Category Archives: Family

Weekly Travel Theme – Motion

train sunset(Racing by a show-stopping Santa Barbara sunset on the Amtrak Coast Starlight)

The back-to-back, Monday-Tuesday, one-two photo challenge punch continues with this week’s Travel Theme of “Motion” from Where’s My Backpack. It is a counter-intuitive concept, to capture motion in a snapshot – I thought Ailsa picked the perfect quote to reflect this:

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.” – William Faulkner

And, with that, here are a few glimpses of motion I have captured both here and abroad.

dolphins(Dolphins playing alongside our whale watching trip in San Diego)

monkeys(Young rhesus macaques playing with prayer flags – and visitors – at Swayambhunath – The Monkey Temple – in Kathmandu, Nepal)

surfers(Watching the last wave of the evening, and resting after a long day in the sun and sea – Playa Dominica, Costa Rica)

pelaton(The Peloton entering Place de Concorde in the final stage of the Tour de France – Paris, France)

cairo(The slow meander of The Nile on a clear night – Cairo, Egypt)

niece on the move

nephew on the move(And, of course, no “Motion” post would be complete in my world without featuring my niece and nephew (both newly) in motion – thrilled with their mobility and clearly on a mission to tackle my camera.)

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Nostalgic

nanis recipe books

The Weekly Photo Challenge theme over at The Daily Post is “Nostalgic” – these books, and their story below, are my take.

One of the few perks of being a child of divorce is the acquisition of additional grandparents. I was extremely lucky in this regard; my step-grandparents lovingly embraced me as one of their own from the very beginning. Following the death of my step-grandfather, my step-grandmother (whom we all called Nani – her spelling) moved to our sleepy coastal California town from her home in Rhode Island. I was thirteen. My brother and I would spend long afternoons at her house watching Rogers and Hammerstein musicals, playing chopsticks on the piano, learning to needlepoint (that was just me) and snatching up warm cookies right out of the oven, or snooping around the kitchen when we could smell her chili bubbling on the stove. Nani’s meals – served on sick days taken off from school, Saturday evenings when our parents were out being adults (every once in a while) and most every holiday – tasted like home. She clipped recipes of interest every month from her Bon Appetit and Gourmet subscriptions and sorted them into the collection of small, well-worn three-ring binders above. Once she tried them, she would rate her success with gold star stickers (one for ‘good’; two stars for ‘great’), and include notes of what to do or not to do, the next time around. Interspersed with those clipped magazine pages are her own recipes – tried and true family classics like her mother’s Danish Twist pastries that we all looked forward to on Christmas Morning, or the melty, gooey marshmallow rolls from her mother-in-law that Thanksgiving was never without. When Nani passed away in 2002, I had already transplanted myself to Boston for graduate school. One of the few things I asked be set aside for me were her ‘cookbooks’. Despite the 11 years it has taken me to return to California, my step-father continued to hold onto these precious collections for when I was ready and, once I settled into my home here, happily passed them along. His only request? Twists on Christmas.

What have you knit for me lately?

walker + hat(Walker. In a Hurricane Hat. Clearly made to be a toddler knitwear model)

I have only a few memories of spending time with my mom’s parents growing up. The most vibrant and lasting of those was their visit to welcome my newborn brother, Eric, when I was 8. My grandmother always carried her knitting with her, and the needles were pulled out and clacking away anytime she found a place to sit still for more than 10 minutes. For a fidgety little girl on her best behavior, watching the swooping, twisting, knotting mass of needles and yarn was mesmerizing. It was on this visit that I declared that I was old enough to learn what grandma was doing and she agreed. With extensive patience, some pink yarn and a pair of bright yellow plastic needles, Grandma Dorie gradually taught me to knit, leaving me with a gift I value to this day (there is photographic evidence of this afternoon that I need to dig out at my mom’s house and share here someday soon – it is completely worth it for my haircut alone).

needle books(Aren’t these snazzy? My aunt just passed on these great interchangeable circular needle sets, circa 1970s)

My memories of my grandmother are entirely twisted up with memories of her knitting – mostly the one-of-a-kind sweaters I received for holidays and birthdays. I was so proud of them. No one else had a sweater featuring little sheeps running across the front, with the matching rumps (complete with pom-pom tails!) across the back. I was not the only family member who’d been brought into the knitting fold – my aunt Jane was also always a prolific sewer/knitter. Her gifts (if it was possible) thrilled me even more – matching outfits for me and my Cabbage Patch Kid?! I was the coolest kid in school!

small needles(Small needle sizes – the cables are a little creaky, but everything is completely functional!)

My interest in knitting at age 8 lasted for about three days; the same amount of time as my excitement about skateboarding or passion for the electric keyboard. But I would return to my needles every few years, making my own one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts (I still cringe at the year of many, many knitted potpourri sachets) and considering all the fashionable garments I could be making for myself while perusing knitting books at the local library (so many shoulder pads).

large needles(Larger needle sizes – the colorful metal tips are so cheerful!)

It wasn’t until graduate school, when I desperately needed a creative outlet to give my brain a rest from non-stop science that I returned to the craft in earnest. I branched out from just the knit stitch (purling is fun!), worked my way through a few basic projects, joined a Boston area Stich-n-Bitch group and learned how gratifying it can be to make something lasting with one’s own hands. Not to mention the very far fetched but mighty fulfilling idea that I could make my own clothes, if I absolutely had to. Let’s not discuss the practical implications of woolen undergarments – I like this delusion too much.

madelinetosh(Madelinetosh, in Forestry – mmmmmm)

In this way, knitting has become one of my main outlets – alongside cooking and blogging – to get myself out of my head, my head out of science, and reconnect with the creator inside of me. However, I had been in bit of a rut. Many, many baby blankets and graduation scarves later, I had forgotten how much fun it is to try something completely knew, maybe a bit outside of my comfort zone, as well as the pride that comes from generating a beautiful accessory (for me even!) from just a ball of yarn. Enter Mere, my blogging buddy and virtual knitting club companion (read about our previous knitting goals/projects here and here).

the cowl begins(It’s beginning to look like a Honey Cowl)

Working with someone new, who has a similar skill set and is also interested in branching out has been so much fun. The socks from March were a huge challenge and we were both excited to tackle the Honey Cowl in April – it seems straightforward and easier to finish within a month. Note: The socks remain unfinished (I am admittedly ashamed). I’m still 2/3 done with my third sock – I decided to rip the first one out because it was too big and do it right, but let me tell you, motivation to finish the third sock of a pair is hard to come by.

finished cowl(The finished product, properly waffle-like and practically glowing)

April came and went and both of us were suspiciously silent about our cowl progress on our blogs, and on Instagram, where we had been so excitedly vocal about starting our projects. As the month came and went we chatted behind the scenes about piles of work, distractions from our knitting goals and maybe making May a ‘catch-up’ month – with a small, if any, project of it’s own.

cowl long(In natural light the greens are even more impressive – worn long…)

So, I wanted to catch you all up (especially you, Destination : Macaron, with your overflowing craftiness) with my recent progress, several projects of which are finally wrapping up. Plus, plans for the summer. Because I clearly haven’t learned anything about overbooking yet – and there are baby birthdays coming up!

cowl double wrap(…and short. I profusely apologize for my strap issues here.)

April’s project, the Honey Cowl, was an absolute delight. I used the pattern as an excuse to splurge on two skeins of Madelinetosh DK in a deep, vibrant, subtly variegated shade of green, called Forestry. Not only was the color amazing, but the wool itself was soft, springy and knit up like a dream. I worked on the cowl solely on my shuttle rides to and from work; it was a great pattern for on-the-go knitting while listening toRadioLab podcasts. This cowl is a new favorite; I have already worn it several times (San Diego gets cold at night!) and received multiple compliments. Between the ease of knitting, the loveliness of the yarn itself and the functionality and beauty of the finished project, I can tell I’ll be making and wrapping up a lot of Honey Cowls for Christmas this year.

hats(May’s project – the Hurricane Hat, sized down for toddler heads. There may be a few more where these came from, just sayin’)

For May, Mere and I decided we would slow down, catch up on our cowls (and socks, ahem) and, make a hat – a simple weekend project that would at least push our monthly knitting club forward. With two new babies in the family, I decided to make two or, more precisely, two happened while racing through season 4 of Battlestar Galactica on Memorial Day (maybe a bit behind the times but so happy to be finally catching up!). The hat pattern is a modified Hurricane Hat, using size 6 needles to slim it down for precious toddler heads. Here Walker is modeling one of my prototypes. He is about the age that my niece and nephew will be around Christmas, so I’m glad my arbitrary length and decreases seem to fit! There is something incredibly gratifying about already working towards stockpiling gifts.

walker hat detail(More Walker, more hat detail)

So with the exception of my third sock problem (this weekend maybe? Finally?), my knitting is all caught up! Which means I can turn my sights towards summer. Mere and I, although ambitious, are not blind, and rather than choose monthly projects during this busy season have chosen instead a ‘summer vacation’ project. Toys. For babies (We are both blessed with beautiful nieces and nephews). I cannot show you which ones, because they will be gifts for two almost-1 year olds at the end of August, and I’m pretty sure my brothers and sisters-in-law read my blog (although anyone who has gotten this far in this post deserves a medal). I promise to reward all of your patience with adorable toddler + toy photos then. Here are a few to tide you over. In the meantime, happy crafting!

wesley(Recent nephew shot – this kid clearly needs a handknit toy, right?!)

If you are here and have a bit of extra time on your hands, take a look at these beautiful yarns and share your must have shades – it is so hard to choose!

anna(And my niece, also reaching out for a toy!)

(Last) Weekly Photo Challenge – Change

A week (or two) ago, the theme of the Weekly Photo Challenge at The Daily Post was “Change”. I read about it late on that Sunday night and was excited about the possibilities of my submission, which I began crafting as I drifted off to sleep that night. The next day, Boston happened. I allowed myself be catapulted into a 24-hour-news-hungry, astonished, angry, obsessive place for the entirety of the week. Then another work trip, followed by a brief, rejuvinating drive down the California coast and now here we are.

Putting together a post on the theme of change has continued to dominate my blog-oriented thoughts. Everything about my life has changed in the past six months and I am only now starting to feel settled, comfortable and truly happy with it all. Summing this up seemed like a fitting way to (yet again) re-establish my normal routine (blogging and otherwise).

So, what does change look like for me? The pictures speak for themselves; much more than 5700 miles separates my life(s) in Paris (then) and San Diego (now).

HomePlace Chappe(then)

The intersection of Rue Chappe and Rue des Trois Freres, just down from my apartment in the 18th arrondissement in Paris, France

sd home (now)

My own personal palm tree in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego, CA.

The View

sacre couer(then)

Basilica Sacre Coeur, in the summer, around sunset (featuring a spectacular view over the city)

channel islands(now)

The view of the Channel Islands speeding by while traveling south by train from the Central Coast of CA to San Diego.

Dinner

cheri bibi

(then)

Spring lamb and fava beans at Cheri Bibi.

RK sushi(now)

Playboy Roll at RK Sushi.

Touristing

tour eiffel(then)

The Eiffel Tower as seen from the Bir-Hakeim bridge.

big sur(now)

Big Sur coastline, as seen from the southbound lanes of CA Highway 1

CSA shareslate feb panier(then)

Late February 2012 in Paris: Russet potatoes, celery root, green leaf lettuce, brown lentils and apples.

late feb csa (now)

Late February 2013, in San Diego: Blood oranges, lemons, mandarins, green leaf lettuce, chard, kale, spring mix, carrots, caulflower, romanesco, bok choy and strawberries.

Family scarf family(then)

anna2 wesley (now)

I am lucky enough to have found a family of friends wherever I have landed thus far – and my ‘family’ in Paris was comprised of the best kinds of people. Yet, when I learned that my siblings were going to make me an aunt (multiple times over) in the last year, I knew it was time to come home, for good. The change I can see, on a weekly basis, as my niece and nephew grow brings an unspeakable joy to my heart. I can tell that they now recognize my voice, they always laugh at my silly faces and are just starting to learn how to put their pudgy arms around me for baby’s first hugs. There are so many reasons I am happy to be home, but being an active participant in my family, watching these children grown and change are the best reasons of all.

P.S. At the top of the list of “things that never change” is my predilection to let this blog be the first thing to drop when times get tough. I am very thankful for my new ‘interfriend’ Mere – whom I had the great pleasure of meeting in person last week – for her kind and inspiring words to jumpstart my posting again. It seems I am slowly creating a California family of friends, and I am so excited to discover what unfolds next.

Family Ties (and Chocolate)

samples

When my father got married two years ago after thirty years of bachelorhood, I knew that the new woman he was welcoming into our little family was incredibly enthusiastic, supportive, strong and loving (she did capture his heart, after all). What was unclear to me, at the time, was how her children – two sons close to my age – and I would interact and blend. Mixing families is never a sure bet, and forcing a Brady Bunch-esque melding between adult children is not particularly realistic (or probable).

truffles

Turns out, I had no reason for concern. Like mother, like sons. From the moment we met at the wedding (where I was the best man and they were co-maids of honor, of course), I have been bombarded with affection, teasing and respect – much like these hilarious, talented guys had been in my life all along. When they announced around this time last year that they were each expecting a baby, that I would be a full-fledged aunt to two adorable munchkins, my choice to return to San Diego was practically made for me.

cheese and caramel plate

(Caramel and cheese platter: dried mango, apricots, cherries, almonds, chile burnt caramel sauce and four delicious cheeses – wensleydale with cranberries, goat cheese aged in balsamic vinegar, cheddar, petite basque)
 

Fast-forward one year to now. We are still getting to know each other, but after celebrating (surviving) family Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities together, I cannot imagine a life without them. I would not want to. In the days after Christmas, while I was still recovering from the great gift-explosion of 2012 (seriously, this family knows how to party), we all spent some time together – kids only (plus babies).

chocolate menu

On one of these afternoons, their main priority was to take me to Eclipse Chocolat, a local shop well known for their infused chocolates (both in the candied and drinking varieties) and chocolate-themed menus. We each ordered a drinking chocolate, they humored me as I took photos of everything and we sat, soaking in the afternoon sunshine streaming through the café windows and enjoying adult conversation while the babies slept. We laughed while recounting childhood stories, debated politics and shared a few hopes and dreams for the upcoming year. We sipped our chocolate, nibbled on cheese and fruit while bringing each other up to speed on where we are in life and where we want to go. We hatched ideas for how we were going to help each other achieve and grow, knowing that we would be there to support each other through it all – like family does.

hot cocoa

(Left and top, rosemary mint; right, lavender sea-salted caramel; bottom, chile burnt caramel)