! The Boy turns twenty-five today, which means we have officially known each other for ten years. As I mentioned the other day, in just six years we will have known each other for the majority of our lives.

As many of you know, The Boy and I are complete opposites in a lot of ways: fast/slow, verbal/visual, small/big, etc, etc. Well another one of those ways, I’m figuring out, is memory. The Boy can’t remember what we ate for dinner yesterday, whereas I never forget anything and can tell you what I wore on the first day of school in 10th grade. (Seriously, what kind of room would I have in my brain for actually useful things if I could just get rid of that knowledge?)

So anyway, a few weeks ago we were talking about our upcoming wedding anniversary and how long we’ve known each other, and I started reminiscing about the past. It quickly became clear how little The Boy remembered about our shared history, so I started telling him all of the stories I could remember.

And the more I remembered, the more I remembered, and soon it seemed like a good idea to start writing things down.

So for you, my forgetful husband, on your birthday I have a story from every year we have known each other. And for the rest of you, I thought you might enjoy some goofy pictures of The Boy and I from our wonder years, like this gem….

222307_503974354271_4726_n15 was the year that we met and the year of our first ever kiss, which happens to be one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. It was the second to last day of summer, and I was hanging out with two friends, who (because they were teenage boys) plied me with several glasses of what I’m pretty sure was every type of booze in their parents’ liquor cabinet all mixed together. You came over, and I had to keep drinking because I was so nervous…. I’d had one of those idiot swooning crushes on you for months. Here it gets a little fuzzy, the rest of the night a string of isolated images…. sitting next to you, watching This Is Spinal Tap…. making out with you (finally!) with Spinal Tap still on in the background…. throwing up in the bathroom, desperately trying to make the room stop spinning, so I could go back to making out with you…. you dragging me outside for some fresh air, my head still spinning as I tried to kiss you but missed and landed face down in the grass…. later that night, when someone drove me home, you offered to walk me inside, but I declined. I lay in my bed staring at the ceiling, giddy with the knowledge that we had just shared the first of what I was sure would be many kisses. I smiled to myself, and then rolled over and threw up on the floor.

16 was the year where I browbeat you into giving me a ride to my after school job, but then I changed my mind and called in sick. We went back to your house and laid side by side on your bed listening to music. We were both dating other people, but somehow, inexplicably, I ended up with my head on your chest while you drew lazy circles on my arm with your thumb. We stayed that way awhile, not saying anything at all, and afterwards we pretended like it never happened.

17 was the year that I cried in the backseat of your car after I’d gotten caught doing something extremely stupid at school. My parents had been called, and I was dreading going home. I was especially upset because things had finally been getting better… I wasn’t fighting with my mom and dad so much, I was doing alright in school, and then one little thing came back to slap me in the face. I was babbling on and on about the impending apocalypse, and you listened patiently until I ran out of breath and then said, “That’s the thing about apocalypses, though. Once the smoke clears, it’s a brand new world.” I was so surprised that you were capable of saying something so eloquent that I stopped crying.

DSC_080318 was the year that we got lost hiking to a special spot that you had visited as a kid. The mile long hike took us an hour more than we expected, and I was sweaty and complaining as I rounded the final corner, but when I saw where we were I stopped mid-whine. Before us were giant hillocks and heaps of glittering mica. I scrambled up and down these mounds, kicking up the crystal shards like stony snowflakes. You told me about when you were a kid and you’d hike there in the winter when the trees were bare and the sky was grey, and you’d pretend that you were exploring the moon of some far-off planet. I looked at you and wondered for the millionth time how on earth you managed to make every tiny little thing sound like the grandest adventure.

19 was the year you came to see me at Sarah Lawrence, and we tried in vain to find a decent place to hike. We ended up at a sad and barren dog park in New Rochelle, where even under the shelter of the trees we could see the cars whistling by on the highway. We’d been fighting for weeks because I finally felt like maybe I was ready to date you, and after all that time waiting for me you’d started to pull away. Though we were on pause between arguments, we were still mad and walked mostly in silence until you very quietly murmured that you didn’t think you wanted to be with me after all. My step faltered so slightly that I don’t think you even noticed. I looked at you with eyes hard and dark and said, “You’re not the person I thought you were, anyway.” And that was the last thing we said until we got back to the car. I slammed the door on my way back in, and you said my name so softly I thought maybe you had changed your mind, but then you realized how many missed calls you had from your girlfriend, and we didn’t say anything else the rest of the way back to my dorm. As I watched you drive away I thought, “He’s slipped away from me. He’s gone.”

66034_1496898377594_6778884_n20 was the year we saw our first Furthur concert, and in all the thirty or so shows I’ve seen since I’ve never been to one without you. We sat in camp chairs at the back of the crowd, and I was immobilized by awe. To my right, two chubby women were spinning in circles with flowers in their hair and Coors light cans in their hands. In front of me, a burly bearded man was dancing with his toddler son up on his shoulders. I looked your way to tell you how beautiful it all was, but when I saw the fireworks, and the stars, and the giant tree of Seaside Park all glowing in your huge eyes I just said, “I love you,” instead.

21 was the year we cast a sky lantern up into the air at dawn. We sat on a rock wall at the beach watching our flaming lantern grow smaller and smaller as the sun rose. You had just asked me to marry you. I had just said yes. Life paused briefly in that small and perfect moment, and then your brother came and sat beside us, and everything picked up right where it had left off.

image22 was the year you came to visit me in Los Angeles. We’d been living on opposite sides of the country for half a year, and we weren’t enjoying it. It had been unbearably hot in LA for weeks, and I had no air conditioning. My fan, perhaps in protest from overuse, had started doing this peculiar thing where it would stutter as it oscillated, jerking violently from point to point rather than swinging smoothly left to right. It made this horrible crunching robot noise that had been keeping me up at night for weeks. But at the end of your visit I returned home from dropping you off at the airport, and the fan was working perfectly again. You hadn’t said anything about it, but I knew you had fixed it while I was at work that day. I hadn’t asked you to, you just did it. And I stood there in my bedroom and cried over a fan and The Boy who always took care of me without having to be asked.

23 was the year we sat around a bonfire in the back of your backyard. We’d been married for about six hours. Almost all of our guests had left, except for a small handful of our very oldest friends. We sat on one of the big rocks with my head resting our your shoulder as you roasted a marshmallow. It was after midnight, but somehow the air was barely cooler than the scorching afternoon when we’d said our vows. Your mom sat out there with all of us, telling stories about you, and your brother, and your father. And I thought about how the people who were still there with us around that fire were the same people who were always bumming around your house somewhere during that magic summer when I was eighteen and we both fell in love. It was a ragtag group, and in the intervening years we’d all changed, and drifted, and moved, and grown, but that night by the fire it felt like everything had come full circle, and we were the same stupid kids who used to sit around your driveway drinking beers at 11 in the morning and driving ATVs across your front yard.

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 9.56.30 AM24 was the year I slept in my very first Best Western. We had packed up all of our belongings and our cat and hit the road for an unknown city. Moving had not been easy. Like fools, we thought it would take a matter of hours to pack our entire house — after all, how much stuff can you fit into 400 square feet? There had been a fair amount of yelling and eye rolling as we left Smog City behind, but by the time we reached the motel in Redding, California I had never felt so free. Matilda was ecstatic about all the carpet in the room — so many feet to smell! We sat on the edge of the bed together for a little while and laughed as she ran all around the room, rubbing herself up against every surface she could find. I was too exhausted to move, and sitting in that hotel room it finally started to hit me that everything I knew I’d really left behind, and all that lay ahead would be new and foreign. It wasn’t scary; we were doing it together.

I think that last sentence pretty neatly sums up the entire ten years that I have known you so far. In all the adventures of my life, you’ve been there in some form or another… on the phone, by my side, or just in my thoughts. Let’s keep it that way for the next ten, shall we?

Thank you to anyone whose pictures I stole for this post.

One Year

One year.

One year ago today.

Photo by Katch SilvaOne year ago today I was double checking all the flower arrangements in the basement, thanking the gods that they made it through the night.

Photo by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaOne year ago today I was sharing my first Texas Lollipop with him in the kitchen.

One year ago today I was standing in his mother’s bathroom in my underwear — nearly falling over as I tried to take off my Doc Martens — ready to put my wedding dress on.

Photo by Katch SilvaOne year ago today I was sitting on his lap on the rocks at the back of the yard by the raspberry bushes. Our photographer stopped to change lenses, saying “Don’t do anything cute until I’m ready!” I surreptitiously poked my tongue out and licked his cheek while she wasn’t paying attention.

Xander-Kylie-195Xander-Kylie-196One year ago today I was praying to any deity that would have me — begging the rain to hold off for just a little longer.

One year ago today I was standing on the back deck and freaking out because the processional song started playing too early. I hyperventilated as my maid of honor told me to seriously chill out.

Photo by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaOne year ago today I was walking arm in arm with my dad across that lawn.

One year ago today I was standing in front of one hundred people but speaking only to The Boy… retelling the story of the magic summer, the summer when we fell in love.

One year ago today I was nearly dropping the ring as I moved to put it on his finger.

Photo by Katch SilvaOne year ago today he was hunching over trying to speak into the microphone, which was still set at my height. I couldn’t help myself, “Oh for god’s sake, just raise it!” Everyone laughed, and someone in the front row said, “And so it begins.”

Photo by Katch SilvaXander-Kylie-348Photo by Katch SilvaOne year ago today I was kissing my husband for the first time.

One year ago today the clouds finally burst and doused us all in thirty seconds of cool, blissful rain.

Xander-Kylie-372Xander-Kylie-377One year ago today we were standing in front of the long driveway where it all began, holding hands and grinning conspiratorially at each other.

One year ago today we were married.

Photo by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaMy wedding day was the happiest day of my life so far. It was electric and intoxicating. The golden glow of thousands upon thousands of string lights was reflected in the starry eyes of all my family and friends, and of course in those of The Boy I love. I felt the most intense, buoyant euphoria…. like my whole world was encased in a shimmering bubble that was destined to pop, but for that one moment I was seeing everything reflected through the glassy iridescence, and it was just exactly perfect.

I’ve only ever felt like that once before. It was the day when the junebugs hummed in the tall weeds, and the light bent and refracted in rainbow whorls around the green leaves, and I looked at him, and he looked at me, and we both started the long fall that has never since slowed or stopped.

It’s an incredible feeling, and one that I return to often in my memory, remembering it with a kind of bittersweet yearning, because I’ll probably never feel that way again. And that’s ok, because my wedding was a dazzling ecstatic culmination of family, and friends, and me, and The Boy… this whole community of people feeling the exact same unparalleled joy all at the same time, but my marriage is about so much more than that one perfect moment.

It’s about the conversation we had a few days before the wedding, when he and I were taking a break from the planning whirlwind to wander quietly in the woods together. It was the happiest I’d seen him in months, and I smiled softly to see him so at home amongst the trees. As if he could hear what I was thinking, he stopped dead in his tracks and turned to me. “I’m not happy in LA. I think we need to live somewhere else,” he said. And all the hurt, and anxiety, feelings of being lost were so evident in his face that I just said, “Ok. I’ll go wherever you want.”

It’s about the time I got the stomach flu in March, and he made me mashed potatoes because I asked him to, even though he knew I was just going to throw them up again.

It’s about preparing our joint tax return, sitting side by side as I filled out and signed all the documents, passing them wordlessly to my right for him to sort into piles.

It’s about going to see Phil Lesh together, listening to the band play this song, and turning to whisper to him, “We’re so lucky.” It’s about him whispering back, “I was just thinking the same thing.”

It’s about grinding my teeth down to little nubs of frustration because he’s developed some sort of psychic awareness of exactly when I’ve sat down to write, and that’s when he suddenly decides he has thirty questions I absolutely need to answer immediately.

It’s about how I can’t ask a simple question without getting a twenty minute lecture on physics/3D modeling software/meteorology/firearm safety/wilderness skills. It’s about how I roll my eyes every time, but this is actually one of the reasons I fell in love with him.

It’s about how I’ve discovered that the most effective way to communicate an idea to him is to draw a picture, so at some point in nearly every conversation I find myself hunting around on his desk for the sketch pad.

It’s about how he can’t send an email without me looking at it. It’s about the inevitable argument that ensues when he doesn’t write down exactly what I dictated.

It’s about how I didn’t have enough appropriate socks to hike in, so I took all of his to Israel.

It’s about how I’m slowly learning to cope with his anxiety, to help him figure out how to deal with unexpected or unwanted outcomes and minor setbacks without losing sight of the big picture.

It’s about how he’s figuring out how to communicate with me, to use words in ways that are completely unfamiliar, foreign, and often uncomfortable for him, because he knows that’s what I need.

It’s about how we’ve started to realize that, even in the middle of a fight, we can stop and say, “Let’s just both apologize and have a better day from here.” It’s about learning to really mean that and follow through.

We have learned so much this year. It’s surprising at times, because we’ve known each other for so long, but there is still so much to discover about each other. It’s not that I’m learning new things about him, per se… more that my understanding is deepening, growing more complex. This delicate spiderweb of shared stories, and personal histories, and old grudges, and childhood memories, is constantly expanding but also wrapping in on itself as we become more and more entangled with each other. In six years, we will reach the tipping point where we will have known each other for more than half of our lives.

It has been a year of adventure, of unknowns, and of goodbyes. There has been so much change–some good, some bad, some magical–that at times we’ve both felt completely overwhelmed. Through all of that, it has been unspeakably meaningful to have each other as constants. We have not always lived up to those roles…. I have been guilty at times of being a bad partner and a lousy teammate, and so has he. But, as obvious as it sounds, I think we’re both learning that the point isn’t to be perfect, it’s to be together.

Photo by Katch SilvaBut every once in awhile, his fingers will brush the palm of my hand on our walk home from the restaurant, or I’ll look up and find him reading the email I’m writing over my shoulder, or I’ll wrap my arms around him from behind as he does the dishes, or Ripple will come on the radio on a long drive home, and in his eyes I can see — just for a moment — the reflection of all of those stars, and fireflies, and sparklers that I saw on July 20th, 2013.

All photos by the incomparable Katch Silva.

The Promise of Summer

Last week we had a freak hot spell, and even though we’ve since returned to sweaters and soup it put the taste of summer on my tongue. With the prospect of long days and warm nights ahead, The Boy and I have turned our attention to the yard.

photo 1After our wedding, I knew for a fact that I wanted to plant dahlias the next season. I ordered the tubers from a local supplier, and man, can you say “ugly duckling”? Pretty incredible that such gorgeous flowers come from such hard and knobbly little potatoes, huh? But to me dahlias are pure summer, and that’s how summer goes, right? In the depths of winter, with all that cold, hard, gray, you think the days of green and sunshine will never arrive. But they always do.

Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 presetThere’s a quote that I love, though I have no idea where I heard it: “Summertime is always the best of what might be.” Google tells me it’s by Charles Bowden. Whatever its origin, those words have always resonated with me. School children and old folk alike wait and pray all year for it to come around, begging to be released from the bitter ice and solitude of winter. We spend a whole year daydreaming of the far off lands we’ll visit, and strange people we’ll meet, and wild adventures we’ll have, and even when the season finally rolls around, containing no more excitement than a run-around in the sprinkles, a cherry popsicle, and the occasional afternoon thunderstorm, it somehow does not disappoint. No matter how ordinary, no matter how stiflingly hot, summer always seems to carry with it the electric promise of freedom.

photo 4It was 90 degrees here a few days ago — definitely not ordinary spring weather in Portland. As we lay sweating side-by-side in bed that night, The Boy was finally inspired to fix the stuck window in our bedroom. With a decisive crack of his fist, he finally got the damn thing open, and it was such sweet instantaneous relief to feel that warm night breeze on my skin.

It was still too hot for cuddling though, so we held hands in bed instead, and it felt so nice that I started thinking of the summertime, and all the good things that have happened to me in summers past, and all the wonder that’s waiting to come. I kissed him for the very first time on the second to last day of summer, two days before school was due to start, the year I turned sixteen.  I married him eight years minus a few weeks later, on a sweltering day at my favorite place in the world. I’ll be visiting my baby sister in Israel this June, which is so surreal I can hardly even wrap my mind around it. And sometime in July, we’ll be heading back home to return to our very favorite music festival (the site of our “honeymoon”) for the sixth year in a row. I love New England in the summer, and I’m so excited to go back and see all our family and friends, but it makes me a little sad to think of a certain house and a certain yard that we won’t be visiting this time around. It’s a foreign notion to me; I’ve never gone home and not been in that house. I don’t know yet how it’ll make me feel but, after all, that is the magic of summer: you never know what she’ll bring.

Oh, and if you have a few seconds, go check out our wedding photographer’s gorgeous new website, designed by the one and only Boy. And, since wedding season is coming up and I know someone out there must be looking , I’ll just say one more time that Katch was an absolute dream to work with.

Sisterhood & Sour Patch Kids

309_68792770084_8483_nMy baby sister turns twenty-one today! I knew that I wanted to write a little something for her, so a few weeks ago I started casting around for special memories. I wanted something that would perfectly encapsulate our relationship. I thought about how protective I feel of her, how all I ever want to do is defend her, and tried to think of some kind of story that would represent that feeling.

And then, quite out of the blue, I remembered something. Something I had completely forgotten about.

I moved to Connecticut with my family when I was fourteen. To say that I had a hard time adjusting would be an understatement. At a certain point in my freshman year, I had had enough. I started scheming about how I could get my parents to let me move back to California and stay with a friend. I plotted this so carefully, trying to pick the right moment to broach the subject, but in the heat of a desperate dinner blowout I blurted out my plans. I got a resounding no.

I begged and I screamed, but when those things didn’t work I threatened to kill myself. They still didn’t cave, so I stormed off to my room.

I don’t think I would have gone through with it, but obviously my threat got my parents’ attention. Both of them came to visit to me in my room that night, to plead with me, to tell me how frustrated and scared they were. I remember feeling so tired and empty. I sat there in the middle of my bedroom floor, and said nothing.

But what I remember the most about that night is what happened after my parents left my room. Janey, who was eleven at the time, came tip-toeing up the stairs with a jar full of Sour Patch kids. If memory serves, we didn’t really talk about anything. She just sat with me for a little while, sharing her candy with me.

This is the heart of sisterhood. Sometimes you love her to pieces, sometimes she drives you crazy. But in those quiet moments, when not a single other person in the world understands you, she’ll be sitting right next to you.

I thought I was going to tell you about my little sister, the one I always feel like I need to shield and protect. But I guess this is more fitting, on her twenty-first birthday, to tell you about all the ways she’s protected me.

1374185_10153387503540085_1172391932_nThanks for the candy, Jane-the-pain, and for all the other stuff too.

Moon Dreams

Obsessed with these prints by Cheryl Humphreys, from a series entitled “Many Moons”. They’re dreamy, and mystical, and–as my dear friend Lorenza would say–so romantic. I’m almost glad they’re sold out, because I definitely don’t have 1,000$ to drop on the whole series.

Humphrey’s other work is lovely as well, you can purchase some here, and check out her Tumblr for more. I’m particularly fond of this.

On another note, I just found out that Gabriel Garcia Marquez died. Both One Hundred Years of Solitude and The General in his Labyrinth are among my favorite books of all time. I consider Marquez one of the greatest writing instructors I’ve ever had. Thank you for everything.

Them Winter Tomato Blues

Tomato_13I am something of a tomato snob. Is there anything worse than a February tomato? All pale and pasty, with no flavor at all. Yuck. I’ll wear white after labor day, but I certainly will not eat a fresh tomato.

Tomato_15But while I wait for those perfect plump rubies of summer, I need something to tide me over. Canned tomatoes aren’t half bad for things like sauces and soups, but at the end of the day they’re just not the real deal.

Enter the roasted tomato. Summer tomatoes are glorious when roasted, but guess what: stupid winter tomatoes, disgusting as they are when fresh, are fantastic after an hour or so in the oven.

Tomato_26Tomato_32This recipe is delicious, requires just five ingredients, is largely hands-off–so you can start it and forget about it–and so easy that even The Boy can make it when I’m working late. Plus it has a great shelf life. I love the little cherry heirlooms from Trader Joe’s, but they usually mold before I remember to use them. I’ve started popping them in the oven as soon as I get home, and then storing them for a quick dinner another day.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

You’ll need:

Tomatoes (I used two containers of heirloom cherries from Trader Joe’s, but ANY tomato will work)

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

1 head of garlic (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 325*. Chop the tomatoes. For cherries, in half should suffice, for larger varieties aim for approximately one inch cubes. If using, chop off the root end of the garlic, but leave the cloves unpeeled.

2) Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer in a shallow baking dish or cookie sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and fresh cracked pepper, then drizzle with oil. If I’m using the tomatoes right away for pasta, I use quite a bit of oil, so that it pools in the bottom of the dish, getting infused with tomato and garlic flavor. If the tomatoes are getting saved for later, or if I’m using them in a salad or risotto, I just give them a light drizzle. Nestle the garlic, cut side down, amongst the tomatoes.

3) Bake in the oven for about ninety minutes, or until they start to shrivel and crisp. Wait until the garlic cools a bit, and then give it a squeeze to release the gooey melted cloves within. Or, if you’re impatient like me, just do this with tongs. Serve over pasta, risotto, rice, quinoa, salad, or simply eat them with a spoon.

4) To save tomatoes for later, place in some kind of tupperware and cover with oil until mostly submerged. Use within ten days, although apparently these freeze pretty well.

*A note on temperature and cooking time: sometimes I need dinner ready in less than ninety minutes, so I raise the heat to 350 and cook for about 45 minutes. If they still need some extra time, I’ll bump it again to 375 for last little bit. But if you’ve got the time, they’re definitely better with the long and slow roast.

Handmade Tables and Updates from the City of Roses

PDX Before_18Remember this picture? One of my very first photos of the Blue Dream. This is our “dining room” — I use air quotes because there was little to suggest it was actually a dining room when we first moved in. We didn’t have much furniture at the time: a teeny yellow couch, a bed, a couple of dressers, a desk… that’s it.

One of my first  priorities was a dining room table. I don’t know about you, but in my life the kitchen or dining area has always been the center of the house. It’s where all the action is — where friends and family gather together and hang out during the day. Plus, let’s not be coy, I really like food. It’s such an important part of family and friendship: breaking bread, and drinking beers, and sitting in one place all together at the same time. Plus, we have some great old friends in Portland, and I wanted to be able to share our home with them. I find that when you invite a bunch of people over and only have a glorified loveseat and a swivel chair in the way of seating things tend to get awkward real quick. So…

Table_109Look at that table! We made that! Well mostly The Boy, but I helped! I did math for the dimensions! I sanded! I performed energizing dances on the back porch to motivate the team while The Boy operated the saw! I contributed. It was a bit of hard work, but way easier than you might think, and a lot cheaper than buying a comparable table from a store. Let’s take a look at the process…

Table_003Table_018Table_019Table_038Table_044Table_059Can we just stop for a moment to appreciate The Boy’s beard? Someone has really embraced Portland life.

Anyway, apparently I got bored with documenting things after all the hours of cutting, and sawing, and sanding, because I’m all out of process photos. But this is all you really want anyway…

Table_073Table_092 Table_095Meet Penelope P. Fern! What does the P stand for? We can’t seem to agree: I say Proserpina, The Boy says Prosythia… which I’m pretty sure is made up. Men.

This is where I got distracted playing around with the camera… Table_111Table_112Table_153Table_146Table_149Aren’t fresh flowers just the best? I’ve been so inspired by the incredible weather here. It’s that perfect in-between, before it gets too hot, when you’re just so grateful to be outside in the sun. The tulips are completely out of control here–the ones on my table are lovely, but they’re positively PUNY compared to what I’ve been seeing the streets. Blooms as big as both of my fists together!

Anyway, one more look…

Table_124The whole project cost us around 100 dollars in materials, and there’s a nearly identical table on sale at Restoration Hardware for about 2k. Not a bad deal. In case you’re thinking of replicating the project, we used these plans as a starting point, but adapted the project significantly from there. I’ll let you figure that one out on your own.

The build process was a lot of fun. It was so nice to work on something together, especially when the payoff is so tangible: we’ve already hosted one successful dinner party at this baby!

It got us thinking a lot about where we want to go from here, and we’ve been talking more and more about working and creating together, you know, for money. We were talking with a friend recently about strengths and weaknesses. Our friend mentioned something he’d heard, about how people try to focus on their weaknesses and strengthen them, but the best plan is to forget about your weaknesses altogether. You’re supposed to find someone else, he said, who is strong where you are weak and vice versa. The Boy and I looked at each other, and I knew he was thinking exactly what I was thinking. It’s the very basis of our entire relationship. Well, we’ll see… it’s so easy to dream big, but the first step can be so hard. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In other news, Portland is absolutely magical. We’re still in that early phase, the young love romance of a new city, but I really do think this could be it.

In other news, I finally bit the bullet and got Instagram. You can follow me here!

So that’s one thing I get to cross off our loooong list of projects. Up next: coffee tables and secret gardens.

Those Darling Buds of May

I have been known to under-appreciate the spring. It is so brief, and not quite truly warm, so I think I have always skimmed right over it in favor of its more sultry and playful sister, summer.

But we moved to Portland on the very cusp of spring: those first few days of warmth and sunshine when everyone comes out of hiding, where people talk to each other on the streets, and the teeniest little daffodil buds appear above ground. I had forgotten how powerful this moment can be. It’s so infectious… people were so hopeful, so friendly, so full of ideas about the coming months, when they could think about more than just staying warm. It really affected me. Everywhere I went in those first couple weeks, complete strangers would stop to chat with me, and invariably the talk would turn to the weather. “Can you believe this weather we’re having? Isn’t it fantastic? Are you doing anything today? Going outside?” I found myself nodding along with the same enthusiasm, which really I had no right to feel. It had been 80 degrees in LA for the whole week before the move. Coming to Portland was the coldest I’d been in months. But still, I felt myself swept up in their unbridled optimism for the future.

When I was at Sarah Lawrence, one of the first heralds of spring was the blooming of the magnolia trees. They were all over the campus, particularly around the theatre building, where I spent most of my time. The blossoms were huge, and if you ever really look at a magnolia flower you’ll see that from the moment they come into bloom they go into this state of decay that’s quite nearly erotic–their petals hanging wide open and heavy, so that they fall in languid heaps around the base of the tree.

And the smell. It was, for lack of a better word, absolutely intoxicating. For some reason it always reminded me of that electrifying line from Pablo Neruda, “I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.” For a few weeks in the spring, every time I entered the theatre building I had to walk through a haze of that heady perfume and, like the full moon, I’m sure it did strange and wonderful things to my mind as I climbed up on stage to perform in my next class.

There were a few smaller, younger magnolias scattered around the campus lawns, and I used to nap underneath them between classes on warm days, lying in a giant pile of decomposing petals, hoping to take some of their scent onto my skin. But when I arose, I only ever smelled of grass. In a few weeks, the blooms would disappear entirely, and with them their amazing perfume, replaced by ordinary greenery until another year, and another spring.

The power of spring is the power of momentum. We were stagnating in LA, not unhappy, but not fulfilled, and not moving towards anything better. In the coming weeks, we’re going to try to capitalize on the momentum of our move, and all the excitement and the earnest hope of springtime, to make some big changes. Hopefully something good will come of all this, but if not, at least we kept moving forward. I’ll keep you posted.

Something occurs to me, now. There were no magnolia trees in Los Angeles, but here… they bloom on every street corner.

Photo by Flickr user yocca.

The Lonely One

Many of you who read this are already acquainted with my beautiful and talented friend Dana Williams, but this video is a treat anyway. Dana paired up Leighton Meester to release this cover of Fleetwood Mac’s DREAMS. I like it for the same reason I always love listening to Dana: it’s sweet, moody, a little haunting, and goddamn if it’s not just nice to hear her sing.

If you love listening to Dana just as much as I do, you can check out her brand new EP, The Lonely One, which is now available on iTunes.

Fleetwood Mac’s DREAMS covered by Dana Williams and Leighton Meester, shot by Davida Williams and Colin Oh.