So Long, California

BigSur_05_011.19.14_LA_14Over the last few months, two of my very best and most beautiful friends came to visit The Boy and I in LA. I wanted to show them all the magic and splendor of the golden coast, so I brought these ladies to Big Sur–“The Most Dramatic Meeting of Land and Sea”–and Leo Carillo Beach in Malibu. We scrambled over rocky bluffs, peered into crystalline tide pools to spy on lazy starfish and anemones in briney blues and violets, gazed up in awe at the tops of towering redwoods, and scaled peaks to look out across the whole wide earth all the way to the glittering sea.

BigSur_41_011.19.14_LA_341.19.14_LA_60BigSur_03_01BigSur_15_01These pictures are especially poignant to me now, because The Boy and I are packing up and hightailing it out of California. We debated this decision over weeks and months, but in truth it was while we were in Big Sur with Lorenza that my heart made its decision. I was sitting on top of a rock on a mountain overlook, looking down on a valley grove of redwoods that stretched all the way west until the land finally gave way to the Pacific. I felt nothing but happiness and the sun setting on my shoulders. Then something broke inside my head, and I had one of those perfectly clear thoughts: we need more space. We need more room to breathe. We need better air in our lungs. We need seasons, we need change. We need something more than the feverish grit and dizzying, disorienting, omnipresent sunshine of Los Angeles. But, sitting on top of that same mountain, I knew I was not ready to give up the wonders of the west, not yet. So Portland, Oregon, here we come.

BigSur_17_01BigSur_31_01BigSur_33_01I am beyond excited for our new life in a new city. We knew from the start that LA would not be our forever home, and eventually it seemed pointless to keep putting down roots if we weren’t ready to commit. Nevertheless, I’m sure I’ll be nostalgic for our Tiny Cottage one day.

BigSur_26_01BigSur_08_01BigSur_40_01In many ways, it was the perfect place to live as a newly married couple. 400 square feet offer no hiding places, no refuge, no room for cold shoulders or silent treatments. This house has been a wonderful crash course in marriage. The space forced us to be close, to speak plainly and honestly about our problems, to be gentle with each other even when one of us had had a bad day, and wasn’t feeling especially nice. We had spent so much time apart before we moved into the Tiny Cottage, and it was a little disorienting at first to swing so rapidly from 3,000 miles between us to just 3 feet.

BigSur_37_01BigSur_30_01To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t always easy. The Boy was slow to adjust to LA, and for months he was cranky, out of sorts, vulnerable, and lost. It fell to me to pick up the pieces a lot of the time, and quite frankly I did not always accept that role gracefully. We went through a little rough patch in those months, where it felt like we were arguing all the time and getting nowhere.

This was especially tricky during wedding planning, also known as hell on earth. I have one particularly fond memory of the early stages, which happened to coincide with The Boy’s poor mother staying with us for a weeklong visit, where a casual conversation about when we should start hanging lights in the yard erupted into an argument over nothing. I can see his mother so clearly, pretending to read on an airbed in our tiny living room, while we had a heated conversation in undertones just fifteen feet away in the kitchen. Ahh, wedding planning… that perfect melting pot where two different sets of values on family, religion, money, and tradition all come crashing together. Good times.

BigSur_19_01BigSur_21_01BigSur_11_01But little by little, the Tiny House showed us the way. I learned the value of small measures: making an extra cup of coffee in the morning, without being asked… picking up his favorite soda from the grocery store… washing the dishes, even though he told me he’d take care of it in the morning. These things count in a very real way, and they can make all the difference. Around October, without warning, the load got a little easier. We were sweeter with each other, and bickered less. We spent a little extra time in bed each morning, talking softly together about our plans for the day. And we both learned something important, something critical, something obvious but nevertheless difficult about our marriage: sometimes, some days, one of us will have to carry the heavier load, and that’s ok, but it’s especially important, when those days roll around, to not just remember that we love each other, but to say it, too, in gestures large and small, explicit and unspoken.

BigSur_42_01Our new house will have a lot more space, but we’ll carry these lessons there with us anyway. And one day, when we’ve been married a lot longer than we have now, I’m sure I’ll tell someone about the tiny cottage we lived in when we were so young, and so in love, and so full of plans for the future.

All pictures by Xander Keeping.


A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Echo Park_28X Echo Park_01Echo Park_81Echo Park_03Echo Park_75Echo Park_13Echo Park_65Echo Park_87X Echo Park_52X Echo Park_18Echo Park_82Echo Park_101The weather in LA has been lovely lately, so refreshing after being home in the snow for a week! The Boy and I have been trying to take advantage, so we’ve spent a lot of time over the past few days walking around our neighborhood and taking pictures.

We live in my very favorite part of LA, Echo Park, right in the middle of one of LA’s biggest parks, Elysian Park, which is also home to Dodger Stadium. The Elysian Fields were the Greek mythological paradise in the afterlife, and as a total mythology nerd I get a little thrill out of that. The Elysian Fields were supposed to be a pastoral haven free from snow and bitter winds, where the earth bore sweet fruit and the sun was always shining. Our Elysian is still very much a city park, though very large and not especially manicured, but compared to the smog and ceaseless traffic of LA, it feels like our own little paradise. We love our neighborhood because it’s very quiet, much greener than the rest of the city, and there’s this great feeling of an older artists’ community, where both the people and the houses are a little more eccentric.

There’s also an abundance of exciting nooks and crannies to explore, thanks in large part to the many “secret staircases” in the area, some of which you can see above. The staircases in Elysian Valley traverse the incredibly steep hills that line Echo Park Avenue (our home!) on both sides. Back in the 1920s, when Echo Park was being developed, the staircases served as direct routes for pedestrians in an age where there were far fewer cars. I was so excited when, during one of our first weeks here, I walked up one of those staircases and found myself in a little secret garden complete with a public swing, pomegranate trees, a babbling stream with a footbridge, and a whole flock of hummingbirds.

LA can be a bit intense sometimes, and neither The Boy nor I think of it as a forever home, but some days, when the sun is shining, and the jasmine flowers perfume the air, and I’m standing on top of a very tall hill looking out all the way to the Hollywood sign, I think, “Well this is nice.”


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

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.

The Last One

Four years ago today, practically to the hour, The Boy picked me up for our very first date It was the first day of summer, it was Father’s Day, and I ate tart lemon sorbet by the water with him.

It’s always seemed so fitting that our anniversary was on the solstice, the longest day of the year. We fell in love in a haze of green, and gold, and lawn sprinklers, and trampolines, and popsicles, and fireworks (literal and figurative). I took great pleasure in telling people that our anniversary was Midsummer’s day, and I became as aware of the impending solstice as a child before Christmas. As you may remember, we originally planned to get married on this day next year. But when we started wedding planning just a few months ago, it quickly became apparent that June 21st was out for both this year and next, so we picked another date. Still in summer, but lacking the delightful symbolism.

So this is my last Midsummer anniversary, and in a way I feel like that’s emblematic of where my life is at right–where our life is at right now. We’re not kids anymore, and our love is less about popsicles and fireworks, and more about wool socks, and reading before bed, and remembering to pick up seltzer on the way home, and making the bed each morning; about my feet in his lap on our yellow couch, and all those soft little noises of domesticity. But of course, there’s still the popsicles and fireworks, too, and always that shimmering haze of green and gold.

Image source.

Tugboat Printshop

The Boy and I have finally, finally unpacked all of our boxes. We bought a delightful yellow couch, and upcycled an old cabinet with some blue enamel paint, so now it’s time to hang some pictures on the walls! I’ve got my eye on some of these amazing prints from Tugboat Printshop. I’m absolutely smitten with the gorgeous moon print above, but alas I think that 500+ price tag will keep that dream from becoming a reality. But I’m also loving some of their other, more modest pieces.

Wonderful, no? I pretty much want to live inside that RV picture, but I just can’t decide whether I like that one or the wolf better. They’re just so breathtakingly intricate. I wasn’t that impressed by the last print of the woods until I started looking at the detail shots, not to mention the amazing “making-of” images that detail the wood cut process. Very, very cool.

You can see more prints at Tugboat’s website, where all of these amazing pieces are available for purchase.

All images courtesy of Tugboat Printshop.

The Wheel House

Acrojou, ‘The Wheel House’ from Acrojou on Vimeo.
Wow, and I thought my house was small! Love this sweet little performance piece, entitled The Wheel House, by Acrojou Circus Theatre. I adore the vaguely steampunk aesthetic, which puts me in the mind of the Dust Bowl and Mad Max all at once. This is my favorite kind of theatre–or any type of art, for that matter–where you can kind of fill in your own story. I especially love when the lady cleans the cut on her guy’s forehead: such tenderness in that tiny space! I could do well to remember that right now. The Boy is building a computer that is roughly the size of our entire living room. I can’t walk two steps without tripping over a monitor or a GPU (whatever the hell that is), and I casually suggested the other day that maybe he and the computer should get their own apartment, and just come me visit on weekends.

Speaking of the tiny cottage: I built a box garden complete with four baby tomato plants! I woke up early to take pictures the next day, only to find that construction workers had set up camp on my patio. Pictures forthcoming, once they depart!

And in other news, my wedding band arrived in the mail the other day. It is beautiful with wee little bows all around the edge. 58 days! Gulp.

Video courtesy of Acrojou Circus Theatre. Definitely check out some of their other work, v. cool.

Ladle Love (+ News!)

Would you guys judge me if I spent 30$ on a ladle? Look at it. It’s a nice ladle. But then, of course, the madness wouldn’t stop there; I’d need the matching colander and slotted spoon, too. I guess I can assume that if you read this blog then you already had a pretty good sense that my priorities are not always in order re: useless objects.

Anyway, this ladle obsession is not completely random. As of last night, The Boy and I have a new apartment! It’s a teeny tiny cottage with dark hardwood floors, and the cutest little retro stove, and THREE yards (front, back, side), plus a covered patio, and room to plant in the quietest, most charming neighborhood in Los Angeles, right up the road from the most amazing store in the world (the first time I went there I nearly asked the counter people if I could move in). Basically, it’s my dream. Well, my for-now dream, anyway. So thus far I’ve spent the entire day reading about how to grow tomatoes and sunflowers and making lists of things we need to buy. The cottage is very small, less than 500 square feet, and it doesn’t have a lot of storage space, so The Boy and I are doing some serious thinking about simplicity and paring down on the number of things we own. But obviously there are necessities we’ll need to buy, and I feel like in such a teensy house all of our objects will have to be beautiful and well-crafted. But then while I was searching for nice-looking housewares, I found this ladle. And fell in love. And realized that when it comes to simplicity… I’ve got a long ways to go.

JOINERY soup ladle/28$

UPDATE: This has rapidly degenerated into a full-blown sickness. Also, I found the cheese grater of my dreams.