Happy Easter!

As I shed things I no longer need in anticipation of our move, I’m relishing the signs of rebirth that happen every spring.  When I need to take a break from bundling up clothes that don’t work for me anymore or books I’ve already read, I make my way to the back garden and marvel at the level of detail in the frilly blue columbines or fucshia-hearted rock roses.

When I was a little girl we sang a children’s hymn about “little purple pansies touched with yellow gold.” The message wasn’t particularly religious, just an admonition to “try, try, try” to gladden whatever corner we found ourselves in–whether dark or sunny, warm or cold.  This Easter season I’m grateful for the people and beliefs that have gladdened my dark corners.  Wishing you all some bright spots of hope wherever you find yourself today.

Happy Easter!

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Blood Moon. Not.

Last night we stayed up late and watched the moon disappear before our eyes.  Initially we were going to drive out of the canyon for a better view, but as we headed towards the car we looked up through the telephone wires and realized that the moon was right above us and perfectly visible.  So we rearranged the furniture on the front porch deck, pulled out some quilts and settled in for the show.

It really was mesmerizing to see the moon go from full to three-quarters to half to a quarter to a sliver of light and then poof! disappear within the space of an hour.

My only disappointment was that it stayed a creamy white the whole time.

Before I fell asleep I checked social media to see if anyone was reporting a red moon and saw that writer Anne Lamott, who also lives in the Bay Area, tweeted: “The eclipse of the moon is so beautiful.  But not red! They said it was going to be red. I want my money back.”  Reassured I wasn’t the only one who was disappointed, I drifted off thinking that maybe the red moon phenomenon was more subtle than advertised.  But this morning I read a friend’s facebook post saying she saw a red moon from her beach house in Stinson Beach—also in the Bay Area—in the middle of the night. And my sister posted an instagram image of a red moon from Boise.

Did I miss some vital part of the eclipse watching instructions?  Was it only later in the evening/early morning that the “blood moon” phenomenon happen?  I’d love to know so that I can catch it during one of the three lunar eclipses happening over the next eighteen months.

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Friday Things: The Snail Edition

On my way to meet a walking buddy this morning I noticed an unexpected hitchhiker on my car hood.  A good sized snail was stuck mid-slime trail on the other side of the windshield. I’d missed it in the early morning fog, otherwise I would have flicked it to safety before I took off.

As I barreled down the hill the snail stretched out from underneath its shell to hang on for dear life. Though we both made it to my friend’s house safely, it was a distressing ride for both passenger and driver. Truthfully, the tentacle-popping snail stressed me out because I’m a self-confessed slug.   I make steady progress all day long, but I rarely sprint to the finish line.  To use another animal kingdom analogy, I’m definitely more tortoise than hare.  But sometimes, even us slugs are forced to move faster than we’d like.

The next six weeks will be like that for me.  Our house search was surprisingly speedy.  We’ve purchased a terrific new home from a buyer who wants an exceptionally quick close and between now and our move date in late May I’ll be refurbishing on the fly.  There are immediate decisions to be made on paint and carpet and new appliances—can’t do without a refrigerator now can we? And professionals to be enlisted to make it all happen.

So hang on while I shift out of my comfortable slow and steady pace and kick it into high-gear.  I’ll try to keep you updated at checkpoints along the way.

When I wasn’t hyperventilating over how quickly we found our new home, here are some things that caught my eye:

Even if you (mostly) love your home, are there friends’ homes you wish you could own as well? Check out this Bay Area installment of the Envy Chain.

Not that I’m friends with Bay Area writers Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman but I do envy all those bookshelves in their recently remodeled Berkeley brown shingle.

One way to overcome envy is to slow down and meditate.  The new (free) Oprah & Deepok Choprah Meditation series starts up on Monday, 4/14.

Easter is two weeks away—just enough time to meditatively knit up these sweet little chicks.

Us plodders can appreciate accomplished people who developed patience while playing The Long Game.

The Long Game Part 2: the missing chapter from Delve on Vimeo.

 Happy Weekend!

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Pillow Talk with Brian Dittmar

San Francisco’s McRosky Mattress Company has been promising a good night’s sleep to their customers for 115 years.  Recently, they asked designer Brian Dittmar to create an eye-opening bedscape for their Market Street store window.

“With Twitter and other tech innovators nearby, they wanted something that would attract the younger crowd that’s rejuvenating this area of San Francisco,” says Dittmar.

Dittmar started with a lively Jonathan Adler print as the backdrop for the whole design. Then he designed a custom headboard to accommodate the queen set mattress from McRoskey’s Classic line and created a seating area featuring 1950s Knoll chairs upholstered in a Trina Turk floral print and a 1970s Lucite ottoman topped with a shaggy Mongolian lambskin cushion. A large-scale painting of a stylized pillow by contemporary realist Jay Mercado hangs nearby.

The headboard, chairs, draperies and bedspread use to-the-trade fabrics from Kravet but many of the other items in the room are available from retailers.  For example the striped carpet is from Flor and the chairs and ottoman are from Stuff, a local antique collective.  Dittmar repurposed a lambskin pillow from West Elm for the ottoman cover and found the embroidered Trina Turk bed pillow at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

“I like a mix of high and low elements—it’s a good look for any room,” says Dittmar.

Dittmar recognizes that these colors might be a little intense—“unless you live in Palm Springs”—but says that no matter what colors or furniture you use in a bedroom, the overall goal should be to make the space comfortable.  “Whether it’s bold or quiet, it should be a place you want to cocoon.” Here are some other bedroom design tips from Dittmar.

The money’s in the mattress (not under it):  A well-constructed mattress – whether on a box spring or a platform – and the appropriate sleep pillows provide the best foundation for good sleep.   The “top of bed” should be as luxurious as you can make it with high-thread count sheets and pillowcases and finishing touches like a coverlet and bed skirt.

Go ahead, drape the walls:  Curtains behind the bed – whether or not there is a window – give the illusion of height to a room and add a sumptuous textural layer to the space.   No need to hang art or a mirror over the bed, which is a no-no on shaky ground, as we have in California.  (Although your cat, if you have one, may find the “curtain wall” irresistible for climbing.)

Cozy to the touch:  Fabrics like linen, wool, cotton sateen, silk, nubby bouclé and textural matelassé’s as well as faux – whether fur, leather or animal hides – for curtains, upholstery and bedding help create a cocoon, while a rug, carpet or even carpet tiles provide a sturdy yet soft feel underfoot.

Hue are you:  Color can convey your personality, creating a familiar and relaxing environment. An all-white or monochromatic environment appeals to the quiet types, while a bold and bright color palette suits someone with high energy.

One night stand: You don’t always need a pair, and modern options can be both sculptural and functional, instead of bulky. Instead, pair a nightstand on one side of the bed with a light fixture on the other. Alternately, create a cozy seating area near the bed – a private place to escape from the main parts of the house, particularly those with open-layout plans. Or for smaller rooms, use a desk, which can do double duty as nightstand and workstation.

Art as a sleep aid: Paintings with either sleep-suggestive or sleep-literal themes–such as a pillow painting–can help relax the body and mind.

Images by David Duncan Livingston



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Jackson Hole Highlights

While I was in Jackson Hole last weekend, I had a few hours between wedding events to check out some new-to-me sights.

First up—the National Museum of Wildlife Art.  This hillside museum features American and European wildlife paintings and sculpture–the kind of art you might find covering the walls in National Park Lodges or Sun Valley McCabins or a Wes Anderson film. Not really my thing, but my mother who lives nearby said it was worth seeing. And after spending an hour with these best of the best wildlife paintings, I was ready to swing by one of the many art galleries in town and buy a buffalo painting.

Like the mournful and majestic “Chief” by Robert Bateman.

Or something surprisingly contemporary like Bateman’s “Lone Raven.”

I got goosebumps looking at the otherworldly colors in Lars Jonsson’s “The First Dawn.”

Though they were tame in comparison to the kaleidoscope of Andy Warhol’s “Black Rhinoceros.”

Both the Warhol and Carl Rungius’s “Cragmaster” made me smile back.

In fact, I spent a long time in the museum’s Rungius room looking at his detailed brush work, including the beautiful fur on this “American Black Bear.”

The museum is located across from the National Elk Refuge which would be a nifty double-header if you have the time.  We only had a few hours before we needed to head up to Teton Village for the wedding so instead we dropped into  Sweetwater Restaurant  for some lunch, then picked up dessert at Persephone Bakery.

The hot chocolate with a peppermint marshmallow was divine as were several desserts including this cupcake topped with raspberry frosting and filled with lemon curd  that I saved for a post-wedding late night snack.

Feeling as stuffed as a Warhol rhinoceros, I spent my last free minutes browsing the top-notch western artifacts at Cayuse.

Some favorites included this graphic Native American blanket.

 A fancy parade saddle.

Some cowgirl boots (shucks, not my size).

19th century Crow dolls.

And a Kiowa boy’s shirt, covered with beads and shells.

Don’t let my iPhone photos fool you, these are museum quality artifacts with price tags to match. Which makes it all the more wonderful to get up close and see the fine details and vivid colors.  Alas there was no time for town square shootouts, antler chandelier shops or buffalo painting galleries, but I left with a newfound respect for Western americana and wildlife–including this mangy moose that sauntered across the road as we made our way up to the wedding.

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Friday Things Considered: The Grand Teton Edition

Last weekend I traveled to Jackson Hole for my cousin Anna’s mountaintop wedding.  Walking out of the airport, smelling the crisp air and looking at the snow covered Teton range, I immediately felt at home.  Though I grew up on the other side of the Tetons, the frosty high altitude setting is so deeply imbedded that I immediately felt energized and comfortable there. (However, I did wear multiple layers, as instructed, for the outdoor ceremony.)

A friend who grew up here in the Bay Area says it’s the smell of eucalyptus and fog in the air that tell her she’s home.  Another, who spent childhood weekends at a family beach house, says it’s the sound of the ocean and the smell of woodsmoke.  And another who hails from the Northwest says it’s a lush “green-ness” that feels most familiar and reassuring. What does “home” look, feel, smell or sound like to you?

Here are a few other things that peaked my interest over the past few weeks:

Did you know that once upon a time the Dalai Lama also rode a ski lift to the top of a mountain?

Here’s how recalling a childhood home can spur more recent memories.

Daily floral paintings herald spring.

A touching toast to toast.

This recipe for Carrot-Coconut Soup was easy (everything I needed right here on hand) and delicious.

By all accounts, L’Wren Scott (who also grew up Mormon in the Intermountain West) was a charming, unusual beauty making unusually beautiful things. What more would she have done?


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Field Trip: The FloraCultural Society

On this rainy Tuesday, I’m loving these cheery photos of The FloraCultural Society that Liessa Johannsen shot for my Gardenista post about this lovely new flower shop in Old Oakland.

Florist Anna Campbell opened the shop as part of PopUpHood, a group that seeks to revitalize urban areas by taking vacant spaces and linking small business people to landlords. ”We’ve loved being in Old Oakland because the community is so supportive,” says Campbell, who also hosts events in the breezeway outside the shop and raises some of its flowers in an urban garden a few miles away. Her goal is to “rewild your life” by connecting you back to the land through flowers, floral-based products and floral-centric experiences.

So if you’re ready to “go in for floral mutiny,” visit The FloraCultural Society at 461A 9th St. Oakland, 94605. Don’t you just love seeing others’ talents on display?

All photos by Liesa Johannssen


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Home Front Quilts

Quilts are more than bedcoverings, they’re also works of art. Marie Strait, President of the Board of Directors for the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles recently told me that “quiltmaking has always been a way for women to practice art while doing something practical.”

Strait, an avid quilter and quilting teacher, was one of the jurors for a “quilt challenge” that generated 30 quilts inspired by things that happened here on the Home Front during World War II. The quilts will be on display at “Voices in Cloth 2014,” a large quilt show happening this weekend (March 22-23) at the Craneway Pavilion on the Richmond Marina.

“These quilts use the quiltmakers’ local perspective to focus on a piece of history that happened right here in our own back yard,” says Strait. “That’s what makes them so interesting.”

For example, Susan Zimmerman focused on the famous Rosies—women who joined the workforce at the Richmond Shipyards when the men went off to war, (above). Marian Sousa, 88 and a real-life Rosie, created her first quilt (below) to replicate some of the ship blueprints she drafted during the war.

Jeannie Low stitched up a Liberty Ship and named it Leon Chooey after her father who was a welder in the shipyards.

Nancy Brown incorporated letters her father sent from the field, including one where he said he was dreaming of the sweet peas in their garden at home.

Cindy Cossen used the Richmond Ford Plant, now the Craneway Pavilion where the show will be held, as a backdrop for a jeep filled with magazines gathered to be shipped to the troops.

Giny Dixon celebrated the Women’s Baseball League.

Barbara Davis created a haunting image of a Japanese American farmer forced to leave his fields when sent to an internment camp.

Read more about these Home Front quilts in my BANG story here.  And if you live in the Bay Area and would like to attend the show, the organizers have sent me a pair of tickets to offer to a reader.  Just leave a comment about why you are interesting in quilting or share a family story from the Home Front period and I’ll draw a lucky winner (on St. Patrick’s Day, no less!)

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Friday Things Considered: Forceful or Foolish?

Reading this essay about a woman asking for a better table when given a crummy one made me think about a recent failed attempt at being more forceful.

Claire was in town from the frigid East and wanted to spend every minute of the weekend out in the sun.  So we drove over to Point Reyes Station intending to hike out to the beach after stopping for lunch at Osteria Stellina.

The meal was great but the service was so-so.  Over the course of an hour we had three different attendants, all pleasant but often out of sync with what was going on at our table. Food came out erratically, two different waiters asked us multiple times whether we were done when there was still clearly food on our plates and then they both abandoned us once the plates were removed. No one checked to see if we wanted dessert or even bothered to bring us the bill.  Finally, anxious to get on our hike, I flagged down a waiter asking to see the dessert menu.

The hostess then showed up with the check but no dessert menu.  So I asked her to bring one.  And then I snapped.

“We need some attention,” I said sharply.  “We’re tired of being ignored.”

She scurried to get a menu and kept her eyes on her notepad as she took our final order.  Feeling like I’d made a stronger statement than I’d intended I ordered a dessert I didn’t want.

“That wasn’t like you,” said M.J. as he helped me finish off the (admittedly very good) blueberry ice cream and oatmeal cookie sandwich.

“I know,” I said. “But it was just one thing after another with the service and I felt like I needed to let someone know.”

That “someone” probably couldn’t do a thing about the wait staff confusion and I left wishing I’d acted differently–just requested the dessert menu (again) without adding the extra cry for justice at the end. Have you ever tried to be forceful and ended up feeling foolish?

Here are some other things that had me all excited this week:

Though Mardis Gras is past, you could still make up this tasty King Cake recipe and decorate it with green for St. Patrick’s Day or pastels for Easter. I liked both versions of the recipe but had a slight preference for the cream cheese raspberry.

Other St. Paddy’s ideas include this Shamrock Money Cake  and a tried-and-true version of Irish Soda Bread.

One family tries to go zero-waste.  Could you?

I’m thinking these would help keep my herbs in line.

Did you know we’re all reading the equivalent of a novel a day?

How personal rituals can help us cope with grief.

They’re just like us! Fashion folk loot the aisles at Chanel.

Happy Weekend All!


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3 Things On My Ideal House List

A month into house hunting my weeks are taking on a steady rhythm.  On Friday we scan the MLS listings and plan what open houses we’ll attend that weekend.  Saturday and Sunday afternoons we tour.  Monday morning three a.m. I’m wide awake redecorating the most recently seen possibilities.  Tuesday middle-of-the-night doubt creeps in.  Wednesday morning another round of potential homes pops up in my inbox and I jettison the previous week’s near-perfect match.

I am exhausted by this latest round of “what matters most now” when it comes to where we live.

When we were in our thirties shopping for our first house we factored in school districts and potential play dates.  In our forties it was a bigger house in a better school district. A short commute into the city was important to maximize dad time.  And, of course, we always wanted to live somewhere distinctive and beautiful.

There were some compromises and plenty of projects with every house, but for the most part we were happy with our decisions. Now we have fewer parameters, but I still want:

1. Good light and vistas.

2. Thoughtful architecture.

3. Accessible garden space.

Specifically, I want to have sunlight from at least two sides in most rooms and see colorful blossoms, green trees or blue sky outside my windows.  I like expansive (not necessarily large) public rooms and more moderate private quarters with a few elements of surprise along the way. As to gardens, I can thrive in sun or shade as long as there’s a bit of dirt to dig in.

Anything I’m forgetting? (Help! This whole process has me quite sleep-deprived.)

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Kathryn Pritchett

writes about Things Elemental — where we find shelter, why we connect, what sustains us and how we strut our stuff.

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