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.

I Remembered

When The Boy left home for college his bed tagged along with him, so this time I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor. His old room is the only one on the top floor of the three-story house, and virtually the entire southeast wall is windows. Lying on the mattress in a dark and nearly empty room, I stared out of those windows for the second to last time as The Boy wheezed softly in his sleep beside me. What with the room being so high up, and me being so low to the ground, all I could see were the tops of the trees, branches bare and black against midnight blue, like I was in a treehouse or a small boat floating through the sky. It was one of those cold and clear winter nights, and I could see a handful of crystal bright stars winking at me from behind the branches. I hadn’t expected to be back there again, looking up through those windows across the tops of the trees.

We weren’t supposed to go home for Christmas. Earlier in the fall, when we’d discussed how we’d spend our first holidays as a married couple, we tip-toed around the real reason. We’d done so much traveling that year, we said. With The Boy’s graduation and subsequent move, and then the wedding… it was all too much. We needed a break. Some quiet.

But staring up through those windows, so far away from the relaxed and balmy LA Christmas I’d imagined, I knew something I had always known, but hadn’t said or even thought before. I hadn’t wanted to come home, because I hadn’t wanted to say goodbye.

The wedding had been the perfect ending to my relationship with that house, because it hadn’t really felt like an ending at all. The house and yard were still full of furniture, full of people, full of shouts and laughter, full of life, full of that magic green and gold. Weeks later, when I learned the house had been sold, it seemed fitting that the last memory I would have of the place was one of being loved, of loving, of running around in old shorts in 105 degree weather making flower arrangements, of wildflowers and the same old trees that I’d known since I was fifteen watching over me. I was sad that it was over, but I wrote this, and felt a little better. We had sent the old girl off in style, and it really didn’t get any better than that.

But things change, and somehow I ended up standing in that driveway again, walking through that door again. Only this time it was bitterly cold, half the house was in boxes, and the green and gold had been replaced with bruised purple and grey. This time, it felt like an ending: sad, and leaden, and with the kind of finality that you know won’t feel fully real until weeks later, when it’s over and gone, but you can still sense waiting in the wings.

That night, lying underneath those windows, I remembered.

I remembered the summer before The Boy and I started dating, when we’d get too tired and too drunk to drive me home, and I’d end up crashing in his bed, sleeping right beneath those windows. This happened almost every night. We were still just friends, but every once in awhile I’d wake in the middle of the night and find that our bodies had unconsciously wrapped themselves around each other. We’d pretend like it hadn’t happened when we woke the next day at 4 am to drive me home before my parents woke up and noticed I hadn’t come home. Who was I kidding? Like they hadn’t noticed…

I remembered waking up on hot summer mornings in a haze of blinding sunshine baking me alive through those shadeless windows. When I couldn’t stand it anymore, we’d pull all our blankets and pillows out onto his balcony and sleep off the rest of the morning in that cool early morning summer breeze carrying the smell of fresh cut grass. The railings were tall and solid wood, so lying on the floor all I could see were the swaying green treetops, outlined against a cloudless blue sky.

I remembered standing on that balcony in the middle of the night in my underwear and old leather jacket, smoking a cigarette. It was a warm summer night, and we’d only been dating a couple of weeks. I could see my best friend’s house from that balcony. Her lights were off. She’d left us hours ago to go to bed.

I remembered standing on that balcony on a hot summer afternoon, the day The Boy and I fell in love. He was waiting for me in the yard while I ran upstairs to grab something. His room, with its air conditioning and slate blue walls, felt so cool and refreshing after the scorching heat, and the heady smell of the trees, and the irresistible momentum of falling in love. I grabbed what I needed, whatever it was, but for some reason I felt compelled to go out on the balcony before I went back downstairs. I could see my best friend’s house from that balcony. Her car was gone. I could see a red garden hose, curled up neatly on the black asphalt of The Boy’s driveway. I could see him, waiting for me on the front stoop. He didn’t look up, but I smiled at him anyway. I didn’t tell him I loved him that day, but I would.

I remembered standing in that driveway a few weeks later, talking to The Boy over my shoulder as I rummaged for something in my friend’s car. It was late August, and he was home visiting from college. He’d only left for school two weeks earlier, and he hadn’t been planning on coming home yet, but we missed each other so much that he did. We still weren’t dating. When I went over to his house that night I actually ran across the kitchen to hug him and he breathed into my hair, “Hey, kid.” Later, he walked out into the driveway with me so I could get my cigarettes out of my friend’s car. For some reason I’d decided to take all of the cigarettes out of the pack, and we were trying to put them back in, talking about something unimportant the whole time, when finally I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I dropped all of the smokes we had so painstakingly been trying to fit back into their cardboard box on the ground, reached my hands around his neck, and kissed him for the first time in years, with the moonlight filtering down on us through those same old trees that I’d known since I was fifteen.

I took an oral history class in college, and in it we spent a lot of time talking about the powers and limitations of memory. One image that’s always stuck with me is the notion of memory as a hydraulic wheel. The more it spins the faster it goes. You start remembering a single image, or perhaps a smell, and that leads to another and another, and the more you remember the more you remember, coming faster and faster until you’re left swimming in the deluge. I laid beneath those windows on a cold winter night with the hydraulic wheel of memory spinning faster and faster in my mind, remembering, and remembering, and remembering with the cold brightness of the stars piercing through my heart and the warm skin of my husband’s back pressing against my side.

This was the goodbye that I never wanted to say, the real reason we hadn’t wanted to go home, and it was bittersweet and heavy. But on Christmas Eve I sat on the floor with The Boy, and his brother, and his mother, and his grandmother, wrapping presents. This song was playing softly in the background, and The Boy and his brother were joking around about something or another, while his mother sorted through old photos, running back and forth to show us when she found one of The Boy sporting a baby mohawk in his bath, or his sister in her wedding dress, and I hummed along to the song and thought, “I never would have wanted to miss this.”

Photo by Decade Diary.

The First One

Well a very happy holiday to all my fine friends. This was my first Thanksgiving ever away from home. The first time my mom did not force us to go all around the table, each one of us trying to come up with something sillier or more sarcastic to say we were thankful for (well, I’m sure this still happened, I just wasn’t there). The first time I didn’t get to eat matzoh ball soup before turkey dinner, a Schachte family tradition, even when Thanksgiving doesn’t coincide with the first night of Hannukah.

It was just The Boy and me, and our first Thanksgiving together was a little bit old, a little bit new. I cooked all day, just like I have watched my mother do every year. We ate a roast duck, candied butternut squash, two kinds of potatoes (because I have my priorities right), stir-fried green beans, cranberry sauce, and salty honey pie (bring this one to dinner parties; it’s delicious, unbelievably easy, and impressive).

Five minutes before we sat down to eat, I grabbed a stainless steel pan out of a 400 degree oven with my bare hand. As I stood there, hopping up and down and cursing like a sailor, some small unburned part of me was laughing in the back of my brain. It seemed like the perfect reminder that this was our first time, that we haven’t quite gotten it right yet, that we are so far away from home, and trying our best to do this together, the only way we know how, and still screwing it up sometimes. The Boy went to bandage my hand, and found that we only had electrical tape, so I spent the rest of the night with a big black glob of burn ointment and gaffer’s tape wrapped all around my palm. We don’t have a dining table (hello, 400 square feet), so we ate on the couch while we rewatched Battlestar Galactica. As I sat there, belly full of duck and two kinds of potatoes, mind a little fuzzy from the half a pain killer I’d swallowed, watching the Cylons nuke the entire human race, I turned to The Boy and murmured, “I think this is our new Thanksgiving tradition.”

Photo by Steven Alkire

Thirty Years


Thirty years ago today was the official beginning of the greatest love story I’ve ever known. My parents were married on March 6th, 1983, and they’ve been madly in love ever since. They are the greatest partners and the best of friends, and I’ve learned everything I ever needed to know about love and commitment from them. So today, in honor of to occasion, I asked both of my parents to share a short story or anecdote from their relationship. The subject matter could be anything, but fittingly enough they both ended up talking about the same event. From my dad:

Oh well, it’s hard for me to even try to pick one story, or one event out of thirty years. Your mom and I, our marriage has been just this string of like… one hilarious moment after the next. You know, between all the dogs, and the kids, and your grandparents, and everything, I mean if you just looked at dog stories alone have literally thousands of absurd stories, without even adding in all of you, and your brother and sisters. So it’s hard for me to pick one thing out of what’s really been the kind of grand, overarching context for my entire life. But if you’re asking me when I knew [that she was the one], I know you remember the story Mom told you from your oral history project, about how she was working and I came in with Uncle Bob, and she said I was just staring at her? Well, I pretty much knew exactly what I wanted right then. And then we had that first date, and your Uncle Bob, and Aunt Iris, and your mom, and I all went out to a bar, and then they left and we just spent the rest of the night talking. And driving home from her place that I knew, I just knew that I was head over heels in love. She was just so smart, and funny, and beautiful, and… talking to her right away you could get a sense of how… honest, and admirable she was. And this has been the best thirty years of my life, and I think the next thirty years will be even better. 

And from my mom…

I think we’ve talked about this before but I always marvel at the sheer likelihood that I met Daddy. It was a perfect storm of fate. I wasn’t supposed to be at work when he wandered into Rich’s Dept. Store the first time. I was working at a totally different register than normal and minutes either way in either of our schedules would have meant a miss. I had actually asked to go home sick and been told no right before. Someone recently asked how Daddy and I knew we were right for each other and it all came down to my crazy dog Spot. She was almost as crazy as Meatloaf and everyone was afraid of her. But Daddy walked into my apartment for the first time and bent down and petted her and right at that moment I thought, “Okay this will work out!” So many moments flit through our lives that we think we’re going to remember, but only a few freeze. That one did. 30+ years later I can tell you every detail of that scene. Looking back, Daddy and I hardly knew each other when I picked up and moved to Los Angeles. As a mom now, I can only imagine how nervous my mom was and what a crazy impulsive move it must have seemed like. But I really think that in that fleeting moment when he gave Spot a pat I saw what an inherently good person Daddy was and I was right!

So few of my friends have parents that are still together, and I consider myself so very lucky to have this incredible example of love in my life. Looking forward to my own marriage (big big news on that to come next week), I think all the time about how The Boy and I will make this work. I only hope that we can figure it out as well as my parents.

Top photo: My parents discuss how to carve the Turkey, while Mickey the dog lies in wait.

Be Mine

Love is in the Air from Wriggles & Robins on Vimeo.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Can I just say that I have the most wonderful guy in the world? He bought me a cheese grater for Valentine’s Day, because he knows me better than anyone else in the world, and I love him for it. If he were here today, we would go see the (sure to be terrible) new Die Hard movie and eat some grilled cheese… or mac and cheese… or both… with my new grater. Unfortunately he’s a little too far away for that, but in just two(ish) weeks he’ll be right here next to me in our new tiny home, and our real life together can finally start. I hope you guys have someone to kiss today, and if not you might consider just kissing someone new. Hope you enjoy the sweet video above, and here are some Valentine’s links from around the web:

Vinegar Valentine’s say “I hate you.”

Married couples dance to their wedding songs.

My favorite love story ever.

I bought the first one for my parents, who have been married for nearly thirty years and continually inspire me with their love.

A love poem for girls who read.

Wes Anderson Valentine’s cards are delightful. Also: Arrested Development.

A literary love story map of the United States.

A love story in milk with a tragic ending.



A Very Purple New Year!

Welcome to 2013, dears! It feels like a good year already. The Boy and I spent a quiet new year at home together, listening to a live stream of this year’s Furthur show (we couldn’t get tickets) and eating an obscene amount of food. I made three kinds of fritters, people. And then short ribs and risotto. The Boy had to roll me to bed.

Everybody’s talking about new years resolutions, so I guess I’ll chime in with my own. I find resolutions like “go to the gym” or “learn French” kind of silly and unrealistic. I was having trouble thinking of one until yesterday, while I was cooking. I turned the hot water tap on to wash meat off my hands, and then got distracted by something. When I turned back to the sink, The Boy had turned the cold water on so that I wouldn’t burn my hands. I was such a little thing to do, but it made me think.

This year, my resolution is to be the best partner I can be for The Boy. This is the last year in which we will not be married, and we’re both trying to figure out how to build a real life together, how to support each other, how to navigate the shared responsibility of family, and how to not kill each other every once in awhile. Obviously we’re doing pretty ok at this point since we’ve made it this far, but there’s plenty of work to do.

And hey, if I break my resolution this year, we have the rest of forever to figure it out. But then, I guess that’s true of all resolutions.

Image via.

Merry Merry!

Hello, people! I’ve been working like a little bee on a writing assignment all week, and I haven’t had time to drop in here. I’m back home with the fam, the dogs, and of course, The Boy. Now that work is done, I could be posting but honestly I’d rather just spend time with the aforementioned people and critters. Still, I wanted to take a moment to wish all of you the happiest of holidays. Regardless of your beliefs or spirituality, I hope you take some time this week to cuddle with someone you love, drink hot beverages, and eat way too much amazing food. Also, do something with glitter. I don’t know what, but there should always be glitter during the holidays. Oh, and for all your last minute gifts. Take care, friends.

Image via.

The Purplest House Gift Guide! For the Big Brother

So far we’ve covered sisters big and small, and now it’s time to talk about my last sibling: the older brother. My older brother was the first to introduce me to Led Zeppelin and Lord of the Rings, which means I can credit him with at least two of the reasons why I’m cool. My brother and I bond over three things: books, booze, and food. He’s also pretty much the funniest person I know. He always has the most perfect, acerbic  witticisms that just bite people to the core. It’s not always fun to be on the receiving end, but I’m his least annoying sister so I’m usually in the clear.

1) Ice Sphere Molds: Because he’s a total whiskey snob. Pair with a bottle of his favorite to ensure the best sister ever prize.

2) Christmas Sweater: Cozy + cool.

3) Sight Gag Bookends: There were really so many good ones to choose from, like this. Or thisOr

4) Slate Coasters: For his brand new, grown up apartment.

5: The Genius of David Thorne: Because he’s the snarkiest jerk you know, and you love him for it.

5) A Cool Print: Because everyone needs a lovely home.

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The Purplest House Gift Guide! For Ma

Today’s guide focuses on the most important gift you’ll give this holiday season: the present for Mom. At my house, presents for Mom are a big deal, and rightfully so. My mom loves to give gifts. She’s never said as much, necessarily, but I can always tell how happy it makes her when I really love a present. My mom spends a lot of time and energy looking for cool and interesting gifts to give her kids. We always got the neatest presents as kids, and the same is true today. I think she deserves some pretty stellar gifts, herself.

1) Hedgehog Measuring Cups: If there is one thing my mother and I have in common, it’s a deep, abiding love for whimsical but useless objects. But I mean, come on. HEDGEHOGS. Who cares if they’re impractical?

2) Cupcake Candle Holder: Because her cupcakes are so good they need accessories.

3) Dessert Tour of Your Local City: My mom has such a sweet tooth, she would eat dessert for every meal if she could. Dessert tours are available in most major cities, and it would be such a fun and tasty way to spend the day together. Or you could even plan your own tour, with all your favorite stops.

4) A Mug From Your Favorite Book to Read Together: Because the greatest gift my mother ever gave me was an introduction to my favorite books. This mug features the royal crest from The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, one of the greatest under-appreciated children’s books of all time. The crest reads, “Peace, Love, and a Sense of Fun!”

5) A Handsome Print: Because everyone needs a lovely home (and this guy looks exactly like our dog).

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The Purplest House Gift Guide! For the Kid Brother

So I don’t exactly have a younger brother, but I do have a younger (almost) brother-in-law. He’s in his junior of college now, and double majoring in history and game design (which is just about the coolest combination ever). The Boy is good friends with his brother, which means that I am as well, and the three of us have a lot of fun together. It’s really nice to have someone around to gang up on The Boy with me. The future BIL and I bond over fantasy books, bad impressions of cockney accents, and (of course) merciless  mockery of his older brother. I love him because on the one hand he’s insightful as hell, but sometimes he can be a prickly little bastard. He and I love bickering and sniping at each other, all with great affection, of course.

 1) Lasercut Marble Machine: Hours of fascination, and it will fit on his dorm room desk!

2) Zombie Demon Fantasy Skull Gauntlet Hand Claw – I’m pretty sure the name is just a meaningless string of words, but that’s ok because this is the coolest thing ever.

3) Das Horn: This is a drinking horn. A drinking horn. What college-age brother DOESN’T need a drinking horn? He will be the coolest kid at school.

4) Kill Screen Subscription: A thoughtful quarterly on his favorite subject, for the future game designer.

5) A Beautiful Print: Because everyone needs a lovely home.

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