cinnamonwalnutpancakes

I’m not sure why a pancake recipe feels like the best thing to accompany a quick update on Brad’s health. Maybe because every morning when we’re just waking up, still in bed, one of us will always ask, “What do you want for breakfast?” And if I ask Brad, he’ll almost always say, “Pancakes.” (If he doesn’t say pancakes, it’s only because he said “sourdough toast” or “doughnuts” instead.) So in my mind, Brad = pancakes.

January is always a weird month for us. It was January seven years ago that Brad felt the pop in his knee that started the severe onset of his symptoms. We can’t help ourselves: Every January we take stock of how far we’ve come since 2008. And in terms of how Brad feels day to day, the answer is not far. His knees are still very swollen, all his joints now ache and get stiff, his energy comes and goes, and he can’t control his body heat very well. But–and this is a huge, hopeful but–we feel like we know more now about what’s going on inside him than we ever have before. We’re working with extraordinary, curious doctors. We’ve found new ways to measure what’s happening in Brad’s body. (You can read his very organized and scientific update at his blog here.) And we even have some new, very exciting treatments on the horizon. It’s called low-dose antigen therapy and I would explain it to you except I’m not sure exactly how it works yet. All I know is that a few Lyme patients treated this way have reported 40 percent reduction of symptoms after the first treatment, with near or complete cessation for subsequent treatments. To that I say YES. And also LET’S EAT PANCAKES TO CELEBRATE.

cinnamon pecan pancakes (gluten-free)
makes, I don’t know, 12 fist-sized pancakes? Is measuring pancakes with your fist an acceptable thing?

I had cinnamon bread on the brain the morning I made these. I was aiming for pockets of sweet, spicy, crunchy goodness in the pancakes, and this hit the spot. Come visit me and I will make these for you.

1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
4 tablespoons maple syrup, divided
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste OR 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup almond milk or coconut milk
1 cup brown rice flour
2/3 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a small saucepan, heat the walnuts, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, and cinnamon over medium heat until the syrup is thin and bubbly, and it coats the nuts. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the remaining maple syrup, the vanilla bean paste or vanilla, and the milk.

In a small bowl, combine both flours with the baking powder and sea salt.

Begin heating a pan or griddle at this point. I use a cast-iron pan on just above medium heat with a little bit of coconut oil melted in it.

Dump into the wet ingredients and stir just until moistened. Add the nut mixture and stir until combined.

Spoon the pancake batter into the pan (I use my regular soup spoons and usually use 1-1/2 spoons of batter per pancake. Obviously, I’m very official about this whole process). Cook until the edges look dry and the center is bubbling. The bottom of the cake should be golden brown, but sometimes it won’t be depending on how much oil is in the pan. Regardless of the color of your bottom (ahem), flip the pancake! Cook it for another 30 seconds or so on that side.

Serve hot with maple syrup, extra cinnamon, and more pecans.

berry-glazed donuts

Monday at work, I rushed into my editor’s office and complained about a frightful person who figures heavily on my workload this year. Full of panic, I whispered, “I’m not sure how to say this, but they might have to choose between her or me.”

Later, I stopped her in the hallway to apologize for being so melodramatic. She laughed and said, “No, I loved it! She’s actually human, I thought!”

First, thank God for bosses who are kind and understanding and laugh things off. Second, “actually human”? I keep thinking about that and wondering what impression I’m giving. I promise you, I am fully human:

I gave my boss a childish ultimatum on Monday.

I went home and had a glass of wine after that.

I accidentally got paint on a new sweater last week and I haven’t wanted to cry so hard since we said goodbye to family over Christmas.

There is a giant pile of clothes on my dresser that aren’t yet dirty enough to launder but putting them away feels like way too much work.

I gave major side eye to a woman on the train whose hunter green coat looked horrible with her lime green tights.

I’ve been slowly eating my way through 1/3 of a bag of chocolate chips.

I love doughnuts.

Specifically, I love these doughnuts. I made them Sunday morning (after the paint got on my sweater, but before the dramz at work). Brad took a bite and said, “Now I know what heaven tastes like.” I’m not so superhuman that it didn’t make me grin with pride.

These doughnuts are caramel-y from the coconut sugar and vanilla bean paste, light from the mix of gluten-free flours, and, well, heavenly from the jammy glaze I spread on top. The whole thing is cobbled together, borrowing the base from Shanna, the flour mix from a book recommended by our food editor at work, and the glaze is adapted from another cookbook I baked out of earlier in the week, but the result is one of the happiest surprises to come out of our kitchen in a bit.

Get while the getting is good–it’s only human.

berry-glazed doughnuts (gluten-free)
makes 10 doughnuts, plus 2-1/2 cups sauce
adapted from Food Loves Writing, Zoe Nathan, and Catherine Ruehle

Life changed for the better when we bought a doughnut pan. Baking doughnuts is easier than making pancakes. These come out of the pan easily when they’re still warm, less so when they’re cold. Not that you’d just leave them sitting around, but just in case. 

gluten-free all-purpose flour mix:
2-3/4 cups/430 g brown rice flour
1-3/4 cups/430 g oat flour
1-3/4 cups/230 g potato starch
1/2 cup/90 g cornmeal (I pulsed mine in my blender to get a finer grain)

doughnut:
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened
1 egg
3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup almond milk + 1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour mix (recipe below)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

berry-cherry sauce:
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen antioxidant berry mix (mine featured lots of cherries, but whatever you have will work)
3 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 tablespoon water

First, mix up the flour mix by whisking all the ingredients together in a large bowl. It will make way more than you need for this recipe, but I like it for other things too. Warning: It does make baked goods super tender, but it held up well here. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Then, start the glaze: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine all the ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes or until the sugar melts to form a thick syrup with the fruit juices and you can easily mash the berries with a spoon. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Cool completely, then pour into an airtight container and refrigerate.

Finally, make the doughnuts: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease the doughnut pan with coconut oil (or whatever). In a large bowl, cream the coconut sugar and coconut oil. Add the egg, the water, and the almond milk and vinegar, and vanilla bean paste. Mix until combined. In a small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the doughnut pan, not quite filling each cup. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until the doughnuts feel firm to the touch.

Remove them from the pan, then spoon the glaze over them just before serving. Honestly, I don’t know how long they last because we ate them all in about 15 hours. I’m not ashamed.

 

 

 

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My aunt chastised me over Christmas for not posting more (Hi Auntie!!!), so this is my promise to her that more is coming.

In the meantime, I think these ideas are so interesting.

// My friend, interior designer Brian Paquette, talks in this interview about how every Friday is an “input day” for his office. They do things that feed them creatively: Read, go on walks, visit galleries, have companies come show them new products. I’d like to formalize this in my weekly routine, but I’m not sure where to start.

// This woman also likes to read, make lists, and get rid of things (we might be the same person), so when she recommended Into Mind as a helpful resource for simplifying your life, I clicked in and am still reading.

// “That’s not journalism, that’s copywriting. It’s advertising! To say that no journalist can finance his or her work through readers paying for it is an astonishing indictment of journalism and a lack of confidence in the whole enterprise.”

// The Lone Bellow’s new album just came out. If I were cool, I’d say it dropped. I’m not cool. As I said on Twitter earlier this week, Watch Over Us is my perfect song.

// Finally, we’ve been eating this Lentil and Sausage Soup lately (we used organic chicken sausage) and surprised ourselves by liking this Peanut Pumpkin Stew (we used almond butter).

P.S. I put some books on hold at the library and like a fool, I thought they’d trickle in one by one. They’re all here. Lend me your eyes, friends! I can’t do this alone!

 

 

Where do I start? I have the entire back half of 2014 to share with you. All its trips, its visits, its everyday questions and answers, its food.

But that takes time and right now I should be writing about wool insulation, not plumbing my brain for you. So instead I’ll jot down a few sentences from Marilynne Robinson’s new book.

Doll would be glad to see her no matter what. Ugly old Doll. Who had said to her, Live. Not once, but every time she washed and mended for her, mothered her as if she were a child someone could want.

That last phrase almost had me crying on Caltrain. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I want to mother every child, I want all children to feel they are wanted and worthy of being wanted. Sometimes friends ask us if we would ever adopt (this is chatter with friends, not an announcement) and I’ll usually say, “Yes.” And Brad says, “Yes.” And the friend will say, “Like, international? Domestic?” And at the same time I say, “All of them, all of the children,” Brad will say, “She wants all of them, all of the children.” We all laugh, because it’s an outrageous truth.

Or maybe it’s because two weeks ago we flew back here after visiting family where I saw my sister and brother-in-law and Brad’s siblings in the midst of their child-raising. There’s nothing romantic or dramatic about picking out leggings for little girls or hunting down the missing Lego piece. And yet, there is. And both our families do it so well, with so much wanting their children. It was beautiful.

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Last year I committed to slowing down my reading. To sip instead of gulp. To relish instead of gorge.

Reverse psychology must work for me because I think I read more in 2014 than the year before, just without the stress of trying to cross a finish line.

I read a lot of losers this year (you can see them all on my Goodreads list here), but there were 10 that stood out as exceptional–books I’ll either read again and again (see number one) or books I never want to see again but definitely made me think (see number eight).

Here’s my list, with some reviews copped from my Goodreads. Do me a solid and tell me your favorite books you read in 2014!

10. What Happened to Sophie Wilder Ambitious in a quiet way–about faith, about motivation, about where those things get complicated, about who gets to write the ending. I hope this author writes more fiction soon.

9. Ahab’s Wife This book was so rich and occasionally weird and always epic. I haven’t read Moby Dick (I KNOW), so this book was a complete surprise to me. But even if you have read Moby Dick, this only glances at Ahab’s story. It’s not fanfic. It stands alone. And the sentences are often beautiful. BONUS: Longbourne was another good read set in another novel’s universe. For Jane Austen fans, it’s worth it.

8. The Circle If you read my review of this book earlier this year, you might be shocked to see it on this list. But even though the mechanics of the story aggravated me, it made me think harder than any book I read this year. And I read a lot of thinking books this year. In case you’re wondering if time has softened the paranoia this book brought on, it has not.

7. Still Writing I finished reading this in a tea shop in Bozeman, Montana, where my sister had sent me with $5 for a drink and a nudge to write. Maybe she didn’t say it out loud, but she’s so supportive of my dreams and my writing, I knew it was implied. This book is full of practical help (“It’s impossible to evoke an entire world at the start. But it is possible to describe a crack in the sidewalk, the scuffed heel of a shoe. And that sidewalk crack or scuffed heel can be the point of entry, like a pinhole of light, to a story, a character, a universe.”) and the sort of gentle, understanding inspiration I need (“It is the job of the writer to say, look at that.” and “Everything we ever write will be flawed.”). BONUS: Jill also gave me The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane as part of my tea shop care package, and that story is a sweet, emotional one. It’s for kids, but read it anyway.

6. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage Some writing professor of mine in college spent a bunch of time in our first class explaining how “essay” was a verb meaning “to attempt.” He explained them as exercises in explanation, in form, in cleverness. His class was super boring and it made me stay away from essays for a while. I’ve just recently essayed reading them again this year. (See what I did there?) Ann Patchett is exquisite. This is required reading. That is all.

5. Cutting for Stone Wow, wow, wow. While writing this review I just remembered the slow gut-punch at the end of this book. It was so good. This is a family story set in Ethiopa and New York. I talked to a friend who also read this book and she said, “It’s funny, I don’t remember all the details of the plot, but I can still see it all in my head.” That’s how I feel about Missing Hospital, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, and the ad hoc family at the center of this drama. It’s cinematic. BUT FIRST: Make sure you have a source for good Ethiopian food before reading this. You’re going to need it.

4. Bel Canto Ann Patchett again. I know this plot seems a little weird: Opera singer, superfan, and assorted others get taken hostage in a house by terrorists in some Pacific island country. With lots of spare time, they learn about one another. That’s really it. But the characters and the relationships are so detailed, and her writing is so beautiful, I was endlessly interested in this book. When I finished, I just looked at the cover and wondered how she did it. I don’t hand out a lot of five-star reviews on Goodreads, but this got one.

3. The Giver Can you believe I never read this as a kid? Reading it as an adult was sobering. It’s thought-provoking, horrifying, and hopeful. It’s not just good, it’s important.

2. Unbroken The scope of Louis Zamperini’s suffering–and that of all WWII vets in the Pacific theater—astonished me. Read this, read this, read this. Not because you want to know suffering but because you want to know redemption.

1. When I was a Child I Read Books There is an essay in here about Moses, the Law, and modern-day liberalness that is changing my life. Still. I read it, I bought it, I will read it again and again. I hope it continues to sharpen me.

Honorary Mention: The Wheel by Wendell Berry. YES, POETRY. I don’t know myself anymore, either.

 

For everyone whose Christmas holds both joy and pain, who celebrates with sadness on the edges, and for whom the waiting and wanting is more present than content and satisfaction, this carol is for you.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
their old, familiar carols play
and wild and sweet
the words repeat
of peace on earth, good will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
the belfries of all Christendom
had rolled along
the unbroken song
of peace on earth, good will to men!

And in despair, I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
and mocks the song
of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor does He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
with peace on earth, good will to men.”

May you hear the bells and have a merry Christmas.

Love,
Joanna

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Happy fall from the land of endless sunshine (unless it’s foggy) and relentless 75-degree weather!

This is that time of year when I’m jealous of all of you who don’t live where the weather is always awesome. Because “always awesome” means “always the same.” Even though the temperatures drop more at night and there’s a slight chill in the air, it’s still in the 70s most days. Here’s the nut: It’s not cold enough for hot chocolate. Send your pity and that blizzard breeze to me at 123 I Can’t Believe She’s Complaining, CA. Do not send it to my husband. He’s never been happier, meteorologically speaking.

This weekend I pretended it was cold by making molasses cookies and drinking tea while curled up under a woolen blanket. And actually, it was a little cold in our apartment this weekend because the windows were wide open.

Before I tell you why, can we agree to separate what you see in the picture above from what I’m about to tell you? Good.

They were open because a kind plumber named Cesar and our kind landlord were passing tools through the window while hard at work lifting our toilet off its setting in an attempt to resolve a long-standing plumbing problem. How bad a problem, you ask? Let’s just say we’ve become intimate with our neighbors in a way we never wanted nor dreamt possible.

There is no way to transition from that to these cookies, so let’s just dive right in.

Brad and I completed our one-month kidney cleanse and it was awesome. I usually suffer through cleanses kind of like I’m suffering through this warm fall. But this time I noticed a major difference in my energy levels, the consistency of my concentration, how alert I felt when I woke up, and my stress levels. Now we’re gradually re-introducing the foods we cut out to see how our bodies feel. So far eggs = awesome, oats = bloating, and salmon = thank God we’re eating meat again.

This weekend we introduced gluten again, but wanted to do it gently, so we chose einkorn flour. Our friends Tim and Shanna have posted a wealth of information about einkorn on their blog, and their cookbook, The Einkorn Cookbook, is coming out in December. Pre-order yours, folks, it’s gonna be good. Basically, einkorn is an ancient wheat form with less gluten than conventional wheat. We first made pancakes with it. (If you’re keeping track, pancakes = wonderful.) Then, I got excited to bake again and made these cookies. They’re soft and cakey, and an excuse to eat the molasses my doctor literally just prescribed, like on my care plan prescribed, me to eat more of.

einkorn molasses cookies
makes 2 dozen cookies
adapted from Deliciously Organic

I didn’t roll our cookies in sugar because we’re still limiting our sweets. But you’re welcome to do so before baking. 

2-1/2 cups einkorn flour
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/3 cup raw honey
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the wet ingredients and stir until completely mixed and the dough is stiff. Let sit for five minutes while you line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop up about 1-1/2 tablespoons of dough, roll into a ball with your hand, and place on the parchment. Repeat for all. Press with a fork or with your fingers (that’s what I did–those finger imprints just prove they’re homemade) to flatten slightly. Bake for 10 minutes.

 

el plato

Before we moved to California, Brad and I talked about one day visiting Los Angeles and one day driving Highway One and one day going to wine country and one day living near an ocean. I filed these trips and experiences under Nice Things Other People Have the Time and Money to Do. Then we moved here. Now I’m dumbstruck that we can live our bucket list. (Like cutting out of work early in the middle of the week to drive to Napa for dinner and a Lone Bellow concert. Amazing!)

Moving here and living here still seems like something so big, so outside what we could have accomplished ourselves that all of it still seems like a gift. Some days I want to give the gift back. Mostly on Giants game days when very drunk, very vocal, and very smelly people fill the commuter train I take. But virtually every other day I realize that this job that brought us out here is a gift. This work project in LA that paid for a night in a hotel and our miles to go down is a gift. The best way I know how to say thank you to the God who brought us here is to show him how much I’m enjoying this great gift he’s given us.

Where does that lead us? Well, it leads us to the West Hollywood outpost of Gracias Madre, a vegan Mexican restaurant. We’ve been to their San Francisco location and were really impressed with how they made a plate of all veggies, rice, beans, and nuts taste so full of flavor and have so many textures. In LA this summer, four women at the table next to us were slamming margaritas, but we contented ourselves with this plate of yum. It’s roasted butternut squash, chorizo mushrooms, escabeche (I learned that’s basically pickled carrots and peppers), served with rice and beans and topped with cashew “cheese,” cilantro pesto, and pico de gallo. For those of you who remember my hummus plate, you already know I like meals that are basically a giant tray of condiments and encourage a little messiness. This is that.

Brad requested I make it while we’re on this cleanse (no meat, no gluten, no dairy, no alcohol, no caffeine, no sugars). Yes, it’s about one hour of hands-on time and the ingredient list seems long. But none of it is hard and each part comes together quickly, so you don’t even think about how crazy it is that you’re making no less than seven things from scratch for one meal.

Recipe and photos from our trip to LA below.
IMG_1730Happy at Manhattan Beach.

IMG_8823My man on the Man(hattan) pier.

IMG_1747The observatory was stunning. A few of the doors were painted jade green; that against the creamy white was so beautiful.

IMG_8832Some locals told us we had to go to Griffith Park Observatory to see a city institution, catch a glimpse of the Hollywood sign and see the whole valley. I’m so glad we took their advice. The observatory was stunning.

IMG_8839We are huge dorks who wanted to make sure no one missed the Hollywood sign. See also the photo below.

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el plato
makes 4-6 servings, depending on how you divide up the goods

Based off the entree on the menu at Gracias Madre.

for roasted squash:
one butternut squash

for rice:
1-1/2 cups rice
4 cups water
salt

for escabeche (barely adapted from here):
3/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon honey OR one dropperful liquid stevia (I used stevia)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 carrots, thinly sliced or diced in a food processor (I recommend this. It took me forever to slice)
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, halved

for cashew cheese (adapted from here):
1 cup raw cashews soaked overnight or for at least one hour
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
a splash of raw apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
sea salt and pepper

for cilantro pesto:
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 clove garlic
juice from one lemon
about 3 tablespoons olive oil
salt

for pico de gallo:
four large fresh tomatoes
1/2 red onion
1 clove garlic
a handful of cilantro
juice from one lime
splash of raw apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
1/2 jalapeno (optional)

for black beans:
2 cans (or 4 cups) cooked black beans
sea salt

for mushroom chorizo (adapted from here):
8 oz. mushrooms, diced
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

corn tortillas (optional)

PLAN OF ATTACK: Start with the squash. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, then place the halves cut side down in one inch of water in a glass 9″x13″ pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until soft.

While the squash is baking, cook the rice. Add the rice, water, and salt to a pot and bring to a boil, uncovered. Let boil softly for 30 minutes. Drain the rice and put it back in the pot and let it sit, covered, with no heat for 10 minutes to steam.

While the rice is boiling, tackle the escabeche. Place the vinegar, salt, stevia or honey, oregano, and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan and bring to boil. Add remaining ingredients and cook for 3-4 minutes or until soft. (If you like your veggies a little more crisp, cook for only 2 minutes. We needed softer for Brad’s jaw). I strongly suggest using a food processor for the carrots, by the way. I labored way too long with my crappy knife and crappy knife skills to produce the toothpicks you see in the photo above. Not really worth it. ANYWAY. Once the veggies are cooked to your liking, pour the whole mixture into a bowl and let cool. If you make this a few days ahead, keep it in the refrigerator to ripen.

Next, the cashew cheese, which couldn’t be easier: Put everything in a Vitamix or food processor and blend until smooth.

Whiz together the cilantro pesto by putting everything in a Vitamix or food processor and blending until the herbs and garlic are finely chopped. (I didn’t clean out my vitamix between the cashews and the pesto, but you do you.)

At this point, my rice was done and steaming and I just left it covered. My squash was out of the oven and cooling until I could touch it without burning myself. So I forged ahead, well, actually Brad did, with pico. Add all ingredients except one tomato to a Vitamix or food processor and blend in bursts until relatively smooth. Dice the remaining tomato finely and stir in.

Heat the black beans (rinse them thoroughly if you’re using canned) by placing in a pan with a little salt. I left these slightly bland to contrast the other strong flavors on the plate. Remove to a bowl.

Make the chorizo mushrooms in the same pan: Cook the mushrooms over medium heat until they start to express water and are halfway cooked. Add the remaining ingredients and saute until cooked through.

Heat tortillas using method of your choice (I use a toaster oven).

ASSEMBLE: Put slices of peeled butternut squash on a plate. Surround with a spoonful each of rice and beans. Add the remaining toppings to your taste. Spoon into tortillas if you like. Though honestly, after taking the picture above, we forgot about the tortillas and just ate the whole thing with a fork and it was awesome.

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Early June: We tasted at the Chateau Montelena, whose Chardonnay beat French white wines in an international blind tasting. That’s when California wine started to sit at the grown-up table. And this little day trip we took with Brad’s aunt, uncle, cousin and his wife, and uncle-in-law and his wife, is when I realized I could easily take to the good life.
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June: My parents came to visit! This week was my happiest since we’ve moved here. We did so much and my mom wrote each day’s agenda down in a little notebook because she is the cutest that way.

 

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June: All of us at Muir Woods. This is also the week I found out my parents are suddenly obsessed with trees. They stopped to stare at different trees up and down our block, all through Muir Woods, and anywhere else we went. I don’t remember them doing this when I was young. Or heck, even 18 months ago when we lived in the same state.

 

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June: Mom, Dad, and Brad: Greatest Hits. Album art shot at Quivira Winery.

 

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June: The ocean makes even my freakishly huge father look small.

 

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June: Pomponio beach.

 

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June: My little mama on the beach.

 

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July: Friends of ours from Des Moines drove through San Francisco when they moved back to Portland. This is their daughter, who fell in love with me and I with her. It’s a shame she often preferred walking because I could have held her the entire time they were here.

 

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July: I guess she’s pretty darling walking, too.

 

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July: Oana, Elsie, Andrew, and Brad: Greatest Hits, Vol II. Album art shot near Lombard Street.

 

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July: Then THESE little edible nephews came to town. The way Brad loves them and the way they adore him makes my stomach flip. Three of my favorites in this shot here.

 

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July: Before we moved, Max made a book of famous sights in San Francisco for us so we would know what to expect when we got here. Two days before we left, he read it to us while I sobbed. We pulled it back out this summer so he could mug with it when we took him to all the spots he wrote about it.

 

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July: And Harry, what a crackup. While sitting in this booth at lunchtime, Harry began a campaign of charming the waitress. The second she walked up to the table to greet us, he sat up straight and announced, “I’LL HAVE THE CHEESEBURGER!” After we finished our meal, she came by to check on us and he stood on the seat and said, “WE ARE READY TO LEAVE.” Let’s take him everywhere.

 

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July: This beauty is my littlest sister’s best friend, so she’s like my little sister. She and her husband were touring Cali and we met for a few great hours at a coffee shop in Mill Valley to hug and smile and talk and laugh at how different we are. I love her. (Aubrey, move here, mean it!)

Not pictured: All the hard and boring stuff.

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Hi, my name is Joanna. I write this blog, in case you forgot. (I almost forgot.)

I have old news from early summer plus new news from now-ish to share before moving on to…other old things I still want to think about and write about. This is the result of being a long processor. Something happens, but I don’t really understand what happened until three months later when I’ve had time to put the thing in proper context. Indulge me while I get it out of my system:

// Old news: The Casual Vacancy is not a good book. In fact, I didn’t cross the finish line on this one even though I was at an airport for four hours by myself with only the book to comfort me. It was that bad. Putting aside the is-it-there-is-it-not plot, I think J.K. Rowling tried way too hard to remind us this is an Adult book for Adults who are not teens who like magic but Adults who like real Adult things. Her tools were swearing, vulgar language, so much sex, and the most despondent cast of characters. New news: Winter’s Tale also belongs in the category of bad books that were my only consolation at an airport. That is 700+ pages of WHAT?

// Old news: I continue to love virtually every retelling of Pride and Prejudice and Emma I encounter. This time, it’s the Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved, both made-for-YouTube web shows that coincide with real-time social media posts by the characters. The episodes are short, the adaptation of each is creative, and if you need any other reason to start watching them immediately I give you these two words: Darcy. Knightley. New news: Austenland. A hillarible movie (and book) I can’t wait to watch again with my friend over Skype while we drink wine and reminisce about when we were young and silly romantics, then laugh about how we haven’t changed at all. If you need any other reason to watch it immediately, I give you these two words: Basically Darcy.

// Old news: We’ve been eating gluten- and cow-dairy-free the last six or so weeks and I have some yummy recipes to share as soon as I resign myself again to being a horrible iPhone food photographer. New news: Today is the third day of a 30-day kidney cleanse. On Sunday, we begin the “juice feast” portion of the cleanse. Garlic juice, y’all. Pray for me.