I can't believe I never instagrammed this. What an amazing place to eat a custom ice cream sandwich, as the cows are about to get their evening meal. Moomers, you are delicious. Chocolate salted caramel ice cream, amazing; cookies for the sandwich—underwhelming, will not repeat.

I can't blog tonight because of an intense sugar craving and irresistible exhaustion. Maybe tomorrow will be the day I actually write some posts.

Lunch Break Reflections (While Eating a Grilled Cheese Sandwich in the Cafeteria)

So last night, when I could have been blogging and SHOULD have been getting ready for bed, I decided to move one of the couches a little bit to test out a new idea I had—a new idea involving diagonals. I was pretty sure it wouldn't pass muster with Cooper, but I wanted to see. The big couch barely fit there, but shifting it did change the shape of the room, breaking free of the tyranny of not enough space and too many doors, which had forced us to line up every piece of furniture along the perimeter of the living room (and in the bedroom, too).

A simple solution is to just get rid of some stuff, so things don't feel so tight. On the one hand, I'm not as in love with my red leather couch as I once was, but on the other, I like having two couches with room for five people, since I still harbor fantasies of having friends over and I like to have a cozy place to hang out with them if it ever happens again. So fallen from grace or not (it's an insistent red that wants to dictate every other element of design; it's holding me back!), we keep the couch, because now is not the time for a new one, and two armchairs instead of a new couch would also certainly cost too much. I can't say the red Klippan sparks any joy anymore, but it seems I'm just not ready, and not rich enough, to fully accept Marie Kondo's tantalizing prescripts and throw it away. Instead, I succumb to logic and stubbornly and reluctantly hold on to this couch that still functions, dammit, even if its existence pisses me off once a week.

But maybe, in partial acceptance of the reality of our social lives, we can turn that red loveseat that Cooper and I rarely sit on away from the TV—since we almost never manage to have people over, the likelihood of a group movie night has plummeted to zero, and we like to share one couch together—which opens up one...or maybe even two! possibilities in this tight space. Because, you see, the diagonals really didn't work. Diagonal one was promising, but couch number two on an angle leaves a super weird open triangle of room behind it, which couch one (the only couch we ever use) has to stare at. So instead, I moved the big couch farther, ninety degrees from its customary position, and put the TV in a much weirder place so that the grey couch sitters (two humans, two cats) could still see the screen, and...I don't know.
I affected change! It's kinda cozy! Whether we try out the new layout or return to the old, we need a bigger living room rug. And the lighting is currently bad in this new arrangement, there's still an awkward useless corner next to the front door where junk will probably accumulate, and not a definite spot to add in an armchair (long cherished dream; ignore what I said about already having too much furniture).

Jury's out, and so's my confidence.

If you come back tomorrow, maybe there'll be photos. If it's sunny and I can get a good one. But that would take the surprise away from Cooper, who doesn't return from California until Sunday, we'll see.

Photos 1 & 2: Before. Photos 3 & 4: After.


Looks like chaos. Feels like the path to a breakthrough.
An hour later, it turns out none of it was a breakthrough. Now I have an entire living room to move back. Some other time.

The Plus Side of Winter

Although the mountain country of North Carolina in the eighteenth century is a whole different world than this one in which we live, there are elements to aspire to. I give you Drums of Autumn, book four of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, which is sprinkled with beautiful scenes and feelings of homeyness:
The winter held off for some time, but snow began to fall in the night on November 28, and we woke to find the world transformed. Every needle on the great blue spruce behind the cabin was frosted, and ragged fringes of ice dripped from the tangle of wild raspberry canes.
The snow wasn’t deep, but its coming changed the shape of daily life. I no longer foraged during the day, save for short trips to the stream for water, and for lingering bits of green cress salvaged from the icy slush along the banks. Jamie and Ian ceased their work of log felling and field clearing, and turned to roof shingling. The winter drew in on us, and we in turn withdrew from the cold, turning inward. 
We had no candles; only grease lamps and rushlights, and the light of the fire that burned constantly on the hearth, blackening the roof beams. We therefore rose at first light, and lay down after supper, in the same rhythm as the creatures of the forest around us. 
We had no sheep yet, and thus no wool to card or spin, no cloth to weave or dye. We had no beehives yet, and thus no wax to boil, no candles to dip. There was no stock to care for, save the horses and mules and the piglet, who had grown considerably in both size and irascibility, and in consequence been exiled to a private compartment in the corner of the crude stable Jamie had built—this itself no more than a large open-fronted shelter with a branch-covered roof. [...] 
With few chores to do outside, there was time to talk, to tell stores, and to dream. Between the useful objects like spoons and bowls, Jamie took time to carve the pieces of a wooden chess set, and spent a good deal of his time trying to inveigle me or Ian into playing with him. 
Ian and Rollo, who both suffered badly from cabin fever, took to visiting Anna Ooka frequently, sometimes going on extended hunting trips with the young men from the village, who were pleased to have the benefit of his and Rollo’s company. 
“The lad speaks the Indian tongue a great deal better than he does Greek or Latin,” Jamie observed with some dourness, watching Ian exchanging cordial insults with an Indian companion as they left on one such excursion. 
“Well, if Marcus Aurelius had written about tracking porcupines, I expect he’d have found a more eager audience,” I replied soothingly. 
Dearly as I loved Ian, I was myself not displeased by his frequent absence. There were definitely times when three was a crowd. 
There is nothing more delightful in life than a feather bed and an open fire—except a feather bed with a warm and tender lover in it. When Ian was gone, we would not trouble with rushlights but would go to bed with the dark, and lie curled together in shared warmth, talking late into the night, laughing and telling stories, sharing our pasts, planning our future, and somewhere in the midst of the talking, pausing to enjoy the wordless pleasures of the present. (Pages 380-383) 
Photo: Snowy evergreens in Bavaria, on a visit to Schloß Neuschwanstein in 2008.

Porch Season

I wrote this post about my fire escape in the spring, and never followed up with photos of what I did. Mainly what I did was buy mostly-boring pots, and set up a little kitchen garden outside the bedroom, and then unroll a colorful rug woven of recycled plastic during patches of good weather when I thought we'd go out there more just to water the garden. The rug is pretty great, but I think sunshine was also an essential component of my modest renovation.

Basil, parsley, tomatoes, basil. A cutie red Kalanchoe to go with a turquoise pot. Spiders lived in it all summer.

A pleasing setup with the rug, and our cilantro that went to seed almost immediately. Cats who desperately need to join their humans outside (streng verboten).

Everyone out for some sun. Our previously majestic thyme (now languishing in the sunny stairwell.)
Looking out of the bedroom to the fire escape. Picnicking on the floor with leftovers and champagne.

Mornings in Turkey

The first morning back in Europe, five years after I’d packed up my bedroom in Vauban, toured Aschaffenburg and Berlin each for a second time, and flown out of Frankfurt back to Michigan for my final year of college.

No fear or apprehension, to be back in Frankfurt Flughafen. I ate a pretzel, messaged Emma (still in Ukraine) on Facebook, wandered to find my gate for the next flight—the flight to Istanbul. I’m not sure how we landed in Frankfurt; it was dark still on arrival, I think, but soon morning gave way to this thick spooky fog out the terminal windows. I alighted in Istanbul at 1pm, waited a long time for my bag, couldn’t find the sign with my name, for the taxi to my hostel in Sultanahmet. Didn’t like it one bit. Once at the hostel, a fog of sleep, a shower (maybe), an unavoidable nap. I ventured out in the evening dark to see the Hagia Sophia and find sustenance, but couldn’t shake the overly friendly young Turkish man who just wanted to practice his English with me over some tea. I went home hungry to the hostel, couldn’t sleep. After that first night, Emma and I had no reservations for anything.

On the second day, I bought us plane tickets to İzmir for that afternoon, reserved the last room at a recommended pansiyon in Selçuk, wandered the gardens of the Sultan’s palace, and took a shuttle back to Atatürk International Airport, in search of meine Emma, arriving from Odessa. When her face finally emerged from the crowd spilling out of the international terminal, I was so happy. She was wearing a striped sweater whose twin I had also packed for the trip. I hadn’t seen her in almost a year and a half.

Morning three in the Old World, morning two in Turkey, we climbed three flights of turning stone stairs to the pansyion's terrace, picked out for ourselves one of the little circle tables that ringed the bench that wrapped around three sides of the terrace, and were presented with a feast.
I wanted to write about mornings. Early morning, when the light’s still a little blue and the breeze is so fresh that you always get a twinge of nostalgia for something – first days of school past, the end of hot summers, waking up early in a tent or on a lake or for a peaceful journey through a city still mostly aslumber.

Aiming Too High

Hello, November, and the depths of the fall. I've meant to be writing here so much more, but setting aside the time is never high enough on the list, and so it doesn't happen.

I have a misguided approach when I feel behind and overwhelmed, when there are too many things to prioritize, because simply facing the entirety of the list is enough to shut you down. I tell myself that none of the parts are imposssible, and I just have to start them, and they won't be so bad. That part's reasonable. But then I remind myself that once I have done All the Things, I'll have time to relax, breathe, reflect—in place of all the panic-procrastinate-go-to-way-too-many-unnecessary-websites breaks that I take all day instead of accomplishing things. Just do one thing, and the next, and the next, until you've done everything. Then you can start fresh with a system and increased satisfaction from your quick followthrough. I do this at home and at work, even though I know a better way to finish everything is to admit that not everything matters, and cut the unimportant and unfulfilling out of the list. 

But oh, I cling so hard to the dream of clearing everything off the list and basking in the glow of open possibility.

Luckily, today I finished a fairly deep clean of the living room, to add to the bathroom, bedroom, and reorganized (but again filthy) kitchen. The home sphere is ready for a new month.

A month of cooking regularly, to take some burden off Cooper and feel happy when I've made something, and cleaning systematically, because surely it's possible to live an easy, clean life when your apartment is under five hundred square feet. A month of exercise again, because obviously, I haven't learned this lesson about not being able to do all the things, and I strive for perfection. (Ugh, please no. But moving my body is one of the best things I can do to help myself cope with life.)

A month for cozying-up our living spaces for the dark months to come. New lighting for the improved kitchen, new rugs for our cold floors, and hopefully some good ideas for spaces Ali and Drew want help with. Oh yes, and a month for meeting and loving and cuddling Ali's and Drew's little son—arriving any day now. No one can wait!

And a month of reading—Elena Ferrante number four, I'm almost ready for you, finally!—and writing every day in this space, the things I've wanted to write all year, and whatever comes to mind now, because it's NaBloPoMo, and I've never regretted doing it before.

So, here's my manifesto. I'm not ready, but here goes.