An Afternoon with Nest and Ugly Fish

I’m not going to lie to you–this book is not nearly as scary as the cover makes it seem.

Ropes training for camp starts next week, so I’m doing my best to wring every drop of summer freedom from the unscheduled weekdays until then.  Yesterday, Nest had the day off from the art supply store, so we tried to cram as many favorite activities into our Wednesday as possible.

The full spread! I read every single one. Good thing I studied literature for 6 years, or I might not have been able to do that.

We started the day with a hike through the Pogonip, which is not only a fun word to say, but a gorgeous place to explore.  Then we ambled downtown for one of our most favorite traditions, which can be accomplished in just 5 easy steps:

  1. Go to the Santa Cruz public library, central branch. Go directly up the stairs, past the origami paper cranes and “READING IS FUN!” banner.
  2. Plant yourself among the picture books.
  3. Pull every interesting book off the shelves.  Check them all out.
  4. Gather the necessary treats for a warm weather picnic—think rose lemonade and sarsaparilla in glass bottles, fresh veggie sandwiches, salt & vinegar chips, and dark chocolate squares.
  5. Find a sunny spot, breathe deeply, and get to readin’ and eatin’.

Nest, captured mid-bite!

I don’t remember how many years we’ve been doing this, but a day spent reading children’s books in the sun is never less than fantastic.  We reread old favorites like Yummers! by James Marshall and the Martha Speaks series, and discovered new gems like Kara LaReau’s surprising Ugly Fish and the beautifully illustrated Salmon Creek by Annette LeBox.  LeBox’s book might have been the hit of the afternoon.  Nest and I are strangely obsessed with salmon and we were both as enthralled with Salmon Creek as kindergarteners during storytime.

Nest with Salmon Creek. Spoiler alert: the salmon do a LOT of swimming.

What are your favorite children’s books?  When was the last time you read An Extraordinary Egg by Leo Lionni?  Aren’t public libraries the greatest places on the planet?

Another reason that Nest and I have been friends since 2nd grade: we both celebrate Halloween multiple times a year.

Nest’s perfect thrifted bag and a sammie from Zocc’s.

Retro Style: Donuts & Knee Socks

During my last jaunt through the family photo albums, I came across a picture of my mom that I knew I would have to bring to the attention of the internet.  The photo, taken when she was 14, perfectly captures a moment of awkward adolescence.  Her vaguely irritated expression and lackluster pose both say the same thing: “I don’t want to be in a picture right now.”  We probably all would have liked the absence of cameras in our 14th and 15th years, but I’m glad this picture exists.

My mom, already a veteran of the working world at 14. It’s as if she already knew her future children would need her to pay for braces.

The orange shift dress is actually a uniform for an Illinois donut joint.  I’m going to happily assume that the knee socks were my mom’s own sartorial flair, because knee socks are among my favorite things and I like the idea that I’ve inherited my affection for them.  The sneakers show that my mom was smart young lass—you don’t wanna work an 8 hour shift at a donut place in cute platforms. You need squeaky tennis shoes to effectively run batches of glazed d-holes over to starving customers.

I cheated a little by not traveling to Illinois for the correct backdrop.

Because I’m endlessly delighted by recreated photos and attempts at modern retro style, I decided to try to make a 2012 Donut Job portrait, with me in my mom’s role.  I already had the knee socks, but I had to borrow white sneaks and a collared white shirt.  The hardest part was mimicking 14 year old Mom’s slightly surly expression…luckily, my own teen angst is barely latent, and I was able to tap into it.

This picture is great, because it looks like I’m dancing, which I don’t, and can’t, do. At all. But now I can carry this picture in my wallet and pull it out as false proof that I have rhythm.

I’m hoping to try more of these this summer.  Thanks to my mom for today’s inspiration and photography.  And thanks for saving those donut dollars so that I could go to college.

For more photo recreations, click this and watch this:

Summer Reading: Dear Diary

Just to show you that I don’t automatically love everything I read, I present today’s book: Dear Diary by Lesley Arfin.  Dear Diary is a nonfiction book with an amazing premise, which is that Arfin posts excerpts from the journals she’s been keeping since childhood and follows up on the things she wrote about years ago.  Looking back on adolescent experiences through adult eyes is guaranteed to provide hilarity and insight, and Arfin’s wild-child past gives her a lot to work with.

This cover makes the book an awkward pick for public reading.

Dear Diary is definitely entertaining.  There’s a voyeuristic pleasure in reading someone else’s diary, and it’s supremely satisfying to read Arfin’s adult interviews with the people who loomed so large in her childhood and adolescence.  That said, as Arfin entered college and became a drug addict, I found myself losing interest.  I’ve read incredible books that deal with difficult subject matter entirely outside of my own life experience (like Wasted by Marya Hornbacher), but Dear Diary simply fails to connect.

If you like the idea of gorgeous prose describing a heart-wrenching, stomach-churning battle with anorexia, this book was written for you. It’s intense and amazing.

Has anyone else read Wasted or Dear Diary?  What memoirs do you recommend?

I’m Serious…About Stealing. From my Mom.

My parents get back from Illinois tomorrow. This means that I will have to close all the cabinets I’ve left open (why shut them? I’ll only open them again), put all the couch cushions to rights (I like them scattered) and return all the clothing items I’ve thieved from my mother’s closet.  She always lets me borrow things when I ask, but she’s less keen on having to track down her own clothing in my closet.

I should have made a serious face to match the shirt. BIG MISTAKE. HUGE. This is why I’m not America’s Next Top Model.

One of the garments I will have to sneak back onto a hanger is my mom’s Alexa Chung for Madewell tee.  Mum bought it during a trip to Boston, but I haven’t gotten a chance to steal it until now.  I love simple drawings on clothing and the set face of this lady makes me very pleased.

My mom would pair this shirt with considerably less leg, because she is a classier lady than I.

The phrase on this shirt—“I’m serious”—also serves as a good warning for what my mom might say if she sees that I’ve stolen her clothing and failed to return it.  I’ll be right back.

Grow a Garden. On your Head.

When Nest and I were little kids (and ok, when we were older too), we spent a lot of time pretending to be faeries and witches.  Nest’s mom—who is extremely cool—would take us to the craft store, where we would pool our meager dollars to buy glass bottles in which to put “potions.”  These potions were usually a combination of leaves, water, cheap perfume, glitter, hand soap and whatever else we decided had magical elements or simply added a cool color to our concoctions.

Easy breezy blossom head.

We typically brewed these potions on the shore of the creek that ran by Nests’s house, where we would also construct elf houses out of twigs and look for sticks that could be used as witchy wands.  Everything seemed to have magical potential, and we wore our belief in that magic on our sleeves—often literally, in the form of daisy-chain bracelets.

I’m from Santa Cruz, so hippie hairstyles are to be expected.

I include all this ruminating on childhood nature romps to explain one thing, which is that I strongly believe that sticking flowers and leaves in your hair is always a good idea.  It might make me look like a wannabe wood nymph or renaissance fair fanatic, but so what?  It’s the easiest hairstyle in the world (step 1: go outside, step 2: grab some nature and throw it atop your noggin) and it automatically makes your head infinitely more interesting than every other plain ponytail out there.

So that’s my expert advice for the day.  Put a daisy behind your ear.  Tie a branch around your head.  Balance a river rock on your forehead and send me a picture.

Retro Style: Baby Biker

I’m back in Cali, writing from my parents’ kitchen.  One thing I’ve been looking forward to about returning to Santa Cruz is getting the opportunity to pore over the family photo albums for style ideas.  As I may have mentioned before, I had amazing fashion sense as a kid.  That is, I wore shark tees and bicycle shorts and had a blunt bowl cut that only a Beatle could love.  I’ve been hoping to draw some adult inspiration from my childhood hubris.

Got my surly biker face on. Ready to kick some butts (probably my sweet baby brother’s–sorry Carson).

It was astonishingly easy to find a photo gem for today. I marvel at the style choices of 7 (or 8) year old Jessa.  Let me count the ways:

  1. I’ve paired a denim vest with denim shorts.  As we all know, the Texas Tuxedo is perfectly on trend for 2012.
  2. My shirt features ribbons AND hearts AND confetti.
  3. I’ve got the slicked back hair of a Brandon Walsh style Lothario.
  4. I’m rocking a Walkman with my name on it.

If you’re a singer and you want to use this photo for your album cover, you can, but only if you play heavy metal.

I hate to brag, but this outfit is definitely cooler than whatever you’re wearing right now.  And my super butch stance pushes me even further along the Rad Scale.  I can’t wait to try an updated version of this. But I think I’ll have to buy a motorcycle first.

The End of an Era

In 2009, as my friends and I edged closer to graduation from our undergraduate institution, my friend Greer took to referring to everything as “the end of an era.”  We would be eating lunch in the dining hall and she would grab a plate of hummus and say “Just look at this hummus. It’s the end of an era.”  One of us would return from the bathroom and she’d sigh: “We’ll never see those toilets again. It’s the end of an era.”   And on our actual graduation day?  Instead of saying “cheese!” before pictures, we all said “the end of an era!”

Christopher and I on Halloween, 2010. Just a few months in on our Boston adventures.

Now, 3 short years later, I’m at the end of another era.  I moved here as a college grad with a closet full of knee socks.  Today, I leave as a graduate of an MA program with a few more pairs of knee socks (and lacy ankle socks!).  I’ve read more about 18th century homosexuality than I ever thought I would, and I discovered that I can teach college freshmen how to write.  I made wonderful, lifelong friends (Katie! LauraThe podcast boys! Etc!).  I had Thanksgiving with strangers in Maine and new friends in Rhode Island.  I skipped along the Freedom Trail and walked over the Charles River every week for 5 months.

Thanks to Beantown (I know the locals don’t call it that, but I do) for 2 years of adventure.  New York, you’ve got a lot to top.  But from what I’ve heard about you, you can do it.

Do the Whirlwind

Me, a chair, and my grad outfit.  Is that floor filth from a crazy party? Or were those dust bunnies kicked up during the moving process? I’LL NEVER TELL (it’s the latter).

This past month has been quite the whirlwind. Zoom! My finals are over. Whoosh! My students’ grades are turned in. Kablamo! I graduated. Zappo! The apartment is dismantled and packed up. Tomorrow I fly coast-to-coast for a summer in California, while Christopher drives a moving truck to New Jersey.  After three months apart (which I’m hoping will be another whirlwind), we’ll move to New York City!  Jeepers creepers, what a life.

Laura, my office-mate, syllabus-partner, and favorite fellow pop culture nerd. I’ll miss you! Visit us in New York! 

Another look! I was the only graduate to wear motorcycle boots during the ceremony. I feel like I should get an extra degree for that.

Master of…Something

I graduated today! This morning!  I wore a funny hat,  a giant robe with pocket sleeves, and a weird hood.  Afterward, I ate some free snacks.  More on these thrilling events later.

This is what a Master looks like. I guess.

Friday Music: The Belle Brigade

Christopher gets full credit for introducing me to The Belle Brigade. He came home from a concert where TBB was the opening band and he could not stop raving about them.  He really couldn’t.  He was so relentlessly enthusiastic about TBB that I was inclined to never listen to them, because I am a contrarian at heart and I hate being told what to do (I will admit—this is a flaw).

Thankfully, I decided to give their first album, The Belle Brigade, a listen.  There’s no denying it—this is straight-up, rollicking summer folk rock. At least, that’s how I’m classifying it.   I anticipate playing this album on repeat as I drive around Santa Cruz this summer.  I also anticipate singing along terribly at the top of my lungs and banging on my steering wheel—hard—during “Loser.”

Added facts that make TBB the coolest: they’re brother and sister, they both have rad hair, they’re the grandkids of composer John Williams, and, judging by the weirdness of the “Where Not To Look For Freedom” video, they have a good sense of humor. I’m sold.

What’s on your summer soundtrack?  Don’t you wish you and your siblings had a band? Carson, do you want to start a band?