on holiday

We leave tomorrow for our Uruguay + Argentina vacation. 

I can't wait until we're actually there, all in one piece in Montevideo. It's going to be a LONG trip made up of 3 plane rides with our active and opinionated one-year-old followed by a wedding just a few hours after we arrive. Yep.

Right now I'm dreaming of the days we're going to spend at the beach, walking the streets of Buenos Aires, and breathing in the mist of Iguazu Falls.

Happy Holidays, have a smashing New Years, and see you in 2012!

[image: Georges Dambier]


swimsuit dilemna

Shopping for a swimsuit in December is an odd thing. On Friday night I realized that I needed a new swimsuit (or 2) in preparation for our trip to South America this coming week. We'll be spending 5 days at the beach in Uruguay, and the bikini I wore in Mexico a few months ago was feeling a little big then. Swimsuits are something you kind of need to try on, but as no store anywhere near where I live carries them at this time of year I had to go online. I settled on these simple Volcom suits. Fingers crossed...
Polka dot top
Polka dot bottoms
Black bikini top

Black Cheeky Bottom


for ever.

I don't have any tattoos. It's really an issue with commitment. Don't get me wrong, some tattoos I like on some people. But I just don't know if I could ever commit to getting something inked on my body. For Ever.

I get that people look at their tattoos and think back to who they were at that pivotal time. Why they chose that thing or word or symbol or whatever they chose. But I look back at pictures of myself from 15 years ago and think what was I thinking about my outfits and my hair. Thankfully outfit choices from the late 90's don't last forever and hair grows out.

That's why I like Tattly tattoos: coolio designs (by awesome designers like Julia Rothman, James Victore, Chris Glass, and Jessi Arrington) and they don't last FOR EVER.


baby mocs

Stella and her friend Else are twinners. They've got the same navy blue vest, the same red pants, the same white downy hooded jacket, the same faux-fur-lined booties... and this week I took it to the next level by getting Stella a pair of the Bobux moccasins that Else has been sporting for a few months. They're too adorbs.


lady of the canyon

I'm "home" for a few days, at my parents' home, in the canyon where I grew up. Being home always brings back memories...coming home from school on the bus to the smell of cookies and my mom sitting at her big wooden writing desk, the long drive out of the winding canyon, the sound of frogs in the creek behind the house, my dad with a big long beard, the smell of trees and earth, the night noises. I can't listen to Jackson Browne or The Eagles or Joni Mitchell or Joan Baez without thinking of this canyon and of growing up. In that spirit, here's Joni Mitchell's Ladies of the Canyon.


the birth story, 1 year later

When I started having contractions a year ago I thought it was indigestion. It was 9pm on December 5th and I was in such denial that when J got home from dropping some friends in the city I told him that I thought I’d eaten something off, that I had a stomachache.  He raised his eyebrows in that “are you kidding me” kind of way, and said as I was almost a week past my due date I was probably having contractions. When he called my parents at 10 pm to tell them that I had gone into labor, I’m sure they heard me in the background telling him that maybe I actually wasn’t in labor. Because a (big) part of me didn’t want to be in labor. As uncomfortable as the end of the pregnancy was, labor was going to be even more uncomfortable. And I wasn’t sure I was ready to go through it yet. We decided to go to bed and try to get some rest.

I was up every 10 minutes at first. The only place I wanted to be was squatting on the yoga ball in the door jam of our bedroom. With each contraction I pressed my forehead into the wood of the doorframe and practiced the deep breathing exercises I’d learned in prenatal yoga. In through my nose, out through my mouth, over and over until the contraction eased up and I could get back into bed. Jordan got up with me most of the night. He timed each contraction and rubbed my back and stroked my hair.

My parents drove through the night and arrived around 5:30 on the morning of the 6th. I had held it together up until their arrival, but when I heard my mom walking up the stairs I started to cry. I cried to think that she had gone through this to have me. I cried because I didn’t want her to see me in pain, but, in pain, I wanted her to comfort me. I cried because I realized that I couldn’t concentrate through contractions with her near me. I didn’t want anyone talking or asking me questions. I wanted silence and Jordan rubbing my back.

At around 7am my contractions were coming every 3-4 minutes so we decided to head to the hospital. The car ride only lasted about 8 minutes but was one of the longest car rides ever. I had two intense contractions and sitting in the car felt like the least comfortable place to be in the world. We arrived and were sent into triage, the holding area of pregnant women where the staff determines whether you’re dilated enough to be admitted.

So we sat there. And we sat there. They didn’t seem to be too concerned about me. I was managing the pain okay. I wasn’t screaming. I wasn’t moaning loudly. I wasn’t causing problems like the two other pregnant women who were also in triage. One wasn’t even in labor; she was at 37 weeks and demanding that the hospital take the baby out via c-section, that she was “done” with being pregnant. The other woman was actually in labor. That was clear by the screaming. She was a teenager, in triage with her mother who kept demanding that the nurses give her daughter drugs for the pain. When the doctor came in to check her she was only dilated 2 centimeters. Hearing that girl screaming for two hours was not only distracting but also frightening. If I was managing the pain and I wasn’t screaming did that mean I was only 1 centimeter dilated? Would I be sent home? Was that screaming pain in my future?

When the nurse finally got around to checking on me it turned out I was already 6 cm dilated. I was moved into a birthing room fairly quickly after that.

For the next few hours I sat perched on the edge of the bed, breathing deeply through contraction after contraction. To focus the intensity I visualized openings: flowers opening, doors opening. I ate fruit popsicles.

I had hoped to have my parents in the room with me, but it turns out all I wanted was J and silence.

At around 1pm they checked me again and I was dilated to 8 cm but my bag of waters still hadn’t broken. Stella was low in the birth canal, the nurse could feel her head when she examined me. The nurse gave me a choice. She could break my bag of waters and the birth would hopefully progress quickly after that, as no doubt I would dilate to 10cm and have to start pushing. The other option was that we could wait for the sac to break on its own and continue at a slower pace. I chose the first option.

Having my water broken was a strange sensation. It wasn’t painful, but it felt like being pushed over a precipice, like a loss of control. I felt a sudden shift in the center of my body and the urge to push soon overwhelmed me.

The two hours I spent pushing were the hardest thing I’ve ever done. In between contractions I wept. I wanted to fall asleep. I wanted it to be over. I told J I was tired, I was scared, that I didn’t want to do it anymore. He reassured me again and again. He told me I could do it. He gave me juice to drink and he wet my brow and hair with a towel. The nurses told me I was having a great labor. A fast labor. I was doing it without drugs and I was a champ. They told me not to worry about tearing, that when the next contraction came to push down, that she was coming. The space in between contractions was almost harder than the pushing itself. There was no forward movement, nothing to do but rest and feel my body splitting open, feel that loss of control. But the two hours went quickly. I have to idea how many times I pushed or how I suddenly found the strength to push harder than before. But all the sudden she was there, on my chest. Our screaming, wet, pink little Stella.

Stella Condesa just a few seconds old
A year later I am emotional just thinking about that moment. The first moment I got to see the curve of her ears and the color of her eyes and the expression on her face. How I was excited to examine her tiny nails feel her breathing steadily on my chest. In the periphery of that moment, my belly is being pressed to expel the placenta. And as I try to guide Stella’s mouth to my breast for the first time, I am being stitched up.
The memory is still so vivid, at once terrifying and amazing. But mostly amazing. Happy Birthday to my girl.

happy birthday stella condesa

Stella Condesa, born 12.6.10 @ 3:24pm

Today you are ONE.

My sweet bug, happy birthday.

I love you more every day. How is that even possible when I love you so much already?

Stay tuned, more to come later today...


a rainbow of skinny jeans, with gold zippers

Skinny jeans with gold ankle zippers in camel
I'm stuck on Zara's multitude of ankle-length colored jeans. I've taken up a collection. Red, light gray, faded denim, forest green, electric blue, and now camel. I know, I know. Color jeans are all the rage right now. But these Zara ones are flattering in a way that most "skinny jeans" just aren't on me. And they've got gold ankle zippers for heaven's sake.


Stella kisses Lucia for the 1000th time

So Stella's new thing is giving kisses. She loves to give kisses. Celia's babe Lucia was a recent recipient. She got about 1000.


happy holidays with rifle paper co.

Rifle Paper Co. Happy Holidays Postcards
I had seriously hoped to be awesome this year and order some Rifle Paper Co. customizable holiday cards with little painted pictures of J and Stella and me. Because that would have been awesome. Ah well. Maybe next year I will be a little more on top of my holiday card game. Instead of the customizable cards I snagged some of the Happy Holidays postcards. I don't love them as much, but still think they're pretty sweet. Seriously though, I can't get enough of Rifle Paper Co. Everything they create is pretty fantastic.

winter-perfect mushroom lasagna

My friend Melissa posted a photo/link to this New York Times-featured mushroom lasagna recipe on Pinterest yesterday and I had to stop myself from drooling on the screen. I'm adding it to my list of perfect winter foods. Yum.


happy thanksgiving

Photobooth shot from the ace hotel, ny

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for that little smiley face. She is my love. She is my heart.

I am thankful for my loving, supportive family and for my  friends, those who I see every day, and those who I don't see enough. I am thankful for my morning coffee (and the great guys at Boot & Shoe Cafe).  I am thankful for the endless pile of books on my bedside table. I am thankful that living in California, we have an endless bounty of fresh vegetables and fruit year round. I am thankful for tasty pie, and that in spite of my insane post-pregnancy sweet tooth that I somehow lost all the baby weight + ten pounds. Which means I'm also thankful for my afternoon  walks around our neighborhood with Stella. And the quiet moments everyday when Stella breastfeeds when she twirls my hair and tries to stick her fingers in my mouth. I am thankful that I live in Oakland, a city that contradicts itself daily, that is at once so ugly and so beautiful, and is always changing.

I am thankful for J, who is endlessly loving and generous and funny. I am thankful that we are able to give Stella *me* everyday. And I am thankful that I'm almost a year in to the best job I've ever had. I am thankful that I don't sit behind a computer all day anymore. And that every morning I wake up excited to spend the day with my girl, happy to be doing my best work and showing Stella this amazing world.

What are you thankful for this year?



Prior falling sick with a serious case of the sniffles and a fever and some big new teeth action, Stella was as happy as a monkey hat-wearing clam at the park yesterday. 

I have to admit that when I thought about being a mother before Stella was born I never imagined myself sucking the snot out her nose with a NoseFrida. Which, by the way is one of the best inventions ever, and one that Stella considers a torture device.



I'm half way through Wildwood by Colin Meloy (of The Decemberists) and Carson Ellis (illustrator) and LOVING it. I wish I had a few hours to become completely transported to this world they've created...


11.11.11, a very happy birthday

 Birthday 33 on 11.11.11

On every November 11, my parents like to retell the story of my birth. It was cold and raining in the Southern California canyon where I was born. My Mom woke up in labor and made me a carrot cake in between contractions. Their close friends came to help with the home-birth: one held a mirror, one held the video camera, one person looked after my sister and my sister's friend, etc... There was a fire in the fireplace, and Beethoven was playing on the record player. There was a midwife and a doctor came later. My dad caught me.

On 11.11.11 I turned 33. We celebrated the numerically momentous occasion by inviting friends and family to join us for live music (a ragtime duo!) nibbles and cakes (5 different kinds including carrot cake, death by chocolate cake, both made by my amazing mom, plus strawberry cake, lemon cake, and pumpkin cheese cake). I felt glamorous in my perfect party dress and the Coclico birthday shoes I scored at Anthropologie (last pair, on sale, my size).

Birthday Shoes

I was overwhelmed by all the love and messages from my sweet people close by and far away. As a special surprise treat my sister flew in from New York to celebrate.

I will never experience another 11.11.11 in my lifetime. And I feel like an incredibly lucky girl to have experienced this one.


visualizing bach

My friend Sam sent me this mesmerizing video.
baroque.me visualizes the first Prelude from Bach's Cello Suites. Using the math behind string length and pitch, it came from a simple idea: what if all the notes were drawn as strings? Instead of a stream of classical notation on a page, this interactive project highlights the music's underlying structure and subtle shifts.

This Prelude to the first Bach Cello Suite used to be one of my favorites warm-up pieces to start off a practice session. Enjoy.


stella, 11 months

Stella, 11 months

Can it really be possible that Stella is already 11 months old? I think I ask this same question every month. Time is speeding by, and every day Stella grows, and changes, and masters something new.

It's hard to believe that at around this time last year I was preparing to leave my job at Chronicle Books, I was very uncomfortably pregnant and pretty apprehensive about giving birth. I had so many plans about what I would do with my "free" time. I look at that list now, and chuckle. Some of those things (making jam, pickling things, gardening, knitting) will just have to wait...

And so, here we are. A year later.
At 11 months Stella is a whirlwind of activity. If she's not climbing the stairs, she's pulling books off shelves and ridding them of their dust jackets. If she's not creeping along the length of our couch (biting it as she goes) she's exploring the contents of our cupboards looking for something to chew on. She is endlessly curious; it's one of my favorite things about her.

She's a helper. She likes to "help" me fold laundry. After we're done it looks like a tornado picked up all our clothes and dropped them randomly around the room, curiously enfolded.

Stella has mastered "bye," though it sounds a little like "bah biee." She says bye to anything, and throws in a wave for good measure like when we leave the house she tells it goodbye and waves at the front door.

She loves to be chased. By that I mean she loves to be caught and tickled and kissed until she squeals with laughter. I love catching her and smothering her with kisses and tickles. I could do it all day long. She is just so kissable.

Stella, 11 months
Stella , 11 months
Stella, 11 months


a few recent book buys

This won the 2011 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. I loved Arthur & George, and liked Flaubert's Parrot, and Love, Etc., so I have high expectations for The Sense of An Ending.

Kjell Eriksson's The Princess of Burundi and The Cruel Stars of Night were both strong page-turners. The third in the series featuring police detective Ann Lindell, The Demon of Dakar, was kind of a drag (as in it dragged and I didn't finish it). I'm hoping this is more in keeping with the first two books in the series.

I know, the cover is a little too cheesy mystery. But... the premise sounds entertaining and it was a pick on the 2011 Booker longlist. And, I admit, I love a good Victorian-era mystery, à la Crimson Petal and the White, Misfortune, and Fingersmith.

“Extravagantly entertaining . . . One of the great pleasures of this novel is how confidently [Paul Murray] addresses such disparate topics as quantum physics, video games, early-20th-century mysticism, celebrity infatuation, drug dealing, Irish folklore and pornography . . . Six hundred sixty-one pages may seem like a lot to devote to a bunch of flatulence-obsessed kids, but that daunting length is part and parcel of the cause to which Skippy Dies, in the end, is most devoted. Teenagers, though they may not always act like it, are human beings, and their sadness and loneliness (and their triumphs, no matter how temporary) are as momentous as any adult’s And novels about them—if they’re as smart and funny and touching as Skippy Dies—can be just as long as they like.” —Dan Kois, The New York Times Book Review
“The success of The Line of Beauty meant that Alan Hollinghurst’s next book was surely going to be eagerly anticipated. But the seven-year wait for The Stranger’s Child and the steady unfurling of its ambition over the novel’s 435 pages has had another effect too. It has dawned on people that Hollinghurst, the gay novelist, might also be the best straight novelist that Britain has to offer—that is, the writer whose talents sit most comfortably within the contours of the form. . . . The Stranger’s Child stands comparison to Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections for the way that the sweep of the narrative, its simultaneous flicker of comedy and drama, is matched and sustained by the precision and the leisurely economy of its individual sentences . . . The Stranger’s Child spans almost a century. And here, too [as in his previous books] sex opens up the novel, though the thing unlocked is not the small, cloistered world of Edwardian privilege but of all English literary history. The book’s sections are linked by two houses that, in their different ways, stand witness to social decline: Corley Court, a Victorian pile, home of the aristocratic young poet Cecil Valance; and the more modest Two Acres family home of George Sawle, his friend, and lover, from Cambridge. With [this] novel Hollinghurst imaginatively insists that our literary tradition would be unrecognizably depleted without the submerged current of homosexuality. And that The Stranger’s Child itself is the culmination of not only Hollinghurst’s ambition but that secret literary tradition to which it is addressed. It is a claim that is hard to dispute.”
—Geoff Dyer, New York Magazine

How about you? Any books you are dying to read?


middle school

This American Life: Middle School provided interesting lunchtime listening material today. As I sat at our dining room table with Stella next to me in her high chair chewing on pear slices, I found myself in the middle; looking back and cringing at the thought of my own middle school experience and thinking forward to the years ahead when Stella will be in the throes of that awkward age. 

I cringed for myself and I cringed for her. Like most parents, I hope that she sails through middle school with relative ease, that she won't be tormented by teasing, bullied by girls who seek to damage her self esteem because they are so frightened by it all themselves, marked by acne, or mortified by shyness. Part of me wishes that she is bookish and nerdy, like I was, that she is able to see middle school for what it is, a large dance into adulthood, towards more complex but better things.

Middle School was a frightening and exciting thing for me. It was big, so much bigger than the small canyon grade school I attended. There were dances, and class periods, and people kissed. Looking back I don't know if I was awkward, but I was definitely out of place. I played the cello, my favorite past-time was reading in bed, and I acted professionally at a local theater. Where I tried so hard in grade school to stand out by dyeing my hair pink, in middle school I found myself doing what I could to blend in and hiding the things that would make me different.

As foreign as middle school was, high school was more so. In high school I stopped trying to blend in and just held my breath and hoped it would be over soon. A few weeks before graduating, a boy I had been in classes with since middle school approached me as I was reading alone at a table in the quad and said "when are you going back to your country?" 
"What do you mean?" I asked. 
"Aren't you from, like, Sweden?" he responded.

Oh, adolescence. Listening to the kids being interviewed by the folks at This American Life as they mentally prepared themselves to enter a middle school dance, it was clear that it felt foreign to them too. To all of them.

mustard suede triple bow

I have no where to wear these, but I think they're darling.