Monthly Archives: November 2013

where it takes me

There is a point during the calendar year when the idea for my holiday card just hits me. Sometimes this point occurs in the summer months, when I’m working on the girls’ birthday invitations – the other time of the year when the horizontal surfaces in my house are taken over with x-acto blades and piles of slivered paper. Sometimes it’s later in the fall when I start to formulate a plan. One time it was really, really late, and I had to force myself to sit in a chair and will myself into a plan of action. I keep the ideas in my sketchbook in my purse, and I doodle on them sometimes on long trips. Occasionally it just takes looking at a particular shade of paper color, or the shape of an envelope to get the wheels turning.

This year, the idea came to me early. I was pretty excited about it, and the prospect of getting a head start on the holidays and the production line. In fact, I would need to be ahead of the game because the idea sort of related to an advent calendar, a kind of countdown to the season, but with a little bit of a twist. It would necessitate an early mailing, but I could handle that because I’d just start on the cards in September, and then I’d magically find myself with so much free time come December that I could break out some of the craziness of past years – the detailed cookie decorating or the endless pints of ice cream gifts.


My idea of a countdown has completely shifted now, along with so many other things. Name them if you wish – priorities, desires, motivation, hopefulness. If I had to describe the undercurrent of all my anxiety at the moment in one word I would choose “numbered”. I’ve used “fragile” and “fleeting” and countless other words that dance around the real root of my ever-present fear, that our days are numbered. Letting go of a child will do that to you – that number is way too low, maddeningly low. Not enough days with her, hours with her, minutes with her. Not enough visits, or gift openings or holidays. There is no way that my cards are going to count down to anything this year.


And here’s the rub. I need to make cards this year. It’s a centering exercise for me – and one that helps put me in the mood to celebrate. The season is really about preparation, and I’ve always found that the quiet time I spend cutting paper and assembling cards to be an important part of how I engage in the season. I just don’t have the energy for any of it – the trees, the presents, the baking –  and I’m not sure how to tackle something of this magnitude without just a little bit of drive and motivation. Or a new idea.


I’ve stewed over this conundrum for the past week, and I’ve settled into a spot that I think I can work with. I spent almost an hour in the paper store on Sunday, sorting and stacking and counting and purchasing. There are fresh #11 blades and glue and envelopes. There is an idea, no more (or less) ambitious than any of the others. I’ve been telling myself all week, as I procrastinate in my planning, a line similar to the art teacher’s line in Peter H. Reynold’s “The Dot”. Just make a mark, and see where it takes you.

Just make a cut in the paper, Kristin, and see where it takes you. That’s all you can do. 

I do not have a clear picture of how these holidays will look this year. I can bow out now, and no one will fault me for it. Or I can put one foot in front of the other and see where it takes me, one little, and then many, many, many more, cuts at a time.

friday finds: oliver jeffers + u2

I wish I could tell you that we’d have Oliver Jeffers at our book fair again this year, but alas, no such luck. I do have this video to share with you today. Jeffers’ fantastic lyric video (with Mac Premo) of U2’s song “Ordinary Love” from their new album “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”. Let me see if I can name all the reasons I find this cool:
Oliver Jeffers is one of my favorite author / illustrators.
U2 is one of my favorite bands (and quite possibly the last concert ticket I purchased).
I completely dig the act of writing on objects.
I actually own objects in my own home that have been written on by Oliver Jeffers.
I actually own all of U2’s albums.
I follow Oliver Jeffers on Instagram (and I highly recommend that you do as well) and he’s been showing little mysterious snippets of the creation of this video. It’s pretty awesome to see it all together.
I’m running out of things to list.
Oh, M lived in South Africa – which I realize is a bit of a stretch to a connection to Nelson Mandela, but I was trying for the trifecta of reasons that I loved watching this today.

And just for giggles, last year’s book signing. That’s me, trying to look cool with my children and nine books, but not really succeeding. I wish you could see the three books F’s struggling to hold onto against her belly. The woman behind me is not impressed with my stack.

Whatever, we ended up with a library of these…

I hope this Friday finds you well. I’m glad it’s Friday – I’m ready to be surrounded with family (and books).

on my counter

I started to type the following sentence. Actually, truth be told, I did type the following sentence and then I deleted it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about food lately.

I deleted it because as soon as I typed it I realized just how often I start off with the same leading statement. I’ve been thinking a lot about … lately. It’s sort of funny, but that’s kind of the point here – to write about what I’ve been thinking about. Books, names, dining room layouts, holiday cards. Food, family, blogging, light fixtures. Running, coffee shops, anxiety, death. I guess I’m all over the place, and maybe the one thing that ties the loose ends all together might just be a declarative statement at the beginning of my ramblings.

I really have been thinking a lot about food lately – in fact, I had a post almost completed just over three weeks ago – one post of many that seemed too trite to actually publish in the midst of all our worries. I had gotten several requests for various recipes – usually via Instagram – because I often photograph my counter at some point in the process of making dinner. I like that simple way of documenting what we are eating even though I’m not interested in writing a food centered blog at all. There’s always a point where most everything is prepped and starting to simmer when I look down at the ingredients and think about how pretty they look there and I take a photograph of my 18″ of counter space next to my completely average oven. The lighting is bad, and the food isn’t styled, but it’s what we’re eating for dinner, and we are all about to sit down together and eat it. Occasionally, by some miracle, there is little to no complaining from the oldest child and passable manners by the younger one, and everyone’s happy and grateful to be together and fed. 
One of the little things that I miss about my niece involves my dinner making Instagrams. More often than not, I’d post a picture and within seconds my phone would buzz on the countertop next to me and I’d see her sparklediva “like”. Then I would laugh out loud, and sometimes even call her out for liking the photo – especially when I knew I was making something I knew she wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. Then her mom would comment on a photo, about how good dinner looked, and I’d give anything to be making it in her kitchen – just to give her a break from hospital food and fast food take-out and the endless frozen lasagnas. Food can be a good source of conversation, and much more. Dinner is often a centering point in the day, and missing out on those moments in the kitchen can throw off rhythms in a way that isn’t always so obvious until you are sitting in a hospital room wishing you were sitting at the table with healthy food on the table and half-obliging children next to you. The last “conversation” I had with my niece was over the brown sugar clafoutis with pears I was making for an office birthday. She was in the hospital, and I told her I wished she was with me to taste test the finished result. She responded back with an I wish and a zillion exclamation points. I want to make it again, for Thanksgiving, and then cry over it as it bakes.

Some people describe themselves as stress eaters. I’m a stress non-eater. When I’m tense and anxious or worried I usually forget to eat, or refuse to. I like to eat, but only when things taste really good. I think my ability to taste is the first thing to go when I’m stressed. I’ve learned over the years that not eating never ends well – I could point to many examples of this in my life where food sort of disappeared off my radar for awhile – postpartum, exam weeks, work projects, late night hours on last minute projects. I am getting better at dealing with this as I get older (and wiser?). Sometimes it just means stepping up to the countertop, knife in hand, food to be diced and thrown into a pan, heat on the stove, garlic and butter and onions and salt. Savory first, sweets last. That’s my pattern as I can see it now, more clearly than when I’m in the middle of it. It’s been a bit of an escape for me the past week or so, forcing myself back into the ritual of making dinner has been bringing taste back to me and to this house.

The ritual of eating for me now is very much tied to the process of making. Don’t let the photos fool you – it’s not fine dining on an endless array of selections around here. I’m actually fairly boring (stuck in my ways) in my habits. Almost every single morning of every single day all year long I make a pot of old-fashioned oatmeal, and serve up three bowls of it with a little milk, a little brown sugar, and some dried fruit (usually raisins). I actually order oatmeal most breakfasts out, as if I haven’t had my fill on all the other days. I eat a handful of almonds late morning at my desk because we don’t keep tree nuts at home and, and then I eat leftovers for lunch, or the occasional take-out sushi from the grocery store when we polish off all the dinner at home. Dinner is the shining star for me – it’s my dessert. I love to make it, I love to eat it, I love how warm and content and nourished I feel for the rest of the evening.

Below are some quick links to recent recipe requests. If I’ve missed any, please let me know. You are welcome to follow me on Instagram as well. (It’s not all food, I promise.) Button in the sidebar. I talked about Blue Apron here, we’ve used it four times now, and have started making some of our favorite recipes again on our own. 

Cauliflower Steaks with Spinach Gratin Blue Apron Smitten Kitchen had a similar recipe yesterday, minus the spinach
Mushroom Bourguignon Smitten Kitchen
Purple Plum Torte Smitten Kitchen
Supper Tart The Splendid Table