Things I Love


We eat clementines like candy during the winter months. Although Sophie doesn’t technically eat them. She prefers to suck all the juice out, leaving the skins all over her plate (and the dining room table, and coffee table and cup holder in the van). The bowl was a Christmas present from my parents—it’s made by Heath Ceramics. I’m in love.

“Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.” —Kahlil Gibran

Eric Carle placemats

These are the placemats my children use every day, for every meal. My mom made them. They were Valentine’s Day gifts. Each is a laminated Eric Carle print. James gets the very hungry caterpillar (with the big sun) because he out-eats everyone, daily. Owen gets the moon. He loves the moon. And Sophie gets the butterfly, the same butterfly which is embroidered on her backpack.

They’re large, perfect for big messes. The back has rows and rows of the food Eric Carle painted for The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The boys love to point the items out, yelling “ice cream!” “cake!” “cheese!” over and over. Owen likes the colorful border, constantly asking “What’s that? What’s that?” After tiring of naming colors throughout dinner, we, for awhile, convinced Sophie to answer for us. She would patiently say “That’s blue, Owen.” Or “That’s pink, Owen.” But now, even Sophie, is tired of the constant questions. She’ll answer once or twice and then say, in a very mother-like tone, “That’s enough, Owen. Eat your dinner.” To which Owen replies, “Moon! Look, Sophie! Moon!”

It is a beautiful moon.

Thanks, Mom.

“We have eyes, and we’re looking at stuff all the time, all day long. And I just think that whatever our eyes touch should be beautiful, tasteful, appealing, and important.” —Eric Carle

Motherhood, In the Eyes of a Childless Craigslist Buyer

As mentioned here, after months of searching, I finally found a decent patio set on Craigslist—for $50. Most patio sets are well worn, which is why the seller is selling it. But this family was moving, had no time or desire for negotiation, and just wanted it gone. I happened to be the first to contact the seller—he said I could pick it up at his moving sale Saturday morning at 10am. He lived about 55 minutes north of me, so early Saturday morning I woke up Andy.

“You have to take all the seats out of the van,” I said.

“What?” he asked.

“Seriously, you have to get up. You have to take all the seats out of the van so I can pick up a new patio set. You know, the one I found on Craigslist,” I said.

“No,” he said.

“Yes!” I said. “It’s only $50! There is no way I’m going to find anything else this nice for this little money. And I don’t want someone to buy it from under me! Plus, you have fantasy baseball drafts today and tomorrow—I totally deserve two hours of driving alone. Unless you want to pick it up for me?” I asked.

“I’m not picking it up for you,” he said.

“Fine. I’ll take the seats out,” I said.

He took them out.

I got to the seller’s house a minute after 10am. The table fit in the van perfectly. It was nicer than I imagined.

“It comes with chair cushions, too, if you want them,” he said.

I noticed the tags on the cushions said Pottery Barn. Outdoor cushions aren’t cheap, especially from Pottery Barn.

“Yes!” I said.

I offered him more money. (I know. I should never be allowed to run a business.) He refused.

When I got home, Andy was trying to watch all three kids while also prepare for his draft.

“Can you help me unload the table and chairs and put the seats back in the van?” I asked.

“Can’t we do it when I get back?” he asked.’

“No!” I said. “Your draft is, like, eight hours long. What if I have to go somewhere while you’re gone?”

So, he put everything back—all the van seats, all three car seats. It took about 30 minutes.

Cut to mid-afternoon. While the boys napped, I posted our old patio set on Craigslist for $50. Immediately, the e-mails started coming in. I replied to the first person who responded. She was young, a recent University of Cincinnati law school grad and had just purchased her first house—and was in need of a patio set for her deck. She loved our set (which surprised me as there was a lot of rust) and loved our price. She could fit two chairs in her car, but nothing more. She seemed nice (via e-mail). She brought back memories of when I first used our old patio set. It previously belonged to my roommate’s boyfriend’s parents. My roommate, Jenna, and I spent many afternoons sitting at that set. When Andy and I married, she insisted we keep it. And we did. For seven years. I called Jenna on my way home from buying the new set, asking her what I should do with the old set. She agreed with selling it. I promised her the money. She insisted we all go out to dinner with it, instead.

Cut to late afternoon. Recent UC law school grad arrived in a tiny car, while the kids and I were playing outside. She was a beautiful 20something in tight black yoga pants, a law school T-shirt and perfect ponytailed hair. I felt, I don’t know. Mom-ish.

The 20something, kids and I walked to the backyard, where Tucker was playing. I opened the gate and Tucker was ecstatic at the site of this new visitor. He bounded toward the gate, sniffed her shoe and then sensed an opportunity. Two seconds later he pushed past all five of us and was bolting down the street.

“Noooo!” I screamed.

We all ran to the front yard where I swear Tucker was yelling “I’m free! I’m free!” He was running and sniffing and peeing on everything.The kids were crying. They weren’t quite sure what was happening but they sensed I was frazzled and they knew Tucker was supposed to be in our yard, not a yard three houses down from ours.

“What can I do to help?” the 20something graciously asked.

I thought. I needed a collar. The front door was locked.

“Make sure my kids don’t run into the street,” I said.

I ran to the back of the house, ran up the deck steps, went through the back door, grabbed Tucker’s collar and unlocked the front door. It was clear this 20something had limited experience with children. Two of my children were sitting on the sidewalk, crying, after being told to “stop.” Sophie was screaming “Tucker!” I grabbed all three kids and shoved them inside.

“Please make sure they stay there,” I told the 20something.

I then chased after Tucker. Finally, I caught him, peeing in yet another yard. I drug him back to the house, shoved him in the front door with the kids (who were still crying/screaming) and promised them all that I would be back in one minute.

“Stay right here,” I said.

The 20something and I walked to the backyard and I (finally) showed her the old patio set.

“Mommy!” I heard. I looked.

This time, it wasn’t Tucker who escaped. Rather, it was my children. Sophie managed to open the front door, get both boys out and walk them to the backyard. Our house sits close to our street. Which is close to another, busy street. Which is close to a gas station. They’ve never walked outside on their own. I was exasperated.

“We just wanted to see you,” Sophie said.

Owen started crying again. I started telling Sophie how dangerous it was to go outside without me.

And then, as if on cue, the 20something, wide-eyed, looked at me and asked, “Is this what motherhood is like?”

I thought for a moment. I thought about lying, but she had already seen too much. So I told her the truth.

“Not all the time,” I said.

She loaded up two of the chairs and paid me $30. I told her she could keep the remaining $20 until after I delivered the table and remaining two chairs.

Cut to the evening.

Andy came home from the draft.

“I sold our old patio set!” I said.

“Really?” Andy asked.

“Yes, but I have to deliver the rest of it.” And then, tentatively, “Can you take all the chairs out of the van again?”

“What?!? No. That’s not how Craigslist works. They pick up. You don’t deliver,” he said.

“But it’s a done deal!” I said. “She’s already picked up two of the chairs and she’s super-nice, just graduated, just bought her first place—we can help her out, can’t we? This is what good people do. Plus, she sort of watched our kids for me while I rescued Tucker,” I said.

“What?” he asked.

I told him the story. We put the kids to bed. Both boys snuggled with me on a big cushy chair while I read “Goodnight Moon.” I wished the 20something could have witnessed this. Andy began the (long) process of taking out the van seats (again).

“Please tell me you went somewhere today,” Andy said, hoping his earlier seat re-installment wasn’t for nothing.

I was silent.

“Lie to me,” he said.

“We went somewhere,” I said.

He grunted some indecipherable response.

I drove the rest of the old set to Madisonville and helped the 20something put it on her new deck. I told her about the boys snuggling, about “Goodnight Moon.” I told her motherhood wasn’t all completely and totally crazy. At least, not every moment of it.

She gave me the remaining $20. I drove the van home. Andy reinstalled the van seats and car seats, for the second time that day. And threatened to use his web developer skills to ban the Craigslist website from our house. Again.

The next evening I set up the umbrella, put all the cushions on the patio chair seats and sipped a glass of red wine while watching our cardinal swoop around our yard. And wished the 20something could have witnessed that, too.

“Mothers are all slightly insane.” —J.D. Salinger

Paper Cut Art

I love Nikki McClure‘s beautiful paper cuts. Her work graces several children’s picture books, including “To Market, To Market” and Cynthia Rylant’s “All In a Day.” While visiting my brother, Kyle, in New York City, I found a set of 15 postcards, each of a different McClure paper cut, titled Take Care at The Powerhouse Arena. I bought it.

At Target I found small white wooden frames, for just a couple dollars each. I bought 12.

I then did this, in our entry:

They were originally arranged above cubbies filled with baskets filled with toys. This made sense to me, as I associate McClure’s work with children’s picture books and many of the paper cuts feature children. But then friends graciously gave us a piano—and the wall with the cubbies was the only place for it. Still, I like the small framed paper cuts, above the piano. And it was an inexpensive way to fill empty wall space with work I love and memories of a wonderful weekend in NYC with my brother.

“So live it well, make it count,
fill it up with you.
The day’s all yours, it’s waiting now …
See what you can do.” —Cynthia Rylant

Our Chandelier

I like Craigslist. A lot. I like it because it allows me to buy things I could otherwise not afford. I like it because it’s reusing and it’s a win-win situation: I’m helping the seller get something out of his house he no longer wants or needs and for a small price, I receive something I need or want. I like it because (thanks to a smartphone app) I can spend a minute or two a day quickly searching for one specific item (for example, “chandelier”) and, with patience, I’ll eventually stumble across the perfect one—no spending weekends at garage sales, no scouring furniture stores for sales.

Some of my best finds include a barely used 9×12 wool Pottery Barn rug for $80. A patio set (including a table, six chairs, umbrella stand, umbrella and six Pottery Barn cushions) for $50. A large Step2 outdoor play set (that had previously only been used indoors) for $30. These three things alone represent a couple $1,000 in savings. (The best finds, I’ve learned, come from wealthier people who are in the process of moving or who have just moved—they don’t care about how much money they are making from the sale, necessarily, rather they’re just grateful that you’re coming and getting it out of their house.)

But, perhaps, my favorite find is our entry chandelier:

According to the manufacture (I looked it up online, where it’s currently on sale for $1,250—but free shipping!): “Contemporary design fuses with historic craftsmanship in this amazing ball of light. The floral sphere is comprised of hand-formed, Murano glass petals mounted on individual arms, with simple spherical finials for the look of an illuminated hydrangea suspended in space.”

I love it.

We paid less than $200. But the low price came with, well, a price. A high-end lighting retail store was selling it. It was hanging up in their showroom. The ad on Craigslist mentioned that the buyer was responsible for taking the chandelier down and transporting it, and that the seller took no responsibility for broken glass.

I forwarded Andy the ad. Again and again and again until he finally agreed to go look at it with me simply so I would stop forwarding him Craigslist ads at work.

It was gorgeous. And big.

“It’s too big,” Andy said.

“I love it,” I said.

“It’s too big,” Andy said.

“I love it,” I said.

We agreed to buy it.

That was a Friday. The following Monday Andy’s alarm clock went off absurdly early. I shook him.

“You have to get up,” I said. “You have to dismantle my chandelier.”

The showroom opened at 6am. And closed at 5pm. Andy had to go before work to do this for me. He mumbled some words I couldn’t quite understand, gathered moving blankets, bins and tools, and left.

About two hours later Andy texted me something about leaving … it wasn’t clear if he was talking about the showroom or me. Turns out, to take down this chandelier, every single flower had to be unscrewed, wrapped and packed. And there are, I don’t know, close to 100 flowers. This, while standing on a very tall ladder.

Once home, Andy asked me to pick up the plastic bin full of Murano glass flowers. I could barely lift it. “No way our ceiling will support that,” he said.

“We can’t sell it!” I said. (I’ve been known to buy things on Craigslist, especially very large rugs, only to discover they don’t match/they don’t work/they don’t fit, which means immediately turning around and reselling it, a process Andy loves to hate.)

I reminded him that this, this one thing, I just really, really loved.

Reinforcing the ceiling required cutting a huge hole in the ceiling and doing I don’t know what to an electrical box that still had parts leftover from when our entry was lit by gas (we live in an old house).

This, of course, also took a very.long.time. Which I tried very.hard not to complain about, seeing as I was the one who was requiring the ceiling to be reinforced in the first place.

Eventually, we were able to install the new chandelier. We washed each glass flower. We spent two hours, together, screwing each one in. Ridiculous? Yes. But oh, look at the result!

I imagine many of you are thinking, Wow. I would never put that in my house. But to me, it’s so different. It’s like this huge glowing glass flower ball welcoming you to our home. And I like things that are different. I like that not every house has a huge glowing glass flower ball welcoming people into their home.

We have, however, discovered our huge glowing glass flower ball takes (20)40w T4 G9 120v Xenon light bulbs. I have no idea what all of those numbers mean except, according to Google, these light bulbs are not cheap. (Andy was thrilled with that discovery.)

Still, I love it.

“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.” —Oscar Wilde

An Afternoon In Sophie’s Bedroom

Dear Sophie,


I dreamt of days like these, before you were born. Days when gummy candy was served on fine china underneath a homemade fort with your favorite stuffed baby lamb as a guest.


Days when my childhood bear (made by my mom, your nini), was dressed in a dress you had outgrown and crowned while sitting in a perfectly royal, floral chair.


Days when a glance to your bookcase revealed so much love—a toy hand-painted by Grandpa, a glass jar filled with beach treasures made by Aunt Katy, a small snow globe to remind you of the city where Uncle Kyle once lived (and still visits, often), a book in French with your name as the title from Nini, and a starfish.


Days in which I noticed the chocolate kiss you must have given to your mama lamb after you had eaten a chocolate treat. The lamb, which Grandma gave to you when you were still so small your entire body fit upon my chest. The lamb, which you insist must always wear the wonderful, handmade bird Nini and Pop Pop bought for you in Italy.


Your blanket forts remind me of the one I used to make over and over at my old house, when I was just a little girl. We had concrete steps that led down to the lower level of our house. I would place an old towel over those steps, held in place by old bricks and rocks. And there I would hide my treasures—wild onion, dandelions, forsythia branches, pretty rocks, grass. Forts are good for hiding treasure. Of course, I think the forts I make today hold the best treasures I’ve ever owned.


This is my favorite picture of you and Zoey. Every time I look at it I first smile, remembering that afternoon, filled with bee’s wings, crowns, tall hats and wands. And then I remember that I’ve never taken the time to correctly put the photo in the frame, a task which simply requires a small screwdriver. Tasks like these never get done these days. Too much fort building, I suppose. The dried rose, by the way, was from a birthday bouquet.


The floral and crystal chandelier, fitting for our house—and you—was all thanks to a good deal I found on Zulily. It makes me smile every time I look at it.


Days when the rain falls hard and the wind rattles your bedroom windows are perfect for blanket forts held secure with a stack of well-loved picture books.


I hope I knew these days were coming on the nights when you wouldn’t sleep, when I couldn’t calm you. And I hope I remember these days fondly, when our relationship changes and a tea party with your mom is no longer your idea of fun.


I try to follow your stories, spoken aloud, when you play with your dollhouse. But often I become lost in their labyrinthine ways—your imagination is too much for my adult mind, I suppose.


Your grandma cross-stitched this quilt by hand for your dad, when he was a baby. I wonder if it will seem odd to have baby quilts and blankets draped around our house when you and your brothers are older—if so, I will surely miss them.


I loved my ballerina music box when I was a little girl—it was much like this one, with a small, plastic ballerina that twirled in front of a small, oval mirror. I wish I still had it. Even though I, perhaps, should discipline you when I hear it play long after you should be asleep, I don’t. Because I, too, remember slipping out of bed to turn the little key on my box. And some memories in the making don’t deserve to be scolded.


Although I’ve been tempted, many times, to paint your toenails (as I know you would love it, the way you always notice and compliment mine), I’m glad I haven’t yet. I’m glad these feet have only known soft rugs, grass, our cold hardwood floor, heater vents, sand, quilts, Nini and Pop Pop’s gravel driveway, warm knitted blankets, cool sheets. I like that the only glitter that has been slipped on them is from your red, glittered-cover shoes, the ones you insisted on wearing to preschool today. Your toes have many years of glitter ahead of them. For now, I think they’re beautiful, plain.


I bought this small, wooden doll for you in Spain. I was away from you for 10 days, which was both wonderful and awful. I know you don’t remember me giving you the doll but I love that she’s earned a place in your treasure chest—and sometimes, as shown here, in your bed.


This is my favorite picture of you and your cousin, Colleen, taken on our family vacation to the beach last summer. I have it tucked into the large, framed family tree that’s hanging above your dresser.


You love to take pictures of your small, plastic princess dolls with your Fisher-Price camera. I watch you, from your doorway, when you don’t notice me. I watch you, as you carefully arrange them on your small, floral chair, step back, take a picture, review the picture, scrunch your brow, rearrange the dolls, retake the picture, over and over and over. Are you going to be a photographer someday? You insisted I take a picture of you with one of your dolls, when I was pretending to be a photographer, this day.


May you find yourself this happy more days than not.


This is your Build-a-Bear, which you, obviously, picked out all on your own. It hurts my eyes to look at but you love it so in a weird sort of way, I have come to love it, too.


You keep your lavender (which you smell daily) from Nini on top of your treasure chest, which Grandma made for you. Although I don’t want you to know this yet, someday I hope you realize how lucky you are to experience such love from circles that extend into circles that extend into circles, all around you. Because so many children don’t get that. I hope you are someday grateful and, more importantly, provide that same sort of love for someone else someday, too.


This little rabbit has been in your bed since you received it, several holidays ago. Here it sits perched on the beautiful quilt Nini made for you. Sometimes, during hard nights when our family rearranges itself and everyone is in someone else’s bed, I wrap myself up in your quilt and sleep better, I swear.


May you find yourself pleasantly surprised, more days than not.


The giraffe is from Pop Pop (he loves giraffes, which you know). Piglet is from Aunt Lizzie. And the book is mine, from my parents, as it contains one of my favorite Little Bear stories—”Too Much Kissing.” My mom wrote in the inside cover that there’s no such thing as too much kissing. She’s right. (This is, in part, why I kiss you and your brothers so much.)


The Amish doll, whose apron and bonnet are misplaced, is from Nini. She sits perched in the bed I spent too long choosing for you, with a background of stripes painted for you by Paw Paw.

Even when those we love aren’t with us, or live far away, our lives are filled with their presence—and love. People say you shouldn’t put such emphasis on things, and I agree with that. But when so many things in your life are handmade or purchased by those you love, it’s hard not to. Everything in your room has a story, has thought behind it, has a purpose. Even the mundane, like the slip of cardboard still tucked into your not-yet-worn tights—its story is that my life is so busy I have not had time to remove it. Or the little ball of foil underneath your chair—its story is that you snuck some candy into your room and ate it when I wasn’t looking.

So maybe I don’t agree with not putting such emphasis on things, at least not entirely. Things tell stories, trigger memories, moments and, perhaps, most importantly, thoughts of people.

You are surrounded by love, Sophie, always. Maybe, years from now, when things are really tough (I hope they never will be but one cannot be human without having a things-are-really-tough life stage), you will read this. And, maybe, open an old box and turn a little key and watch a plastic ballerina twirl around. And you’ll remember that you are loved, then, now and always. And perhaps, that night, you will dream of a rainy afternoon spent indoors, under a homemade fort drinking pretend tea and eating gummy candy—just like I did, before you were born.

Speaking of love, all my love,

“Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit.” —Peter Ustinov

The Ocean in a Jar

When we arrived at our Ocean Isle beach house, my sister, Katy, gave each of the kids a Mason jar to fill with sand and shells. She decorated the lids of the jars and each jar had a tag around it that said, for example, “Owen’s First Beach Trip, Ocean Isle 2011.” I loved them. She is so creative like that.


Early August, while the boys were napping, Sophie and I decided to make all three ocean jars (the boys, sand, breakable jars and fragile shells do not mix—so we decided to make theirs for them, and then put them up high in their bedroom to enjoy from afar, until they’re older). First, we dumped all the shells on the kitchen table.


Next, Sophie filled the jars with sand.


Then she picked out the shells she wanted for each jar, and put them in. Although I wanted to, I stopped myself from telling her how much sand, which shells I thought were prettiest, and where and how I thought they should be placed. Rather, I let Sophie make them completely on her own. As such, she filled them so full with sand. And then she simply threw any old shells in, not caring if they were upside down or right side up. Some, she even buried. But they are hers. And her brothers. And she loves them. And I’ve always told myself that if my children want to color outside the lines, I will let them.

You can see the finished ocean jars above. Also, this is what our kitchen table looks like on a daily basis—a basket overflowing with art supplies, rolled craft paper, Alphie, a plastic bowl full of paint, a glass of water with Queen Anne’s Lace in it, a glass bowl with two Impatiens in it (Sophie loves to pick flowers and give them to us as gifts), the ocean jars and a big glass bowl filled with the extra shells.

I love a beautifully decorated table. If I had the money, I’d have a vase overflowing with fresh flowers on my dining room table always. And I’d throw dinner parties, often, ones that allowed me to do clever things with place settings and the centerpiece. But lately, I’ve been finding just as much joy in a hand-turned wooden bowl filled with clementines (which Sophie eats at least four of daily, now that she can peel them herself) on our formal dining room table. And I absolutely love the mess of our kitchen table. Especially because it’s not a mess of bills or freelance work or dirty dishes. Rather, it’s a mess of art and creativity and play. And I may not have believed this about me five years ago but these days, I’d pick a tiny glass bowl with two floating Impatiens in it, picked by the daughter I love, over a big bouquet any day.

Thank you, Aunt Katy, for the ocean jars. We had so much fun finding the shells and making the jars, and they’re a keepsake I know the kids will love, always.

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.” —Anne Morrow Lindbergh

A Handmade Puppet Theater

In April we had another, small birthday celebration for Sophie at my parents’ house, as they were unable to join us on her actual birthday because they were in North Carolina, where my sister and her husband were welcoming their new baby into this world.

My mom and dad had cooked Sophie’s favorite foods, and my mom had set the table with all her Beatrix Potter china—including chocolate milk in a little china teapot.
After dinner—and cookies from BonBonerie—Sophie opened her gift from Nini and Pop Pop …
Sophie's Birthday at Nini and Pop Pop April 9, 2011 007
a handmade puppet theater!


My mom designed it so that it fits a doorway perfectly, with the help of tension rod. For now we use binder clips to fold the bottom up so that the opening is Sophie’s height—but as she grows, the theater will grow with her.


We most often use it in the doorway between our entry way and the writing nook.


When not in use, you simply roll the theater up and put it in its matching bag (which my mom also made). My parents bought Sophie a sewing box and filled it with handmade alphabet puppets leftover from my mom’s kindergarten teaching days. (I think my favorite is “T,” the turkey, who is wearing a tutu.)


Lately, every night in the half hour or so before baths and bedtime, Sophie gives us a show. (Or, more specifically, 26 shows.) Sometimes they’re dress-up shows, sometimes puppet shows. Regardless, the boys love it. Owen, especially. He claps at every “ta-da.”

“The theater is so endlessly fascinating because it’s so accidental. It’s so much like life.” —Arthur Miller

Library Book Bags


Speaking of libraries, my mom made these fantastic library book bags for the kids for Easter this year. Sophie’s has Olivia (one of her favorite book characters) on it, while the boys’ bags have Dr. Seuss‘s Thing 1 and Thing 2. James’s bag is the middle one—to reflect his content-to-sit-quietly-and-think personality. Owen’s is the one on the right—to reflect his love of climbing.


The kids love them and the Olivia bag already has made a trip to the library (and probably is due back for another one—I’m pretty sure Sophie believes you have to pay to use the library, the way I am with getting our books back on time).

The library, though, is one of Sophie’s favorite places to visit—and hopefully, it will be the same for Owen and James, too. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” —Cicero

Beauty Found While Mashing Avocado


This past Christmas my parents gave my sister, brother and I each a handmade mortar and pestle, which they found at a little store called L’autedu during a recent visit to Cinque Terre, Italy. Andy and I spent a couple days in Cinque Terre on our honeymoon. Five villages hug a terraced coastline along northern Italy’s Riviera and it’s, by far, one of my most favorite places in the world.

It wasn’t until I graduated from college that I truly started to appreciate the handmade. Working as an editor at Popular Woodworking Magazine cemented my belief that a beautifully handmade item bought once in a lifetime, although more expensive, is, in the long run, worth much more than a similar item that’s mass-produced and of lesser quality. Yes, mass-produced is cheaper. But if you have to buy four dressers in your lifetime because the first three eventually wear out, is it, truly, cheaper?

Of course, I, unfortunately, don’t have the financial means to fill my house with patiently handcrafted pretty things. But, I try. I save up to buy things (the Target dressers Andy and I have in our bedroom are falling apart yet I’d much rather have two antique or handmade pieces 10 years from now versus replacement particleboard ones now). I opt for antique instead of new (we found Sophie a beautiful, dovetailed antique dresser for the same cost as a fiberboard one from Ikea). I’m constantly on Craigslist (our crib, changing table, dining room wool rug and living room couch are all items I could never, ever afford in the stores they came from but through luck and time I found them slightly used and greatly reduced in price on this great site). And, like the mortar and pestle shown here, I have been blessed with many gifts. Some are from stores. Others, including quilts and blankets and hand-turned salad bowls and necklaces and earrings and dresses and artwork and bibs and burp cloths and jewelry boxes and tool chests, have been made by people I respect and love.

I strive to not put much emphasis on things in my life. But at the same time, I love how a small thing of beauty can make the mundane act of mashing avocado for the boys’ dinner so much more enjoyable. I love how an object can take my mind from the kitchen to a place I think of often. I long to go back to Cinque Terre someday. And so moments like this, when my memory fills with the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of the Five Lands, help satisfy those longings, even if for just a few seconds.

I could go on and on about this topic. The environmental and financial soundness of buying less by buying better quality. The importance of surrounding one’s self with beauty. The importance of supporting craft. And yet, I’m also embarrassed by this topic as I’m not a craftsman. I’ve tried sewing (I got a “B” on a stuffed bunny in 7th grade Home Economics because somehow I lost my needle inside of it). I’ve tried woodworking (with great, great help I’ve built an Arts & Crafts bookshelf, a Windsor chair and a Shaker end table but I never felt fully comfortable with the tools and I never felt like it was something I wanted to do on my days off). I’ve tried card making (my sister puts me to shame). I’m in awe of people like my mom who grows her own lavender, finds gorgeous antique linen and can put together a beautiful scented satchel in an afternoon. Or my mother-in-law who can take a handful of gorgeous beads and string them together into a small work of art you can wear around your neck. I suppose writing is a craft. But it’s not a tangible one. You can’t mash avocados with it. But I guess you can be taken back to a cobblestone street lined with colorful doors and laundry hanging from every window, the smell of homemade pesto, lingering, in the act of it. But still, you can’t hold it.

Maybe someday, when the kids are all in school and the February days seem long, I’ll find a craft I love and can excel at. Until then, I’ll simply appreciate those who have already found their calling while tossing salad in our hand-turned bowl, watching a movie while cuddled under a hand-knit blanket or mashing avocado in a handmade mortar and pestle bought in one of my most favorite places in the world.

“There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey.” –John Ruskin