Portland Preservation Society

Just about a year ago, with Brooke's motivation and organization, a handful of people - friends, and friends of friends - somewhat awkwardly assembled at a café in SE Portland to discuss canning and preserving. We each brought books to reference, and a general enthusiasm to form a group in which we would reconvene each month and exchange canned goods. Formally named the "Portland Preservation Society," most of us casually refer to it as "canning club." At that first meeting, we loosely established some method to the process, which after the initial exchange we realized needed to be overhauled. From then on, the general process is that anyone who comes should bring 5-6 jars of something preferably seasonal and local that they have canned/preserved. At the meeting, we all place our goods on the table, form a circle around the precious goods, and one-by-one explain what we've made. It's nearly impossible after a couple glasses of wine and good conversation to remember which jars sounded best, and which to choose first! The second time around the circle, we each get to choose one jar, and then we go back around and around until each person has the number of jars they contributed. In the end we each walk away with 5 or 6 incredibly creative, flavorful canned goods that we probably wouldn't have thought to make ourselves.

Image(from the second swap)

We have our one year anniversary meeting this week, and it's amazing to see how it's grown! From a modest 10 or so people in the beginning, we now have over 250 members in the Facebook group, thanks to Brooke's continued organization and excitement. We began by having a different member host each month, but now it's grown so big (about 30-50 people attend each month) that we are meeting at Union Pine, thanks to Summer and Patrick's generous contribution of that lovely space.

Image(left to right, top to bottom: curried cauliflower, gomasio, cranberry apple ginger beer, balsamic pickled eggs, pickled Asian pears)

When I was young, my mom would make pickled beans and beets, and they were always such a treat! I started canning only four years ago, and luckily I can say my skills have progressed with time. The first batches of pickled things I made were too spicy - not too hot, they just too many competing flavors - but now I have my go-to recipe for pickling. And I've tried so many other things that once would have seemed too ambitious.

Image(lapsang souchong tea jelly that I made)

Image(mushroom herb seasoning that I made for the next meeting)

Even though a canning club is the ultimate Portland cliché, it's a really wonderful group to be a part of. Through it I've made some great friends, gotten to take home some delicious foods (hello bacon jam!), and had a number of memorable wine-filled conversations.

**Some notes - to join, just become a member of the Facebook group for the details on the next meeting. Check out the Portland Preservation Society Tumblr page, too! And see photos on Instagram at #portlandpreservationsociety.

____________________ all photos taken with my iphone

Unruly Things

Today I have a guest post up at Unruly Things.

bloody mary

Check it out here. Or below:

Chances are good that if you invite me to brunch at your house, I’ll bring Bloody Marys. Typically this is met with enthusiasm, but tomato-based drinks are sometimes divisive: either you love them or you hate them. I’ll assume, like me, you love them.When I was thinking about what to write about for Unruly Things, I looked back through my Instagram feed for inspiration. One of the recurring themes was posts of different Bloody Marys I’ve made. Once strangers started commenting on the frequency in which I drink them, I realized that my love for a good Bloody Mary may be a little over the top

Over the years I’ve perfected my recipe. Friends have asked for it, and up until this point I’ve kept quiet. If I’m going to share it, why not let everyone know, right? It’s very simple and straightforward – there’s no need for it to be too complicated.


1 32oz bottle of tomato juice 2 lemons, juiced 2 tablespoons freshly grated or prepared horseradish 1 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 2 teaspoons celery salt 1 teaspoon dried dill weed ¼ teaspoon cumin Vodka Pickled vegetables for garnish Ice

ingredients Directions:

1. Mix all the ingredients except vodka together in a large bowl. Whisk well.

2. Using the juiced lemon, wet the rim of the glass. Use celery salt to salt the rim.

3. Add ice to the glass, then mix one part vodka to three parts tomato juice mix.

4. Garnish with as many pickled vegetables as you can fit on a toothpick!

Makes enough to share with all your friends.

American Country

While thrifting last week, I was in the home and garden book section of Goodwill, and there was a man also perusing the books beside me. His son was literally circling the both of us, knocking into me every time he came my way. Normally I would just walk away and come back to the books once they had left, but I was feeling uncharacteristically stubborn, feeling like there was a reason for me to be right there, right then. I saw this hideous-looking book called American Country, and liking the name, I grabbed it. As soon as I opened this gem and saw each page filled with wide plank pine floors, worn farm tables, hanging dried herbs, basket collections, massive well-used hearths, harvest bounties, cabinets of home canned foods, old weathered saltbox exteriors, untamed herb gardens, and country stores, I threw it into my basket and let the man and his son alone.

Later that night I poured a glass of wine, curled up on the couch with a record on, and started looking through the book page by page. Even though I was home alone, I audibly gasped at the sight of some of these images. Many of the interiors books I own are overly polished and marketed to a certain demographic (which I'm certainly a part of). This book, published in 1980, is the real deal. I think what I appreciate most about it is that it proves that this is a timeless lifestyle, not just a popular aesthetic.

Since getting American Country, I ordered four more of Mary Emmerling's books online, and they don't disappoint either. But that's another story for another day.


It's no secret how much I love Christmas. Always have, always will. (I must have been 3 in this picture with my dad?)

dad with tree

Today I took my tree down. I've had it over a month, and it would drop a handful of needles at the slightest touch. There's something cathartic about taking it all down -- I think it's because I'm scared of clutter, and I was starting to feel like there was too much going on in my house. An old friend came into my house a couple of days ago, as he's in town for the holidays, and commented on how my house has "really filled out" since last time he was over. That alone made me want to take a trip to the Goodwill (not to shop for once, but to purge).

Anyway, this year my roommate spent three weeks after Thanksgiving in Australia, and so I took it upon myself to add a touch of  Christmas around the house. All around the house, actually.

There's honestly nothing that makes me happier than sitting in front of the tree at night, with the lights twinkling, Willie Nelson on in the background, sipping mulled wine with a friend.

Did anyone else grow up sticking cloves in oranges? That's the smell of Christmas for me. I can't ever get enough.

Now it's all over and a new year is about to begin. I could not be more grateful for the changes I've made in 2012 and for my incredible friends and family. In the words of my good friend Emily Katz, "oh it seems to me, that I might be, the luckiest girl in the whole wide world."


While that would be a good note to leave on, I can't not share this photo. I'm not sure how old I was here. Maybe 5? Julia, my older sister, got a boombox that Christmas and I didn't. Hence my face. Anyway, I hope you had a very merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy new year. Thanks for reading this thing. xo

San Juans

It's been quite a while now since I made this trip north to the San Juans. It was at a really busy time as the summer was winding down, filled with lots of other trips, which is why it came and went without notice. My dear friend Lindsay and I used to take trips like this all the time when we were younger. In high school, our parents let us drive the 5+ hours from Eugene to Seattle for the weekend and stay in a hostel. Looking back, even though we were responsible enough, we were also really fast drivers and a little careless (read: u-turns on the freeway). I think our last weekend trip was for a Cat Power concert with our friend Jess during college. We'd been talking about a trip to Vancouver for a while, and decided to add a couple days in the San Juans onto it. And I'm so glad we did. It had been 10 years since I had been to Vancouver, and while it's a really beautiful city, I felt like much of what we were doing there could be done at home in Portland. Although, there were certainly a few highlights - getting to go to Old Faithful, the deliciousness and charm of Nelson the Seagull, a great meal at Bao Bei, drinks gifted by strangers, and MacLeod's Books. But I preferred our time in the San Juans.

The trip as a whole made me think a lot about the idea behind this blog, and the connection I have to both urban and rural life. I kept telling Lindsay that I could definitely live on the islands, and once we were home I was determined to find my own cabin up there. That obviously didn't happen, but it's still on my mind. Just like that cabin in the Berkshires that I'm always dreaming about...

Lindsay and I stayed in a teepee on an organic farm, with a little outdoor kitchen and shower. The posting online claimed there was a "composting toilet" which sounds like it could be charming, like in a wooden hut or something, but that wasn't the case at all. It was a generic plastic outhouse. But it didn't really matter.

Lindsay's younger sister Emily, who I've known since she was just a little girl, was working on San Juan Island during the summer for a whale watching tour company. Their family tells a story about when Emily was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, at age of 3 or so, she replied, "an orca!" So this was pretty much her dream job. We bundled up and went out one afternoon on a boat and saw tons of orcas and learned about their migration patterns. It was really beautiful and amazing.

The two little towns on San Juan Island, where we were staying, were also very sweet. My favorite of the two was this one, Roche Harbor. I have no idea if my grandma ever visited this area, but there was something about it that reminded me of her. I could imagine her staying in the old Hotel de Haro, sipping a martini on the front porch, eating clam chowder. I got my itch to travel from her. She kept files of all the places around the world she had visited, with ticket stubs, maps, brochures and postcards picked up along the way. When I was young, every time I'd go to her house, I'd ask to look through her files. Sometimes I'd sneak a postcard of New York or Paris and hang it on my wall once I was home. I'd have her tell me stories of far away places, and I'd daydream of visiting one day. When she was still alive but could no longer travel, I'd always send her a postcard from every place I'd visit. Sometimes I miss doing that, as I know how much she loved it too.

The San Juans are a truly special place. I can't wait to go back and spend more time there, like maybe an entire summer?

____________________ All photos were taken with my film camera.

Snowflakes in the Air

So there are actually no snowflakes where I am (yet). But this weekend I'm headed up to the mountain to stay in a cabin with a few friends, and I'm really hoping for snow. Just two days after Thanksgiving, which came early this year, my dear friend (and fellow Christmas fanatic) Jen and I drove out to the Mount Hood National Forest and chopped down our Christmas trees. Since then I have barely left my house. All I want to do is sit (on my new leather couch) with a friend, in front of the tree, with a warm drink in hand.

I've been listening to Christmas music since Halloween - seriously - and compiling a list of some of my favorite songs. In my family, we have few traditions, but those that we do have are significant. I cannot remember a Christmas in which we didn't listen to the Willie Nelson Christmas album, Pretty Paper, as we first open presents in the morning. We also listen to it while decorating the tree, and last year I finally invested in a record of my own instead of borrowing my mom and dad's. Nothing says Christmas in the Parker household more than Willie Nelson.

You can hear my Snowflakes in the Air mix here. Enjoy it with a warm drink.

Pretty Paper - Willie Nelson Skating - Vince Guaraldi Trio Baby, It's Cold Outside - Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Jordan O Come, O Come Emmanuel - Sufjan Stevens Aspenglow - John Denver Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky I'll be Home for Christmas - Frank Sinatra River - Joni Mitchell Song 3 - John Fahey White Christmas - Bing Crosby Christmas Time Is Here - Vince Guaraldi Trio What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? - Ella Fitzgerald I Do Not Care For The Winter Sun - Beach House Silent Night - Willie Nelson Listen (Listen, Listen) - Wintersleep Peace Carol - John Denver and the Muppets Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing - Sufjan Stevens Home Alone - John WIlliams Let It Snow - Dean Martin Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire - Nat King Cole Wallflower - Agnes Obel

Fall 2012 Mix

I'm the kind of person who listens to one song over and over and over again. Right now that song is "New York City's Killing Me" by Ray LaMontagne.  I could literally listen to it all day long. This time of the year makes me want to live on the East Coast. As the days get darker and colder, and the rain starts to come down, I dream of a crisp New England fall hidden away in a farmhouse in front of a roaring fireplace. This song invokes all of that in me.

All of these songs, actually, are songs that at one point or another I've listened to on repeat until I can't listen anymore.

You can hear my Fall 2012 mix here. I hope you enjoy it!


New York City's Killing Me - Ray LaMontagne & the Pariah Dogs (God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise) Today -  Jefferson Airplane (Surrealistic Pillow) Helpless - Neil Young (live at Massey Hall) Either Way - Wilco (Sky Blue Sky) Our House - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (Deja Vu) Song For Adam - Jackson Browne (Jackson Browne) Heartbeats - José Gonzalez (Veneer) Going Back Home - JBM (Not Even In July) Suzanne - Leonard Cohen (Songs of Leonard Cohen) Never Going Back Again - Fleetwood Mac (Rumors) California - Joni Mitchell (Blue) Tuesday Afternoon - Moody Blues (Days of Future Passed) Bookends Theme - Simon and Garfunkel (Bookends)


I'm really terrible at talking about trips. When I got home from Paris and people asked how it was, I simply responded "great!" Expecting more than a one word answer, I'd follow that up by reiterating "so good." When that still didn't satisfy whoever I was talking to, I'd add "we ate and drank, walked, biked, shopped, saw a few sights, and drank more wine."  Then I'd change the subject. Unless you want every detail, I can't sum it up in a short conversation. So this might be a long one.

To start, the reason I went to Paris in the first place was for my former job -- at a high school study abroad non-profit. In February I was awarded a chaperon flight to Paris, long before I had decided to leave the organization. Lucky for me, I was allowed to keep the flight even though I hadn't worked there for months. So in early September, I headed to New York for a few days where I met the 46 teenagers who I'd eventually take from JFK to Charles de Gaulle airport. Just me and them, with an hourlong layover in Zurich where we had to go through security and immigration. I only yelled at them once, but it was well deserved. Needless to say, we made it to Paris and the staff there took over. An hour after arriving, I had completed my responsibilities and was ready for vacation.

Sarah had been visiting our friend Kim in London the week prior, and the day after I arrived, the two of them took the train down and met me in Paris. There is something really special about meeting up with friends in another country. You get to see a side of someone that you wouldn't normally. The night they arrived, we went out to dinner at a highly recommended neighborhood restaurant in the Marais, where we were staying. It was packed, and we needed to get on the list. Neither of them speak a word of French, so I was elected to do all the communicating. I proudly got us on the list, but somehow inadvertently told the bartender that I'd like to go to his house. You'd think three years of college French would get me a little further than that.

Thanks to Kim's special European credit card with a chip in it, we could rent commuter bikes by the hour. There was a bike station right out side of our apartment, and conveniently there was always a station to drop them off near wherever we went. One day we seemed to bike all over the city to see many of the major sights. When I was 18, my cousin and I spent the summer in Paris living with her former exchange student. We were young and dumb, and didn't even have a guidebook to tell us where to go. But I think we made our way to all of the major museums that summer, and most of the famous attractions. I've been lucky enough to go back a couple other times between then and now, so I was totally content letting this trip be purely a vacation of eating, drinking, and wandering around. Luckily Sarah, Kim, and I were all on the same page. Everything was seamless.

By the end of the week, we'd buy multiple baguettes and at least two bottles of wine at a time. Just in case we needed them when the stores had closed. We didn't want to be caught without either.

I'm not sure how familiar you are with Parisian café culture, but it's something people do: sit at cafés and sip espresso. Did you know that the espresso is actually really gross?  For a couple of Portlanders and a Londoner, the coffee was totally sub-par. While Kim could handle it, Sarah and I couldn't. We made it our mission to find decent coffee. We never really did, but we came close at Rose Bakery. We'd each order two drinks during breakfast so we could feel properly caffeinated.

I was talking with a friend the other night about Paris, and he said seeing photos makes him feel weirdly nostalgic, which is how I feel, too. I'm not sure if it's even for a time that I've already had there, or if it's for a time I want to have. But there's something about that city that makes me feel like I want to make memories there. Maybe that's what we just did?

____________________ All photos taken on my film camera.

Summer blur

A year ago this weekend -- Labor Day weekend -- my dear friend Christie and I were camping at Smith Rock State Park in Central Oregon. It was a memorable weekend in which the highlight was a 40 or so mile long drive along a gravel road not meant for cars like the one we were driving. At times we weren't sure if we'd make it to our destination: the highway. The map we were using was either inaccurate, or we (most likely) made some wrong turns. It was supposed to be about 20 miles, but ended up taking hours longer than expected because we were going so slow most of the way that we didn't even shift out of first gear! At one point I had to get out of the car while we forded a creek, so as not to weigh it down any more than necessary. We both silently made note of our mileage as we would pass a house in order to know how many miles back we'd have to walk to civilization if the car got stuck or we broke down. There were hills as far as we could see, cows wandering in the roadway, and not a person for miles and miles. We finally made it back to the highway at dusk, luckily, and headed to our camp where we were rewarded with the most refreshing beer we'd ever had. There aren't many people I'd want to be in that situation with, but Christie has a sense of adventure that is contagious, which is also paired with extreme capability when it comes to precarious situations like that one.

It's hard to believe a year has passed since then, as it seems like such a vivid memory. Over the past year a lot has changed for me, however. In June I left my job of four years, which has completely turned my world upside down. I'm able to pursue the kind of work I want to be doing, and am already consumed with three different jobs, tons of projects, and trips seemingly every weekend, that I'm busier than ever! It's certainly not the summer I had expected it to be: unemployed and lazily taking river trips mid-week.

In Portland, summer officially starts on the fourth of July, once it finally gets warm. I was lucky to go camping even before that in Central Oregon, where it's much warmer and dryer, for my roommate Alea's birthday. Sharing the weekend with friends in the desert while eating great food and swimming in the John Day River was the best way to kick off summer.

I love Alea for a lot of reasons, but the one of the first things that brought us together was that we were raised about fifteen miles from one another out in the Coast Range of Western Oregon. We both have a little bit of country in us. Anyway, it was a beautiful weekend of getting dusty in the desert and celebrating Alea. The first night we stayed at Pine Mountain Observatory, where we saw the most incredible sky filled with stars. More than I've ever seen. There were astronomers with gigantic telescopes who pointed out the constellations and showed us Saturn, which was recognizable with the ring around it. While laying on the ground for just a short while, I counted at least ten shooting stars.

The next day we drove out to the Painted Hills and planned to find somewhere to camp along the way. It was hot out, and we wanted to find a place to swim. But with no cell phone reception and a proven unreliable map that I had used last year in the same area, we didn't really have a destination in mind. As we were driving down the highway, I saw a local dude and his two young sons near their driveway and quickly pulled over. I asked him if he knew of any good swimming holes nearby. He asked how serious we were, because if we wanted to drive on a gravel road, up a hill, he could direct us to the best place around. Little did he know that I had traversed those roads with wild abandon just last year. I memorized his directions, but for good measure he drew us a map:

We made it to the spot without a hitch, and were all in awe of the picturesque spot we found. Even though it wasn't really a campsite, we couldn't tear ourselves away from the spot and pitched out tents right there for the night.

A group of locals stopped by and joined us for a bit, just proving to us that we were at the best spot around.

I suppose there are memorable elements of every summer, but for the last two, some of the greatest moments were spent in Central Oregon along the John Day River, amongst friends.


In case you didn't know, Christie and I have a blog called Summer Goals that we rarely update anymore, but has been the source of much of my excitement for summer of the past few years. We also curated a book of the same name, published by Publication Studio.

____________________ All photos taken on my film camera.

Small Houses

As I was scanning pages from the Lofts book that I recently bought, I decided to look up other books that Jeffrey Weiss put out. My quick internet search showed this one, Small Houses, which I realized that I already own but had forgotten about.  I got this book at a yard sale last summer for  25 cents from an older eccentric man who must have been an interior decorator based on the stuff he was selling. His taste seemed pretty gaudy, so I'm sure this book was a relic from years past when his taste was more modest.


When I was a little girl, in kindergarten, we would have breaks during class to play. Most kids would play house in the small model kitchen we had in the back of the classroom. At age 5, for some reason, I thought I was too old for that, so I would usually sit on the rug and do something else on my own. Similarly, throughout elementary school I didn't watch cartoons -- they were too immature. Instead, I would wake up just as early on Saturday mornings to watch a public access show called Show Your Home. This was pre-HGTV, and the only show like it that was on to my knowledge. On this very sophisticated program, the local real estate agents in Eugene would give tours of homes for sale. Usually they were split-level ranch style homes: three bedrooms, two baths, double car garage, wall to wall carpet, etc. Whenever I'd go into town with my parents, I'd always grab the free real estate magazines outside of the grocery stores. I got so good at estimating the value of a house that I'd walk into any home and guess the square footage and value. I'm sure this provides some weird insight into my character that I'd rather not delve into.

I have absolutely no idea where this interest came from, but it's stayed with me my entire life. Now my friends turn to me to find them apartments or houses, as sifting through the Craigslist rentals to find a rare gem is one of my resumé-worthy skills. I would forever be content if I could find a place like one of these small houses to call my own.

____________________ All photos are scans of the Lila Gault & Jeffrey Weiss book Small Houses.


Last Friday was my mom and dad's 38th anniversary. Ever since I moved out of the house, I never really paid too much attention to their anniversary. I always thought that it was something that the two of them should celebrate and recognize together, and that it wasn't really anyone else's business. There have been some milestones that I knew deserved celebration, like their 25th year together. That was the summer after my junior year of high school, and my sisters and I planned an elaborate semi-surprise party for them at the park where they were married with as many people as we still knew who were at the wedding. I can't remember at that point taking any time to reflect on how it felt for them to be there with all of their friends and family, 25 years later. Thinking about it now, it seems like it might have felt kind of crazy for them.

This year, however, I've been thinking a lot about my mom and dad's marriage. My mom was 20 and my dad was 24. They had been together for a year and a half before getting married. (I learned this as I read through their wedding album, which I sneakily took from their house to scan photos.) I've wondered many times how in the world they could have ever known at that young age, and after being together for such a short time, that they were the ones for each other. I don't think I've asked them this, but I don't think I need to either. What I've come to understand is that they didn't really know. They were just committed to making it work. Really committed. The second half of the 80s and probably the entirety of the 90s were rocky. They fought a lot. But they made it through.

We certainly weren't wealthy growing up, but we had everything we needed. My mom and dad have always shown my sisters and I so much love. And they still do. It's because of them that I truly believe in love and marriage. In fact, last November I was in Brooklyn visiting a good friend and she was telling me that her boyfriend's parents were asking if they'd get married. She told me that they said they weren't in a rush, and also that they were somewhat turned off by the display of a wedding. I told her a little bit about what I think of marriage, based on what I've witnessed with my parents. We had a good conversation about it, and afterward I think she thought a bit differently about getting married. A couple hours later I had to drive up to Connecticut. Halfway there she texted me to say she and her boyfriend talked more about marriage after I left and decided to get engaged. In May I went to their wedding on Cape Cod, and it was not only a celebration of love, but of commitment, too.

Over the weekend I was at my parents' house (as I had to return their wedding album without them knowing), working in the wood shop with my dad. I started to think of him as the guy in these photos for the first time in my life. As someone I could relate to and who I might even be friends with.

Just a few minutes ago some friends stopped by and I showed them these photos. My friend Shawn said, "any one of these people could be our friends."  I guess as I've been thinking about my mom and dad's wedding, and their 38 years together, I keep thinking that not only do I want to be their friends, but I want to be like them, too.

____________________ All photos are scans from  my parents' printed photos from 1974.


Today while on my lunch break at work, I wanted to use a small gift card I had, so I walked up to Powell's to look for a good magazine to read in the sun. Yes, sun! There was sun in Portland today! Surprisingly, Powell's has a pretty poor selection of magazines and quarterlies, so I walked through my favorite room: the one with the cookbooks, gardening books, and books on houses. Without any real direction or focus, I was meandering down the aisles just looking for something to jump out. On the end of one the aisles, there was a cart of books to return back to the shelf. On it I found this little gem of a book: Lofts by Jeffrey Weiss. Upon first glance, I knew this was the book I'd be taking home. It was published in the 70s, but the aesthetic is very current.  I flipped through it with an architect friend while sitting in the park, and he said that this is the kind of thing he refers to at work. He said that at his firm, they don't look t0 anything newer than 30 years for design inspiration, as more contemporary buildings haven't withstood the test of time.

Remove the clunky tvs and maybe some of the appliances, and you'd think these photos were from some new design blog. Instead, they're straight out of 1979.

____________________ All photos scanned from Lofts by Jeffrey Weiss.


In the past year and a half, I've traveled more than I ever have before. For the entirety of this past fall, I was taking weeklong trips to the East Coast every third week for work. Once I was home I'd need a week to recover, then the next week I was busy planning another trip. Consequently, I've been racking up frequent flier miles which has allowed me to go on some real vacations. I just got back from a wedding on Cape Cod a few days ago, but before that a couple friends and I went on a dream trip to Texas. As the rain continued to pour down in Portland, we flew to Austin to work on our tans. We spent the first two days exclusively drinking coffee, eating tacos, laying around and occasionally getting into the water at Barton Springs, and then drinking micheladas at the bar at Hotel San Jose. If this alone was all we did it would have been a great vacation, but it was just the beginning of what turned out to be the best trip I've taken in recent years.

From Austin we drove to White Sands, NM, which is a place I'm not sure if I even knew about before we started planning this trip. When we were driving up, I was convinced that we'd pull up, look around, then go along our way. I don't think any of us expected to be so blown away by White Sands. Huge rolling white dunes that seemingly go on forever. I've ridden a camel in the Sahara Desert, and that has nothing on this place.

The clouds were beautiful and intense, but we didn't think much of it. We drove five or six hours down to Marfa, TX that evening, and the clouds followed us there.

We were driving south, just 50 or so miles from Marfa, in the middle of the desolate West Texas desert, and this was the view in my rearview mirror. At any point during the trip, if one of us wanted to stop the car and take photos, that's what we'd do no questions asked.

We got to El Cosmico after dark and after the reception area closed, but were instructed to just go straight to our teepee and check in the next morning. We were so excited to be there, and to finally shower after running through sand dunes and camping the previous night. We settled in, exhausted, and quickly passed out. Those thunderclouds that we had seen all day caught up to us and we were awoken just after 1am to extremely loud claps of thunder, rain and hail pounding on the canvas walls of the teepee, the wooden poles that hold it up rattling in the wind, dirt and rain flying in the sides where the structure wasn't sealed to the ground, and incredibly bright flashes of lightening. Christie's and Sarah's beds were more exposed to the rain and dirt, so they got in bed with me and we weathered the storm together in my bed with the covers completely over us. Of course we all had thoughts of the teepee collapsing or flying away, but we mostly just stayed quiet and let the storm pass. The next morning the girl at the reception desk told me that she was thinking about us all night, and how terrified she was for us. She was so sweet and said that we didn't pay for that experience, and didn't let us pay for that night.

We ate our way around the small town of Marfa. Food Shark was definitely our collective favorite. A month later I'm still craving the fattoush salad. My unexpected favorite thing I did there was tour the grounds of Donald Judd's home and studios. I realize this isn't what I was supposed to take away from the tour, but even just peering in the windows of his home left a lasting impression. I've never seen a house that I've wanted to live in more. No photos were allowed on the premises, but it looks like someone snuck a photo of the exterior.

Equally impressive was his library. His will stated that none of his thousands of books should be moved after his death, so in recent years an archivist photographed each shelf and cataloged his entire collection online. It was a massive project that took two years, but now you can type your zip code into the website and find the closest bookstore to you that sells a given book. Amazing.

I came home from this trip many shades darker (or redder?), and drunk on sun and friends. It's taken this long to be able to articulate anything about this experience, because more than anything, it just feels like a sweet dream that I really can't do justice with words.

*I almost forgot - I owe Michael M. Muller a big, public thanks for sending a list of recommendations for both Marfa and Austin at the very last minute. As our friend said, he's the salt of the earth.

____________________ All photos were taken with my film camera.


I haven't really been at this whole blogging thing for very long, so my absence likely has gone unnoticed, I'm sure. I've thought about this place often throughout the past couple months, but I've been doing more than reflecting. Maybe we can catch up sometime? For now, though, I want to tell you about my birthday. More than my birthday, I want to tell you about my friends. If I only had one of these amazing women in my life, I'd consider myself so lucky. But the fact is that I have a whole team of loving, thoughtful, and beautiful friends who overwhelm me with their generosity on a regular basis. They all got together for my birthday and planned an unforgettable weekend.

It started with an email I sent to a few of my closest friends saying that I wanted to have a party for my 30th birthday, but didn't want to plan it. Within a day of sending it, I had been taken off the email chain and was forced to relinquish any control I once had over the situation. Each friend took on a different task, from planning the menu and preparing all the food, to mixing the agua frescas, to decorating the house, and distracting me the day of the party. No detail was forgotten.

My house was filled with so much warmth that night.

The next morning -- on my actual birthday -- we had brunch up the street at one friend's house, with everyone who was included on that initial email. It was sweet and low key, and exactly what I needed the morning after a big party. At once, all of them looked at each other and nodded and said, "ok, let's go!" We all packed into a few cars, and they ended up driving me to my mom and dad's house. I knew they weren't home, and had no idea why we were there.

They brought me to the back yard, to the furthest point near where all the family pets are buried. There was a shovel stuck in the ground, with a balloon tied to it. It was rainy out, and we were all bundled up. I ran inside and grabbed my mom's coat and boots because I wasn't prepared for what came next. They each gave me a letter that they had written to me, that I wasn't allowed to read at that moment. I still haven't read them. Instead, I had to dig a big hole and bury these letters so we can reconvene in 10 years, on my 40th birthday, and dig them up. Two friends played guitar and sang "Bookends" by Simon and Garfunkel, which is one of my favorite songs. Tears rolled down my cheeks, and everyone else's too.

Once we buried the letters, we stripped down to our bras and underwear and warmed up in the hot tub before my parents got home.

I don't know what I did to deserve such an incredible demonstration of love, but I'm very aware of how lucky I am. I keep thinking of those letters and can't believe I have to wait 10 years to read them.

____________________ These photos were taken by Halley Roberts and Sarah Castagnola.


My entire life I've struggled with getting up in the morning. For a brief period when I was a little girl, I would get dressed in my school clothes the night before so I could sleep just a little longer in the morning. In the winter, to get me out of bed, my mom would wake me by telling me it snowed outside. For some reason it always worked, and I would jump out of bed and run to the window only to be disappointed. There was actually good reason to not want out of bed when I was young: we only had a wood stove to heat the house, and if the fire hadn't been burning for a while, it was freezing when we got up. That was an excuse during the cold months, but really my problem persisted year round.

As an adult, I'm a serial snoozer on weekdays. There's never anything that sounds more appealing than laying in bed for a few more minutes. Often I don't eat breakfast until I get to work, if at all. My morning routine is frantic, and usually ends in me running out the door with just minutes to catch the bus five blocks away.

The weekends are another story though. One of my favorite things about Saturday or Sunday mornings is that I get to wake up early and enjoy a nice home cooked breakfast. Eggs and coffee are always on the menu, but the rest varies. Sometimes steamed kale with preserved lemon and olive oil, and other times toast and jam. The morning after returning from Florida, I made poached eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee. Simple and delicious.

____________________ This photo was taken with my film camera.