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.

Valentines for Christmas

Christmas_2013KT_03Christmas_2013KT_06Christmas_2013KT_08Christmas_2013KT_12Typewriter_05Typewriter_06Typewriter_23Typewriter_24Just a little series documenting the unveiling of my gorgeous brand new Olivetti Valentine typewriter, a Christmas gift from The Boy. I think he knocked it out of the park, right?

The Valentine was first produced in 1969 in time for the holiday with which it shares its name. Olivetti designed the Valentine to be lightweight, portable, and of course beautiful, to appeal to the romantic and itinerant natures of artists and poets, who would feel more at home writing on a cafe patio or the beach than in a cubicle desk. The company also released a series of stunning posters to promote the new “anti-machine” machine, as they called it. I’m particularly fond of this one. My new baby is one of the originals produced in 1969, and I love him because his Y and Z keys are mixed up, which I believe adds character.

So how on earth could I compete with a gift like that? I don’t know, but I think The Boy was pretty pleased with what I got him.

I hope everyone had a holly jolly holiday, and a splendid new year!

All photos by Xander Keeping, except for the last one, which I took myself and also happens to be the best one.

This Is What I’m Feeling Like These Days

I love The Moth very much, and this story is just so exactly perfect. I too occasionally mourn the loss of the first date, the first kiss, the first few months when you are just an absolute loon in love. But sometimes I’ll be lying on the couch after dinner, and The Boy is doing dishes in the other room, and he’ll come in to grab the last few plates, and hand me a fresh glass of seltzer even though I didn’t ask, and I think, “No matter what happens, or where I go, I’m so glad you’ll be there to bring me seltzer, and braid my hair when I can’t quite get it right, and remember an extra pair of socks for when mine inevitably get wet, and do the dishes, and be mine.” Sometimes I try to tell him all this, but it usually just comes out like, “I love you.”

Story by Jeff Simmermon, via The Moth.

The Best Ones

Photo by Katch Silva

When I applied to college, I wrote my essay about how I didn’t know how to drive (I didn’t get my license until I was nearly 21). Each paragraph was about a different car in which I’d ridden, and the lessons I’d learned from the people driving. Well, one of the paragraphs was about a little red Saab with a leaky roof, and a girl with square green glasses whom I drove around with one summer when both our boyfriends were out of town, drinking milkshakes and listening to Sleater-Kinney way too loud.

Well, a couple weeks before my wedding I was sitting once again in the passenger seat of a car, and even though the Saab had been sold and she’d upgraded her glasses, the very same girl was sitting next to me. We were driving on the exact same roads with our music a little too loud on a hot summer’s day, and right before I took this giant step in my life I had a little smile over how much was still the same. And I think that’s kind of a cool thing: no matter how old I get, I have these relationships with certain people that remain so solid and steady. The Boy is one of them, obviously, and Maggie is the other. So today, on the day that she turns 24 years old, I just want to thank her for being one of the best ones.

The kind that you don’t talk to every day, but as soon as you need her she’s there.

The kind that constantly reminds you that it is time to start crafting for your wedding, so you’d better give her a job.

The kind that you call when your high school boyfriend dumps you, and she says, “Come over and watch Gilmore Girls and cry with me.” For that matter, the kind that introduces you to the wonder that is Gilmore Girls.

The kind that is not afraid to tell you when you’re being a jerk.

The kind that is so wise, every time you give her advice you have to preface it with, “I know you already know this, but…”

The kind that never loans you her clothes, because she knows you’ll never give them back.

The kind who knew, before you even really knew yourself, that you were kind of in love with that boy. The kind who told you to just call him up and tell him.

The kind who casually whips out her phone on your wedding day, and takes hands down the best photo of the entire night.

The kind who is always a better friend to you than you are to her, but still loves you anyway.

The kind who has known you since you were fourteen, and no matter how old and mature you get, will never let you forget that you once wore white kitten heels, a denim mini skirt, and a Harley Davidson crop top. At the same time. The kind who doesn’t hold that sort of thing against you.

I moved around a lot growing up, so I’ve experienced a plenty of friendships that were wonderful while they lasted, but faded away over the years. And sometimes that’s sad, but mostly it’s just normal. Relationships grow old and decay, much like anything else.  But sometimes you meet someone, and you probably don’t notice it at first, but little by little they become an inextricable part of your life. Because some friendships aren’t meant to last, but the best ones do.

Photo by Katch Silva.

The World of Lisa Frank

“The World of Lisa Frank” – A Short Film from Scott Ross on Vimeo.

This is a really important documentary about Lisa Frank: beloved designer of rainbow-maned unicorns and puppies wearing necklaces, and icon of my childhood. Three things:

1) I want her office.

2) Why is Lisa Frank the JD Salinger of this generation?

3) Did you spot Mila Kunis?

Video by Scott Ross and Karl Beyer, produced by Urban Outfitters

Etsy Curios

The Boy and I are home again and settling back into our life together. Now that the wedding is over, we finally have time to get the house in order, frame pictures, buy coasters, etc, etc. Basically this means I’ve been spending a lot of time on Etsy, and in my travels I have stumbled upon these delightful gems…

Hand-Operated Automaton: After Hugo came out (based on one my favorite children’s books), who didn’t want their very own automaton? And this one would fit on your coffee table! So convenient!

Framed Luna Moth Pair: Last Christmas, I bought The Boy this beauty, but now I’m eyeing these lovely Lunas as the next piece in our growing collection (I’m also dying for this, but I think The Boy might not approve). Did you know that Luna moths only live for one week? That’s why it’s so rare and special to spot one. The only time I’ve ever seen a Luna was when I saw these guys at a music festival. The moth flew right across the stage just as a burning paper lantern floated by, and it was magical.

Brass Pineapple Champagne Bucket: I can’t really imagine anything more useless than this, so naturally it fills me with the kind of mournful desire that slowly sucks away at your will to live. We have to be very utilitarian in our tiny house, so I think this treasure will have to wait for another home. One day, little pineapple, one day.

Custom Engraved Wood Cutting Board: One of our dear friends gave us something like this as a wedding gift: a beautiful cutting board inlaid with our pig logo. I think I actually gasped when I opened it. This isn’t quite as perfect as ours, but it would make a really sweet wedding present.

Pickle Jar Ukelele: I don’t feel like this really needs any additional explanation.

The Boy and I are enjoying our return to a quiet life free of conversations about floral arrangements or string light wattage. Married life is pretty simple, so far, and honestly I don’t really feel all that different, with one notable exception. Both of us are still getting used to using our new names for each other. The word “husband” tastes so strange and sweet in my mouth, and I can’t yet say it without smiling shyly. I know in time it will become familiar and worn, but for now I’m relishing its newness.

All images linked to sources.

Like a Bat out of Hell

Vampire running! from Carl Zimmer on Vimeo.

Watch this video of a vampire bat running. Do it. Most bats are pretty much helpless on the ground, but not the vampires. Mesmerizing, no?

I sometimes write these little nonfiction booklets for people who are learning to speak English. My favorite ones to write are always the wildlife books, because I get to spend a lot of time watching Planet Earth, pretending that it’s “research”. But actually, the research is pretty fun, and I’ve learned a lot of amazing things. Did you know bat wings are covered in tiny, sensitive hairs that enable the creatures to detect wind flow? Or that some bats have to contract their ear muscles when they screech to avoid deafening themselves, because their calls (in a frequency undetectable to humans) are at the same decible level as a rock concert? This helps them stay aloft. Ever since I wrote my special on bats, they’ve been my second favorite animals (first place: orcas). I even asked my editor if we could increase the page count so I could include all the weird information I’d found. So if ever you want to feel kind of terrified and amazed by the scope of our planet, go read the wikipedia pages for bats and orcas. Seriously, do it. 

Video courtesy of Dan Riskin, Brown University.

I only thought I loved you before…

Letter from Henry Miller to Anais Nin, c1932.

August 14, 1932


Don’t expect me to be sane anymore. Don’t let’s be sensible. It was a marriage at Louveciennes—you can’t dispute it. I came away with pieces of you sticking to me; I am walking about, swimming, in an ocean of blood, your Andalusian blood, distilled and poisonous. Everything I do and say and think relates back to the marriage. I saw you as the mistress of your home, a Moor with a heavy face, a negress with a white body, eyes all over your skin, woman, woman, woman. I can’t see how I can go on living away from you—these intermissions are death. How did it seem to you when Hugo came back? Was I still there? I can’t picture you moving about with him as you did with me. Legs closed. Frailty. Sweet, treacherous acquiescence. Bird docility. You became a woman with me. I was almost terrified by it. You are not just thirty years old—you are a thousand years old.

Here I am back and still smouldering with passion, like wine smoking. Not a passion any longer for flesh, but a complete hunger for you, a devouring hunger. I read the paper about suicides and murders and I understand it all thoroughly. I feel murderous, suicidal. I feel somehow that it is a disgrace to do nothing, to just bide one’s time, to take it philosophically, to be sensible. Where has gone the time when men fought, killed, died for a glove, a glance, etc? (A victrola is playing that terrible aria from Madama Butterfly—”Some day he’ll come!”)

I still hear you singing in the kitchen—a sort of inharmonic, monotonous Cuban wail. I know you’re happy in the kitchen and the meal you’re cooking is the best meal we ever ate together. I know you would scald yourself and not complain. I feel the greatest peace and joy sitting in the dining room listening to you rustling about, your dress like the goddess Indra studded with a thousand eyes.

Anais, I only thought I loved you before; it was nothing like this certainty that’s in me now. Was all this so wonderful only because it was brief and stolen? Were we acting for each other, to each other? Was I less I, or more I, and you less or more you? Is it madness to believe that this could go on? When and where would the drab moments begin? I study you so much to discover the possible flaws, the weak points, the danger zones. I don’t find them—not any. That means I am in love, blind, blind. To be blind forever! (Now they’re singing “Heaven and Ocean” from La Gioconda.)

I picture you playing the records over and over—Hugo’s records. “Parlez moi d amour.” The double life, double taste, double joy and misery. How you must be furrowed and ploughed by it. I know all that, but I can’t do anything to prevent it. I wish indeed it were me who had to endure it. I know now your eyes are wide open. Certain things you will never believe anymore, certain gestures you will never repeat, certain sorrows, misgivings, you will never again experience. A kind of white criminal fervor in your tenderness and cruelty. Neither remorse nor vengeance, neither sorrow nor guilt. A living it out, with nothing to save you from the abysm but a high hope, a faith, a joy that you tasted, that you can repeat when you will.

All morning I was at my notes, ferreting through my life records, wondering where to begin, how to make a start, seeing not just another book before me but a life of books. But I don’t begin. The walls are completely bare—I had taken everything down before going to meet you. It is as though I had made ready to leave for good. The spots on the walls stand out—where our heads rested. While it thunders and lightnings I lie on the bed and go through wild dreams. We’re in Seville and then in Fez and then in Capri and then in Havana. We’re journeying constantly, but there is always a machine and books, and your body is always close to me and the look in your eyes never changes. People are saying we will be miserable, we will regret, but we are happy, we are laughing always, we are singing. We are talking Spanish and French and Arabic and Turkish. We are admitted everywhere and they strew our path with flowers.

I say this is a wild dream—but it is this dream I want to realize. Life and literature combined, love the dynamo, you with your chameleon’s soul giving me a thousand loves, being anchored always in no matter what storm, home wherever we are. In the mornings, continuing where we left off. Resurrection after resurrection. You asserting yourself, getting the rich varied life you desire; and the more you assert yourself the more you want me, need me. Your voice getting hoarser, deeper, your eyes blacker, your blood thicker, your body fuller. A voluptuous servility and tyrannical necessity. More cruel now than before—consciously, wilfully cruel. The insatiable delight of experience.


This is what happens when Anais Nin and Henry Miller have a passionate extramarital affair. Nin continued to foster relationships with multiple lovers throughout her life, and at one point she was actually married to one man in Los Angeles and another in New York. According to Deidre Bair, Nin’s biographer:

She set up these elaborate facades in Los Angeles and in New York. But it became so complicated that she had to create something she called the lie box. She had this absolutely enormous purse and in the purse she had two sets of checkbooks. One said Anaïs Guiler for New York and another said Anaïs Pole for Los Angeles. She had prescription bottles from California doctors and New York doctors with the two different names. And she had a collection of file cards. And she said I tell so many lies I have to write them down and keep them in the lie box so I can keep them straight.

Something about the “lie box” is just so delightfully sad, don’t you think? Nin’s double life was so successful that when she died in the 1970s, two obituaries ran for her: one in New York and one in Los Angeles, each listing a different husband.

Letter originally from A Literate Passion: Letters of Anais Nin and Henry Miller, 1932-1953 via Letters of Note. Quote from Deirdre Bair courtesy of NPR.  Photo credit unknown.