Posts Tagged ‘with the nikon’

  • January 5, 2014

    things i did on the last night of 2013




    2014 came quietly. with the baking of the red velvet cake and the watching of man on wire in the last glow of the christmas tree. with bon iver on the record player and a coffee mug of sparking rosé and a silent “happy new year” to myself. it felt odd to be ringing in the new year alone and without much pomp and circumstance but for some reason, just right.

    the red velvet tradition is in its third year. my amazing friend andrea (who maybe I talk about to annoying levels because why wouldn’t I talk about someone as cool as her all the time?) sent me the recipe in 2011 right around the time it was almost 2012. and so on january 1, when I had the day off from work and not much going on, I decided to bake it. and that first year was kind of a disaster. not enough red food coloring and too much batter mixing and no patience for frosting cooling left me with a pink lumpy cake nearly as flat as a pancake. not my finest hour to be sure.




    every year, the red velvet almost doesn’t happen. because it’s arduous and time consuming and I inevitably find far flung frosting in random spots of my kitchen for days afterwards. but every year I do make it. because it’s tradition. and in some small way, it connects me to parts of myself that I don’t really let surface too often.

    the baking of the red velvet was the first tradition of my own creation. the first tradition I made for myself as an adult. I didn’t grow up with a lot of traditions and although I always wished I had, for a long time, I thought I couldn’t create them until I got married and had kids of my own to force them on. but with the red velvet decision I realized that traditions are really just about rhythm and ritual – and I can create those anytime I want. and all the mistakes and messes made are part of what make it great. the lumpy frosting and flat cake are lessons learned for next year’s baking. the recipe card almost ineligible from spilled milk and my own addendums (“do NOT overbeat the cake batter!!”)  are memories of a new year begun in flour and sugar and at least two bottles of red food coloring. it’s all part of building a ritual that I will appreciate most for the time it took to create.



    and in the way that traditions recall people and places we love, the baking of the red velvet cake connects me to friends I don’t see nearly enough of. andrea is my favorite blogging friend. the one I went from admiring from afar to spending time with occasionally to sharing life with across time zones. she encourages me with her simple act of existing online as much as she does with her sweet emails about how to explore paris and love my parents better. and so when I make the red velvet cake I am, in small ways, connected to her own tradition of baking it on her birthday. I am, in small ways, connected to portland and her little house that I used to babysit her kids in. and I am, in the tiniest of ways, connected to her mom, who passed the recipe to her and who I think must have been the most amazing lady.

    even more than that, the baking of the red velvet connects me to parts of my own self that I don’t see nearly enough of. I spend most of my days being a social introvert, which seems contradictory but is who I am. I am there in the running of one thing to the next. in the everyday busyness that I thrive in. but I am also there in the baking of the red velvet. I am there in the self-control it takes to not overbeat the batter. I am there in the patience it takes to let the frosting base cool completely. I am there in the quiet excitement of cakes rising and smooth rhythms of slowly spreading white frosting over bright red cake. I am not always full of self-control or patience or quiet excitement, but it’s always in me. just waiting for the red velvet tradition.

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  • August 13, 2013



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    26 was ushered in without much pomp and circumstance. in fact, I was traveling for work, so it was ushered in without any pomp and circumstance at all. don’t get me wrong – I was celebrated mightily on the days before 26 and the day of 26 found me overwhelmed by cards hidden in suitcases and so much technological love my phone almost died taking it all in. (including a photo montage of an almost 2-year-old signing me “happy birthday” which was, obviously, the best.) but that 31st day of july was spent on a lot of traveling and not a lot of talking to real, live human beings except to say things like, well, I suppose you may pat me down because the security screening thought my shirt buttons were a bomb. and the closest I came to actually being wished a happy birthday in person was when the man selling me wine had to look at my ID. he didn’t notice though…apparently, they don’t card too carefully out there in colorado. but to be honest, I was okay with that. for an introvert who misses clean mountain air like its my job, driving through the rockies with bon iver on the stereo was kind of a present in itself.

    what did happen on the days that 26 became a reality was this:

    1. plane rides with 6-year-old boys who started out as strangers but bonded over shared gummy bears and talk of favorite superheroes. my heart melted into a little puddle right there on my tray-table.

    2. almost car accidents with bear watchers. stopped in the middle of the road. on a blind curve. tahoe or estes park – tourists are always just the same.

    3. free bouquets of sunflowers from the sweet gentleman of a florist at safeway because he “needed the room.” if that’s not the best unintentional birthday present ever, I don’t know what is.

    4. eating dinner alone in a restaurant for the first time. a real restaurant. you know, the kind where you sit and order and try not to look too, “I will one day be an old maid with lots of cats” while sandwiched between couples reaching over candle light and families laughing boisterously. turns out, it’s not nearly as awkward as I thought. although don’t expect me to get into the habit of it anytime soon.

    5. a lovely little lake named lilly and the beetle bugs that are (nature at its worst!) eating all the trees around it.

    6. night that is NIGHT (no city lights to dim the darkness here, thank you very much). the milky way. shooting bits of fire a million miles away. stars for miles and miles. stars that remind me of abraham and promises and futures greater than the reality of life as we know it.

    7. stories of strength and dignity in africa that remind me why I’m here. the passion of others rubbing off on me. the honoring of those who have made the story so much of what it is. the reminder couldn’t have come at a better time. the reminder was needed more than ever.

    8. sunrise coffee and reading on the back deck to gain a little perspective before chaos ensues. the bit of calm before somehow always gets me through the storm.

    9. curvy, cliffy roads that feel more natural to me than highways and byways. when you learn how to drive in mountaintop blizzards, you feel a lot more confident on cliffs than you do in traffic.

    10. mountain wildflowers. for days and days and days.

    11. sunset from the highest road in north america. above the tree-line. inside the clouds. atop arctic tundra. amidst big-horned sheep and massive elk and even a porcupine to boot.

    12. a miniature donkey named stella.

    colorado I love you. mountains I love you. humidity back in nashville…well, you are just killing me.



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  • July 1, 2013


    last week was a rough one. (hence the quietness around here.) it was full of those little (and big) disappointments that come in realizing that life is different than you planned. that it is not, as it turns out, exactly how your sophomore self imagined it while sitting in her dorm room, eating twizzlers and talking with her roommates about the great possibilities of the future. dream jobs are not always the dream. the world’s timing very rarely falls into sync with your own. pay checks are less than you thought. (thanks, government.) bills are more. people are fallible and your heroes will disappoint you. life, you know, is just different.

    I wrote a post so many months ago about leaving dc. it was one I felt like I had written a dozen times before. about a fear that flashes in my mind like neon everytime I leave a place I’ve come to love with people that have become my family. because with every move, it seems more unlikely that I will find friends as good as the friends I am leaving. I worry that, somehow, I have met my quota of good people. but again. and as always. God is ridiculously faithful. and when I doubt he can do it, he just proves me wrong. again and again.

    so last week was bad, but you know what? it wasn’t. because it proved to me – again – that they are still there. roommates who let me vent while making me homemade ginger ale (with a generous helping of whiskey). friends who listen and let me cry and then turn on some justin for an impromptu dance party. because they know that justin makes all of life bearable. little notes hidden in little places. words of encouragement and affirmation and proof that I am exactly where I need to be even when it sometimes doesn’t feel that way. even when it feels like I uprooted my life only to end up being disappointed. but the disappointment is not the main thing. it’s not even anything. the world is daunting and overwhelming. but their presence is more overwhelming still. and for that I just don’t even know how to be thankful enough.

    {photos from christina’s surprise party. fried chicken. mac’n’cheese. watermelon. tennessee honey in mason jars with paper straws. southern comfort at its best.}



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  • June 6, 2012

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    at brunch, we were full of laughter and a touch of silliness and anticipation of vastly different summer adventures on the way.

    at the market, we found playful perennials and perfect peaches and some of the best apples I’ve ever tasted.

    at the flea, I wanted to buy every pretty vintage bookshelf and chest of drawers. I tried to rationalize this by stating that I needed furniture for my new house. plus, they were recycled – a totally sensible buy, of course. the roommates knew better and managed to get me out of there without buying anything I couldn’t carry on the metro. (but oh, those sandals. I’m kind of in love with them.)

    at the bookstore, my search for CSL’s Space Trilogy was finally complete. and I stumbled upon the perfect intro anthology for a lady I’ve been meaning to read for so long. and when I say stumbled, I literally mean stumbled. in this beautiful chaos of a bookstore we leapt over piles of books like ballet dancers. we scaled bookshelves like mountain climbers – reaching to the tips of our fingers for dostoevsky and tolstoy.

    and best of all, at every step of the way, we loved being together. we celebrated the end the same way we celebrated the beginning. autumn called it symmetrical. I called if full circle. either way, it had a satisfying way of completeness to it. but without the circle feeling totally closed. because it’s never really closed when you know the friendship will keep moving forward albeit under different roofs in cities far apart.

    by the way, I feel like these two photos perfectly encapsulate my roommates. autumn, with her always moving, always joyful (even when she’s not) smile. maria, with her quiet confidence and peaceful presence. these two balance me out in more ways than I can count. what the heck am I going to do without them?

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  • May 30, 2012

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    evening picnics with the favorites are all the more special when I know they are ending soon. it’s hard to imagine enjoying life this much without them.

    somehow we always end up back at our hill. the one in front of the netherlands carillon. we sit close with knees touching and pull out berries and bread and cheese. we wash our fruit with water from our bottles and eat slowly. after too many months apart, we are not surprised to find that we still fall into the same patterns of conversation and easy laughter. what a comfort to know that we will always fit.

    the evening sun sets us in soft shadows and we shake off our dinner to enjoy the end of the day. we lay close together, talking about the silly things we believed when we were little and the silly things we still believe now. we imagine stories – entire lives – for the people around us. the sky darkens and the monuments illuminate in the distance. lincoln and washington‘s white marble shine bright in the twilight.

    so many times during my day, I wonder why I’m choosing to leave nights like this. friends like these. but so far, God has been nothing but faithful. providing best friends on two different coasts. hopefully there are also a few to be found in the south.

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  • April 30, 2012

    red velvet

    number one on the list and I feel great about it. I finally tracked down the famous recipe from that lovely friend who thankfully included some expert advice from her years of experience. for example, I am completely confident I would have had a very flat cake without her adamant multiple warnings not to over-beat the batter. and the frosting? guys. you have to believe that, contrary to popular cupcake shops all over the place, buttercream frosting goes wayyy better with red velvet than that of the cream cheese variety. per her guidance, I whipped that frosting until my arms were sore. and folks, it was totally worth it.

    seeing as this is not a fancy food blog where I take detailed and beautiful photos of each step, I only snapped one before I got too engrossed in the actual cake creation. and then by the time I was finished it was 1am and I was too tired to take more than two, poorly lit photos documenting my success and that lovely red that took two bottles of food coloring to create. who knew it takes multiple hours to make and frost a cake from scratch??? (probably a lot of you.) so there you have it. number one completed with flying colors. if I do say so myself.


    Filed Under: UNCATEGORIZED

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  • April 25, 2012

    a sinking city

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    if venice were part of my family, she would be my spontaneous, slightly erratic, but lots-of-fun little sister. full of impetuous moods (see: weather), over the top personality (see: local gondoliers and vaporetto operators), and a slightly concerning shopping addiction (see: trinket stores and boutiques everywhere). she would also be super mysterious and beautiful but need a lot of direction in life (see: magical streets of water and cobblestone, but with no explanation of where anything actually leads). but if venice were my spontaneous, slightly erratic, but lots-of-fun little sister I would probably love her the most for all the same reasons she sometimes annoys me.

    the rain. it came. strong and continuous throughout our entire first day. but with water below me and all around me and coming down on me, I kind of didn’t mind it. I kind of felt at home. I didn’t very much care to get my pant legs wet and my hair frizzy. but I did like the feeling of rain covering everything and making it all a bit quieter, a bit softer. I liked the way bright umbrellas looked in a gray world. I liked the way strangers huddled together under store awnings and bonded for just a few minutes before venturing back into the downpour. I liked the way the gondoliers flipped their collars up, pulled their rain rackets over their striped shirts (yes, they dress that way at disneyland and real life!), and continued calling out discounted prices for a ride on the grand canal. I liked the way my world felt contained and settled in a blanket of rain.

    and as much as the first day was full of rain that I thought would flood an already flooded city, the second day was full of sun that seemed as though it didn’t even know rain existed. we went to an island where all they do is create masterpieces of blown glass. glass so hot that the master glass-blowers (like that lovely gentleman with the glasses) create something fragile and exquisite and then light their cigarette right off of it. I wandered through peggy’s favorites and dipped my hands in the canal of this sinking city and rode the vaporetto with venetian locals on their way to work just as if I were riding the DC metro on my way to work. we zoomed up the waterway like a freeway. and I marveled at half-flooded but still wholly-functioning buildings and boats carrying all the same things (food. lumber. moving boxes. people.) that cars carry in our world. but our world seemed about a million miles away.

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    Filed Under: ADVENTURES BIG AND SMALL, travel

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  • April 24, 2012

    currently :: 4

    I’m almost done with the recaps. just venice is left. but friends, there’s still so much to say. so many images and words and thoughts and people to remember in this little corner of the internet from that little corner of the world. I imagine it will come in bits and pieces. an image here. a list there. it will come as it comes, I suppose. but sooner or later it will run its course on the blog. and whenever that happens I think I’ll be a bit sad. so just stick with me a little longer.

    but today it is raining. and this weekend it was raining. and the rain covers me like a blanket and I just want to listen to beautiful music and read beautiful words and spend time with beautiful friends. and so that’s what I’ve been doing lately. it’s been a lovely way to ease back into DC life as slowly as possible.

    listening: music for spring mix by threading in the choirs. (he makes the best ones.) brian eno. joni and james.

    reading: the principles of uncertainty. gilead. kinfolk volume 3.

    attending: wendell berry live at the kennedy center. needtobreathe live at the 9:30 club.

    watching: anis mojgani (at my alma mater, no less!) on connection and nobility and magic and science.
    “making of” videos. dr. horrible’s sing-along blog.

    tasting: breakfast (with this girl, no less!) at northside social. all the goodies I brought back from italy.

    painting: my nails. this color. because I needed a little color.

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    Filed Under: CURRENTLY

  • April 20, 2012

    a city with a view

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    we took our time in florence. with a larger handful of days than in any other city, we discovered the city slowly, peeling back layer upon layer like a giant sweet onion.

    we strolled the streets gazing lovingly at bright colors and perfect fits and beautiful bags. dolce and gabbana. roberto cavalli. and my favorite, max mara. it was nice to have them around for a little while to understand that art is as much on fabric as it is on a canvas.

    we almost became regulars at the restaurant at the corner. with it’s slightly overdone italian decor (we are italian! it shouted to us. please believe us!) and slightly earth-shattering pizza. all sorts of flavors and freshness and delicious bites shared.

    we became fast friends with lorenzo of lorenzo’s gelato on the corner as he let us (me) taste practically every flavor behind the glass. at least we thought he was lorenzo. he could have been anyone really. but we like to think he was the lorenzo.

    we met david at the accademia and I think I may have fallen in love. michelangelo was given a discarded and neglected piece of marble when he was 26 years old. 26. really? yes. really. and then he created something completely miraculous. breathtaking in more ways than one.

    we chatted with owners of camera shops and of leather shops. we got hit on by waiters who called us honey and sweetie, reminding me more of what my mom might say to me than what flirting men might say.

    we saw street performers and buskers. everywhere. campy puppet shows and classical guitar players and spray paint artists. I almost got pick-pocketed while enthralled with a slightly inappropriate charlie chaplin. and I’ll always be a sucker for an accordion player.

    and that last photo up there is of my lovely new friend, kristin. she is loosely related to my traveling friend and is from sweden. she is a writer and a walker and peruser of tiny hidden bookstores that she shares with us. and I think she looks just like joni mitchell. and we all know how much I love joni.

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    Filed Under: ADVENTURES BIG AND SMALL, travel

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  • April 8, 2012

    as we drive through perilous and stunning tuscan hills from one tiny village to the next, I am struck by the human capacity to remember. and more strongly, the human tendency to forget. to forget so much more than we want to. how often I misplace my car keys or cell phone. how often I cannot remember the plot of a book I once loved. how often I forget the name of that one song or the date of my best friend’s birthday. I have forgotten so much of my time in germany just a few years ago. it comes back to me in pieces or through photographs. but the memories of those unforgettable experiences have proved to be, well, forgettable.

    and now I am here and I want so badly to remember everything. how I wish I could paint every image in my mind as vividly and everlasting as the frescos of these breathtaking duomos. how I wish these moments and experiences could last as long as the ancient cathedrals and castles that surround me. how I wish I could remember every landscape. every face. every piece of luscious cheese that I am consuming with no regard to my slight lactose intolerance.

    I am sitting in a cafe overlooking the famous piazza in siena. where tourists and locals fan out as if they were on a sandy beach instead of on hard brick under the shadow of an enormous bell tower. I am here, sipping a macchiato and watching the rain of this sudden thunderstorm fall hard and fast. I am here, listening to four languages spoken at once. english and german and french and…is that dutch? surprisingly, the only italian is when the waiter asks if I want anything more. I am here and the chatter of others is comforting in my own desire to be silent. I am here, trying to recount everything of just the past few days. the past few hours. I am trying desperately to remember before I forget.

    trying to remember the young couple in front of me. writing postcards and drinking cappuccino. but mostly just making out. I would feel awkward and imposing if I thought they cared at all. if I thought they even noticed me. I wonder if their passionate love will last. there is an older couple sitting in front of them. their hands resting lightly and naturally on each other. their love has lasted and become normal and not something to flaunt. their love seems more real.

    trying to remember the hotelier in montepulciano. his unenthused but otherwise impeccable service. his sort of bored beauty. and trying to remember adamo, whose family has been making wine for over 1,000 years. he let me snap just one photo of him before insisting that I be in the shot with him. and trying to remember jenny, the winery tour guide who moved from new york with her dog to write a book in tuscany. and trying to remember that I wondered all of the things I wondered. I wondered if I should move to tuscany too. befriend the hotelier who is too cool for me. befriend adamo and with him, harvest the vineyards for wine and the olive orchards for oil. befriend jenny and have her teach me italian with just a hint of new york accent.
    trying to remember the tuscan hills. rolling and green and dotted with cypress trees just as I imagined. idyllic and picturesque and so similar to what I see in movies and in my mind. but also different. also dotted with gas stations and car dealerships. the ancient fortified cities still holding tabacchi shops and overpriced gelato.

    trying to remember driving in italy for the first time. not just through the steep and winding hills of tuscany with their sharp turns and narrow lanes and road that go from pavement to dirt without notice. but also on the italian highway with speed measured in kilometers and road signs I do not always understand and drivers who know themselves and their cars well enough to drive in such a way that would find my mother with her eyes tightly shut and hand gripping the door.

    trying to remember the bright blue cathedral floors. the taste of baked pecorino with pears. the smell of cypress trees after rain. the feel of cold concrete city walls on my fingertips.

    but I know I won’t remember. like everything else, I will forget as time passes. I will forget too soon. I will look back at photos and I will read these words. but my memory will be hazy and only half-formed. I will forget what intrigued me so about saverio and what inspired me so about jenny. I will remember them only a little. and eventually I will only remember remembering. I will have a memory of a memory. but oh how I wish it could remain vivid and bright and full in my mind forever.


    Filed Under: ADVENTURES BIG AND SMALL, travel

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